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To Survive Load Shedding Your Businesses May Need To Reconsider Work Flexibility

When the first scheduled blackouts were introduced in 2007, it was believed to be a  solution to a temporary problem especially since the country had no loadshedding since 2009. More than a decade later, experts predict that load shedding will be part of South  Africa’s socio-economic reality for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. 

While the government plans to migrate the previously disadvantaged South Africans from  relying on the national power utility Eskom, for electricity, Stage 6 load shedding is costing South Africa R4 billion every day. (Alex Forbes,2022). 

Most South African motorists with petrol vehicles will have to pay R57.15 or more for a tank  of gas from March 2023, meaning it will be more expensive for employees to drive to work.  

The latest fuel price hike comes in the wake of drastic interest rate increases announced by  the SA Reserve Bank last month, and a massive 18.65% increase in electricity tariffs due in  April. 

In light of these increasing challenges, it is essential for companies to find solutions that can  provide some financial relief for both their employees and business operations. One area  that can be of great benefit is making the workday more flexible allowing employees to  work from home and at flexible hours. Surgo’s load-shedding plan is therefore an essential  part of the business’s risk management strategy. 

With Surgo’s employees working from home, the question is how the multi-award-winning  Business Process Outsourcer (BPO) functions with load shedding: by allowing its employees  to work remotely, with secure internet access, rather than relying on an office infrastructure  dependent on Eskom’s unpredictable power cuts. This way, productivity remains  unaffected, and business operations can continue smoothly. 

In a traditional office, it would be easy to have a generator, but with nearly 300 employees  working from home, Surgo had 300 unique challenges. When Eskom implemented load  shedding in November 2021, it negatively impacted the company’s operations and  employee productivity, because they did not have access to generators or alternative power  sources.  

To mitigate this impact, Surgo implemented an upstream measure to manage the macro  effects of loadshedding. The Load Shedding Plan of action was created, and a UPS unit was  installed at home for all employees who had an active fibre connection. A fibre allowance  was provided to assist employees with financial constraints and to encourage all employees  to install fibre at home. 

Measures also included a UPS replacement process to replace faulty equipment as quickly as possible and to offer employees without fibre optic connections alternative workplace solutions. There is also the Buddy-Up system, where an employee works from the home of a  colleague closest to them during load-shedding hours, providing opportunities for social interaction.

Another is the Load Shedding Dashboard, which displays Eskom’s load-shedding phases and links them to employee locations to facilitate shift planning. Using the dashboard, Surgo can determine exactly how many employees were affected by load shedding on a given day and which employees were most affected. In addition, the dashboard monitors the impact on  

campaigns, total outages per employee per day, team outage hours most affected by load shedding, total outage hours per month (per agent, per TL, per campaign), impact on scheduled hours, and the number of agents affected by outages per province. All of this data is monitored. 

In addition, Surgo has opened an office in Namibia to deploy contingency agents in the event of major load-shedding.