||Central Bank Of Barbados
Some of the Caribbean’s leading businessmen are divided on how extensively work from home should persist. On one hand, the acceleration of digitalisation through adaptation and collaboration tools has allowed for greater connectivity away from the office and reshaped the thinking behind traditional business models. On the other, sustaining a telecommuting model raises concerns of practicality, productivity and a decline in morale especially in industries where physical proximity is considered a necessary prerequisite of the job.
Three regional CEOs offered their perspectives on the ongoing debate over whether remote-based work should continue or if return to the office is likely.
Adam Stewart, Group Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, believes remote working is not ideal for industries where people work in close proximity areas, for instance jobs requiring closer interaction with customers such as those in food and beverage, leisure, and hospitality.
“I have 15,000 Caribbean nationals that work within my organisation across eight countries. We are in the people business, the make people feel good and show them the beauty of the Caribbean business, and our business requires over 95 percent of our team members to be in the resort, or at the office doing some form of processing they can’t do from home.”
In addition, the Sandals Chairman advocated for community and the value of working together in the same space. For him, digital tools such as Zoom are useful, but can create low productivity levels. “When it comes to creative thinking and innovation, nothing beats in-person meetings. We never want to lose our edge of getting together, thinking, brainstorming, and being ahead.”
In contrast, Anthony Ali, Chief Executive Officer of Goddard Enterprises Limited, observed a rise in productivity and engagement despite the “Zoom fatigue”. This, he said, was due to the attitude of employees to change and team work.
“I was pleasantly surprised. I found the productivity in our organisation went up…I have to attribute it to the overall attitude of everyone doing what is right to try and support the organisation and the countries we operate in overall.”
While he agrees it is contingent on the type of business and the economy in which it operates, he concluded that where we can, we should work remotely to achieve a balancing act.
This, of course, is dependent on countries having the necessary infrastructure to facilitate work from home, something Stewart said is a critical part of the resolution and future. “We need to make sure in the Caribbean we have the infrastructure backbone to have that possibility stabilised for our team members and our citizens.”
For his part, Anthony Sabga, Group Chief Executive Officer of the ANSA McAl Group of Companies, affirmed his organisation has taken a longer view, one that sees digitisation as strategic competitive weaponry. We must get in sync and participate or we will be further left behind, he said.
While the trio made no predictions about the extent to which workers will continue with remote-based work, one factor remains: the digital revolution will continue.