If you have been contemplating the idea of leaving the world of open-plan offices behind and embarking on a journey towards working from home in South Africa, you are not alone. 2017 stats from Dimension Data indicated that 42% of all South African companies had employees working from home on a full-time basis. Regus also reported that up to 75% of South Africans that work from home feel like they’re much more productive in a home office environment than they would be in an open office. The number of people that casually browse work from home jobs is also increasing rapidly.
Working from home has many benefits, but it takes dedication and smart strategies to pull it off successfully. As a remote worker, you will need to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to set healthy boundaries between your work life and your personal life.
How to work from home in South Africa
With the country’s economy on a downturn and the effects of corporate downsizing being felt across the board, more and more South Africans are considering the idea of working from home. But working from home isn’t as simple as it might seem.
It can be hard to manage expectations from your employer, and not to mention all the little home chores that can easily distract you. Some issues might not even have crossed your mind yet. Is the computer software you have at home up to the task? How will you network if you sit at home all day?
Here are some practical tips to keep in mind when starting out on your remote working journey:
1. Start by setting up the right space
The most important element for any kind of creative work is to find a dedicated working space. If you share a space with a partner or have the kids home too, simply plopping your laptop down on the kitchen counter and thinking you’re all set isn’t going to work. You need to be able to get your job done without getting the way of others that share the house with you. Try to find a space in your house (other than a bedroom) where you’ll set up your office.
2. Gear yourself with the right equipment
Without the right equipment, you might as well head back to the office. You need the following to complete basic tasks in your home office environment:
- Laptop or computer (preferably newer and reliable)
- Stable and reliable Internet (it’s worth paying a bit extra here)
- Secure access to your company’s internal network or intranet, drives, etc
- A phone, preferably mobile and hopefully paid for by a/your company. Most remote jobs require very few phone calls, however.
- A headset of some kind (especially helpful during calls)
- A proper desk and chair setup, free of distractions. This needs to be in an appropriate room or space.
3. Create some structure for your day
You need to structure your workday by planning out which tasks need to take priority and how many hours you will spend on your work, or each job. You also need to schedule breaks so that you’ll stay productive and ready for the next challenge. There is a difference between efficiency and productivity, and without a set structure in place, it is easy to get distracted.
4. Use flexibility to your advantage
If you are getting the work done and keeping up good quality standards with regards to deadlines, you should be able to work during your most productive hours, which is part of the beauty of having a flexible schedule. Unless your boss expects you to be able to communicate in real-time during company business hours, you should take advantage of the time you have on your hands and get as much as possible done during your most productive hours.
5. Ensure you are always online
As a remote worker, your most important bills will not be for software upgrades or new computers; they will be for uncapped, unshaped fibre Internet. Your smartphone and apps like Dropbox will ensure that you’re always online and available when your team needs you most.
How to strike a work-life balance as a work-from-home parent
How does breastfeeding while replying to urgent emails sound? Or what about driving around in circles until your toddler falls asleep just so you can make that important call in peace? And placing your sick child in the care of way too many hours of Disney Junior because you’ve got deadlines to meet.
Welcome to the sometimes-brutal side of working from home. For the growing number of parents that choose to work from home, a couple of curveballs can easily send your hard-earned work-life balance crashing to the ground. Just last year, a BBC dad had an epic facepalm moment when his kids burst into the room while he was doing an interview.
All savvy working parents know that it takes much more than just a home office to make remote working work across the board. You’ll need to deploy some conscious effort and specific, effective tactics. Here’s where to start:
Explain it to your kids
Kids find it hard to understand the world of work. But even small children can hear that “Mommy (or Daddy) has to work to earn money to take care of our family.” Explain to your kids that you work from home so you can spend more time with them too. Make sure they understand when you’re “at work”, perhaps by sharing your schedule with them. For smaller kids, more obvious visible cues work well. Once you’ve set these expectations and stick to them, your kids will get used to the rules and likely learn to follow them.
Do NOT try to multitask
Juggling parenting and working almost always leads a screwup in one of the two departments. The idea is even backed up by research. Outline times that are specifically for work and times that are specifically for the family. Create an actual calendar too if you can. This will separate what you focus on during which parts of the day. If something related to your kids interrupts your working hours, just stay focused on resolving the problem instead of trying to multitask.
Batch tasks strategically
If you find small pockets of time to work during the day, you can obviously use it to get as much done during those periods as possible. Batching your tasks can be beneficial in this way. Let’s suppose your kid takes a two-hour nap, use that time to write all your reports for the week. You can then do other tasks like editing and replying to emails after the kids have gone to bed. This keeps you focused on one thing during each period of working.
Call in some help
Every family out there has a caregiver situation. Whether you have a nanny or your kids attend daycare, you will need some kind of help at times if you work from home. Don’t feel ashamed to have someone else take care of your kids while you’re working from home. Yes, you got into remote working to strike a better work-life balance, but we all need a little help from time to time.
A note on work from home scams
Obviously, work at home jobs have come a long way from the old “make money stuffing envelopes” ads. But, according to Rat Race Rebellion, for every legitimate job out there, there are still more than 50 scams. This means that anybody looking to earn a living without leaving the home must be very careful.
Before you go all in, make sure you do your homework on potential work at home employers. Ensure the company is established and double-check their online presence. Give them a phone call and ask for the person you are being interviewed by. Like with any other job, there should be an application and probable interview process. Anybody who is legitimately trying to hire someone will want to meet or at least have a proper screening conversation with applicants.
No job should require you to incur any out-of-pocket expenses before you can be hired. If a remote working opportunity requires you to pay any kind of fee upfront or invest in a “startup kit”, it is definitely a scam. The only thing you might need to invest in is fast and reliable Internet, and if you don’t already own one, a high-quality audio headset.
The ins and outs of working from home in South Africa
Before you start picking out your home office furniture, it is important to understand the pros and cons of working from home. If you are considering remote jobs, here are some potential advantages and pitfalls to think about before embarking on the journey.
Advantages of working from home
- You are independent and free/flexible – This goes far beyond the allure of getting to work in your pyjamas. Working from home means you will have to learn to rely on self-motivation, self-discipline, focus and concentration. It sounds simple and obvious, but time management and scheduling are super important skills for any employee working from home. Yet now you are able to manage your own time and beat the traffic, possibly improving your work-life balance immensely.
- You get more done for less – You can be much more productive and efficient in your home office – if you aren’t hitting the mall when you should be in the “office”. Your boss will likely see when you are online and notice when you aren’t, but you won’t be wasting time and money (petrol!) to make sure you’re at work on time. So, while you won’t spend hours commuting, which can add up to two or three extra hours of stress-free productivity to your day, you must actually be working. Thankfully, the occasional annoyances of office life like interruptions, chatter and loud co-workers won’t be in the way anymore either.
- You’ll most probably save a lot on tax – Many more items are tax-deductible when you work for yourself as a sole proprietor. Your salary is now your income or revenue and your costs are your expenses. It’s time to think of yourself as a business and make the necessary financial changes to reduce your tax burden.
- You save money in other ways – Commuting costs will become a thing of the past, and the same applies to your professional wardrobe costs. Regardless of whether you are a business owner or an employee, there are costs to showing up to work five days a week that disappear when you work from home.
- Communication is something you become an expert in – From texting to Skype and web meetings, out of necessity, you will become savvy in all these communication methods. In today’s digital world, knowing how to navigate these technologies makes you more capable in this type of work.
Disadvantages of working from home
- You might forget to clock out – A lot of people think that working from home means doing less, but the exact opposite is true for diligent employees. When you don’t have that separation of going to and from the office, your workday can blur into your home life.
- It can feel like you are left out – Some people do not realise it until they are there, but there is a lot of collaboration that happens in the office. Sometimes its sharing best practices, and other times its impromptu brainstorming sessions over a quick lunch. It can be very hard to replicate that from home. You will need to take note of what you don’t know or need to learn and do this yourself or mention it to your boss.
- You might battle with technology platforms – In general, cloud technology makes it easier than ever for remote workers to log in to the office setup from just about anywhere. But there are times when data security and consumer protection concerns could prevent you from having full access to all your organisation’s tech platforms. You will need to rely on your own virus and safety protection, as well as learn how to use some new software in the way that the company wants you to.
How to search for legitimate work from home opportunities
Before diving into the details on where to find proper remote working opportunities, it is important to understand what your options are as far as work segments are concerned.
Potential work from home segments
1. Remote employee – one person, one job
Remote employees are employed with a company as usual, but they aren’t required to head into the office every day. They can work from home, or anywhere they have access to fast and reliable Internet. These employees are fixed members of teams that have structured working schedules that they have to stick to.
2. Freelancer – one person, many jobs
Freelancers offer certain services to their clients in return for remuneration once a project is completed. They work when and where they want and set their own working hours and schedules. They are free to negotiate things like deadlines and meeting with their clients too. This job does have a lot of freedom as far as a routine goes, but income is hardly ever secured, so freelancers always must source new clients or do their best to keep existing clients on board.
3. Your own business – one person, self-employed
Owners of businesses don’t work for anyone and can work as hard as they want. They might start their own dropshipping business or try their hand at affiliate marketing or invent a new and exciting business concept. Although flexibility is great in this position, there is often a significant investment required for setup. Business owners might also need the help of a business partner, freelancers or employees to help their business grow at some stage.
Is working from home in South Africa the right option for you?
As you can see, there are a lot of great benefits to working from home. But like with all other jobs, there are also some drawbacks. It is up to you to decide what you find more important and whether a remote position will improve your work-life balance. If you plan on working from home, you need to be sure that you meet the following criteria:
- You have a lot of self-discipline
- Working on your own is what you prefer and you don’t need constant supervision
- You don’t get distracted easily and can stay focused
- Time management is something you are brilliant at
- You are super organised and structured
- Working alone and spending most of your day alone is something you are very comfortable with
Where can I search for work from home opportunities?
If you are still determined to say goodbye to office life and embark on the journey of becoming a remote employee, you can enquire with your current employer. Perhaps they are flexible enough to accommodate you. A lot of companies are offering telecommuting jobs these days. Remote working is fast becoming a hot trend that most organisations across the globe are trying to keep up with.
If you are just starting your professional career and want to gain work experience from a home office environment, you can start your search right here on Adzuna, an online job aggregator that lists more than 140,000 vacancies across South Africa. During February 2020, Adzuna reported that it had a collection of more than 970 remote working positions being advertised. The average annual salary for working from home in South Africa came in at a healthy R447,440.
How and where can I search for jobs online?
If you want to try a general Google search, simply entering the keywords “work from home” won’t yield a lot of results outside of paid surveys. We suggest being specific about it and using terms like “remote position Gauteng” instead.
Finding remote employment opportunities on Adzuna is a very straightforward process. Once you land on the Adzuna home page, simply use keywords like “remote” or “work from home” “telecommunicating jobs” and hit search. Remember, you’re looking for the word “remote” or “home” within the description of the job listing, because most “work from home” jobs don’t have this in the title.
You can also refine your results and have results listed per area. Adzuna lists remote and work from home opportunities across all nine provinces within South Africa. They also give you the option to refine your search further by displaying results within specific industries and even employers across the country.
Understanding the big picture
Working from home in South Africa is a privilege. But just like with any other profession, it is something you have to fine-tune over time. Through experience, personal reflection, and a deep desire for continual improvement, you CAN make it work for you.
As you can see, working remotely is not always as easy as everyone assumes. There is a lot of isolation, fear of missing out on something and miscommunication, to name but just a few. In order to overcome these drawbacks and barriers, successful remote workers must be proactive, driven and very hardworking.