Q&A: Digby Bennett: “Working from home requires discipline”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 09 Dec 2015

Employees understand the need to telecommute, with increased productivity the pay-off, says China Systems’ UAE country manager

Digby Bennett - ProfileIncreased global connectivity means that employees can work from remote locations and still communicate with colleagues across borders and time zones. And though the take-up of telecommuting internationally has been patchy, it has become essential for China Systems, a global provider of IT solutions for financial businesses. Digby Bennett, the firm’s regional sales director and country manager for the Middle East, tells People Management how technology is changing his business.

Is take-up of telecommuting increasing among staff in the Middle East?
'Yes' is the simple answer, in the case of China Systems. The internet and modern communication methods really support this now as a realistic option. We are around the five per cent mark in terms of our current staff telecommuting, but it is increasing quite fast. Telecommuting is not ideal for everyone. Some roles require office attendance and interaction. It is paramount that new staff understand the need to telecommute – we are a technology company with a customer base spanning the globe.
Is bureaucracy a factor restricting the amount employees travel across the region for work?
This depends of the country of the passport. Some embassies in the UAE have excellent turnaround times for visas, and others can be very difficult and also expensive. The pros are that the UAE has a large number of embassies and can support visa processing, especially for places such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Iran. But at a certain size you require a specialist for processing visas for your staff.
Our organisation demands a travelling workforce as our customer contact model is a 'sale, deploy and support' basis. The customer can repeat this process a number of times. It effectively means that our customers' premises become an office for quite an extended period of time. Technically, this is a relocation rather than a telecommute. When employees do return to their home 'base' office, there is not a desk for them, and this means more staff choose to work from home or at another customer site.
Does working from home increase productivity?
Working from home requires quite a bit of discipline from the employee and also the employer. It is not for every organisation. If both are well organised, there is no doubt productivity increases. There are also many issues that increase the wellbeing of a home worker. He or she will see more of their family and can easily address domestic chores. It also saves time commuting.
A home worker usually spends more time on the job, and they also become accessible during a wider time frame. The computer or mobile device and the associated communication channels have certainly seen to that. However, conflicts can arise as the boundary between work and home is very blurred.