South Africa’s Jason English – Shifting the Employer/Employee Relationship

Jason English

Last spring, the coronavirus pandemic jolted the very foundation of the traditional workplace. However, after a brief adjustment phase, switching from an office workstation to work-from-home was surprisingly easy. The untapped potential of collaboration tools and virtual technology was finally put to the test, and what the world discovered was the future of work staring right back at us.

Now, as the world slowly marches toward recovery and businesses eye back-to-work programs, it turns out that the “new normal” is all set to become the “next to normal.”

The Shifting Office

A recent survey by Harvard Business School revealed that 81% of respondents don’t want to go back to the office, preferring a hybrid work schedule moving forward. However, professionals appreciate the flexibility of remote work and love their newfound upswing in productivity.

But perhaps this time will be remembered in history, not as the ‘Great Pandemic,’ but instead as the ‘Great Resignation,’ where employees are quitting their jobs in droves for favorable work situations and employers in support of remote work. A study by Microsoft showed that 41% of global workers are considering changing professions.

“In a digital world, there is a group of employees whose physical presence in the office is a thing of the past. Instead, what matters most is how can they be most productive both in their professional and personal lives,” claims Jason English, Chief Ecosystem Officer at CG Tech.

Jason English is joining other senior corporate executives to note the situation at hand. Just weeks ago, Twitter announced its commitment to permanent work from home plans, with corporate giants such as Google, Unilever, and American Express pushing for a blended approach, where employees can work from home for the majority of the week.

In the face of new variants and the possibility of a renewed outbreak, a hybrid workplace approach is the most prudent way to go.

“For CG Tech, the key to the shift is having the best interest of our employees in mind, which in turn allows us to offer best-in-class solutions. Working remotely and connecting through technology has become a way of life for us. And the reality is that we don’t need to be in the office all the time.” notes English.

Back-to-Normal or Normalizing the New?

However, the entire business world is not sold. For example, specialized jobs involve onsite collaboration or specialized machinery in many industries. Organizations also cite lack of oversight over employees as a major challenge. 

“I hear leaders often sharing their concerns, but for me, being involved in projects for decades on remote sites, I don’t see the difference. We have project teams out of the office for months at a time, and the business doesn’t fall apart, so this is just a step further to challenge why we need offices at all,” comments English.

When in-person interaction is completely wiped out, employees are judged purely based on productivity metrics and not effort. The hassle surrounding training and onboarding new employees is a different story altogether.

“The reservations that businesses have toward remote work in a post-pandemic is justified to some extent. Factories and manufacturing environments still require mostly physical presence. However, it’s important to understand that with the right resources and virtual tools, people can achieve optimum productivity in just about any office-based role,” remarks Jason.

A firm believer in the power of virtual reality, Jason and his team decided to take matters into their own hands, and for their in-house digital transformation team, The Virtual, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

According to a report by IDC, the combined augmented reality and virtual reality markets, worth $12 billion in 2020, will experience a massive annual growth rate of 54%, resulting in a projected valuation of $72.8 billion by 2024. Today, The Virtulab offers a host of cutting-edge digital solutions that not only simplify but also expedite an organization’s journey to futuristic working.

The Key Could be Virtual

Virtual visualizations have already proved to be a gamechanger for Al Laith, a leading design, engineering, and temporary technical infrastructure provider. After securing a lucrative contract with the UAE government, AI Laith is set to build two mega-stages for EXPO 2020 Dubai, the largest ever event hosted in the Arab world. The Virtual provides 3D mapping and visualization technology to empower Al Laith to achieve unprecedented pace in project delivery by creating digital twins of physical assets, allowing proper planning and safeguarding staff.

Jason English explains, “We believe in smart work over hard work. Our technology stack not only enables us to stay ahead of the competition but also empowers us to work faster and more efficiently while improving the quality of the result.”

A Virtual-First Future

A recent PwC report predicted that nearly 23.5 million jobs worldwide would be using AR and VR by 2030 for training, work meetings, or to improve customer service. With Virtuworx at the converging trends of industry and society, virtual technologies are set to take the business world by storm.

For CG Tech subsidiary Prommac, the team leveraged Virtuservices and advanced VR technologies to train engineers in high-risk situations virtually to be better prepared onsite. It was also hard to communicate in noisy industrial plants, so the virtual approach allowed calm and collected conversations.

English adds, “We have been firm supporters of technology since 2016, and it has proven to be an important factor in our success. When we took the ultimate step and relinquished our CG Tech offices to go fully remote in 2021, we faced minimal setbacks within our portfolio of companies. Thanks to our technology solutions, we have largely shifted the focus to the value produced by the teams and not the time spent at work.”

That continuation in productivity has been enabled by Virtuworx, a software platform that offers custom-built digital environments. From creating user-friendly and custom meetings, exhibitions, and training workshops to 3D avatar-based virtual events, the platform provides endless possibilities for companies to embrace meaningful technologies in their new workflows.

And the possibilities are significant. As processing power improves, our virtual experiences will only become more immersive. With COVID having challenged the conventional understanding of work forever, virtual technologies might just be the solution to the push back against return-to-office.

“The big question is not whether physical or remote offices are the better way to go. Instead, it’s about giving employees more autonomy and freedom, directly impacting productivity, retention, and employee motivation. Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring their remote working environment is suitable and then trusting your employees to deliver—regardless of the location,” concludes English.