Working remotely could boost SA economy by R17bn

Gareth van Zyl

Johannesburg - Remote working via the internet could boost South Africa’s economy by R17bn annually, according to a study.

Mobile workspace solutions company Citrix and the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) have studied the potential economic impact of a ‘work from anywhere’ culture in South Africa.

Just over 1 250 South Africans took part in the survey with respondents representing knowledge workers such as architects, software engineers, lawyers, doctors, accountants and academics.

Chief findings of the study indicate that remote working via the internet could add 0.4% to gross domestic product and cut commuting costs by R39.5bn.

Workers could then also save 320 million hours spent travelling to and from work annually, according to the study.

"More interesting for me was the focus on flexible working potentially enabling employers to tap people that have skills; people who are currently not engaged economically or economically active because they can't work in a formal workspace,” Brendan McAravey, country manager of Citrix South Africa, told Fin24.

"For example, a large portion of that is housewives or househusbands,” he said.

McAravey also told Fin24 that of the people who were surveyed, over 90% of those people said that if they were given the tools to work remotely, or flexibly, they would be happy to re-engage with the economy.

Other findings of the study indicated that there are 574 000 part-time workers in South Africa who would like to work remotely.

Enabling these workers could potentially also create an additional R5.2bn in gross value added output for the economy.

South Africa currently needs every economic boost it can get.

According to figures released by Statistics South Africa this week, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 1.3% in the second quarter of 2015.

Problems with electricity shortages as well as a negative growth in the agricultural sector and mining sectors have hit the economy hard.

Shifting focus

McAravey said that local organisations need to consider shifting their focus from hours spent at work to productive outputs.

However, McAravey also said that some corporates’ opposition to remote working is a challenge for South Africa to overcome.

"Technology really isn't the barrier now; it's really a cultural mind shift,” McAravey told Fin24.

“And the reason why we've engaged with the centre of economic and business research was because we wanted somebody independently to look at the South African environment and give people a view of potentially what the impact would be if we ever made cultural shift,” he said.