I am not going to state the obvious ways the Gauteng e-tolling system will personally affect me financially, simply because I think we are all fed up with the motivations why we want it stopped, and by now, just want to see results.
We had some minor victories over the long weekend, with:
a) The ANC and Cosatu announcing the implementation will be suspended by another month (political smoke screen in my opinion); and
b) Judge Prinsloo granting OUTA an urgent interdict to delay e-tolling pending a final court review (I now want an “I love Judge Prinsloo” t-shirt).
There is, however, something positive that could have come out of the implementation of the e-toll system that could have enriched the people of Gauteng.
I am SOHO
For the last four months, traffic to my office has been a nightmare.
I have to walk down a flight of stairs and try to avoid tripping over our family dog. Once I am on the ground floor, I have to step over a few toys and pass my wailing cats on the counter, begging me to fill their food bowl with pellets, before I can get to my coffee mug. From the kettle, I have to backtrack five metres on my route and turn on my laptop.
Pure hell, I tell you (I am saying that with bucket loads of sarcasm).
In my new company, we all have our own little “studios” at home. Daily and weekly meetings are done using Skype conference calling. Some of our clients and service providers are in the UK, US and Germany, and we use online conference facilities to do business. I still get into my car from time to time to physically meet with clients or hook up with co-workers for more in-depth meetings, but if it happens twice a month, it is really a lot.
Since I have stopped commuting between Pretoria and Johannesburg, I have regained three hours of my life per day, I am seeing more of my family, and I am happy. When I was considering the move between companies, the e-toll did play a factor in my decision, alongside the normal considerations that accompany the process.
The daily “groot trek”
Every morning, thousands of people in Pretoria get up at the brink of dawn and sit for hours on the N1 towards Johannesburg. The Gautrain didn’t fix the congestion problem and the chance of the e-tolling system fixing it is slim too, no matter how Sanral tries to spin it.
If you stay in Pretoria and your job in Johannesburg requires you to sit behind a desk and access a local network, then a stable ADSL connection at home will solve your problem. I have sat through enough IT-focused conferences to tell you that all the tools exist to make it possible for you to be a valuable asset to your company and be productive without even stepping into the office.
The reason why your company will probably not fall for this argument is because most managers in South Africa have an X-typical approach and believe that all people are lazy and should be forced to work. A true Y-typical manager wouldn’t worry if they see you once a week, because they believe people are inspired to work and just need the right motivation to reach great expectations.
Without realising it, e-tolling will not be the only factor driving a company’s expenses higher if it does get implemented. From personal experience, I showed up at work tired and irritated. It took me at least 30 minutes to get into work mode while having a cup of coffee and a smoke to relax my nerves. I wasn’t the only one. Thousands of employees are doing the same thing every morning. Fifteen minutes here, 20 minutes there, and at the end of the year it all adds up to lost production time.
Aside from this stress on a company, people will be demanding higher salaries, which will lead to the companies having to add margins to their profit ranges in order to keep doing business. It is an economical downward spiral, I tell you. The changes are now greater than ever that a company simply can’t afford an increase in staff salaries, and in turn, employees will start looking for work closer to home and employment opportunities that won’t cripple them financially.
How much would it cost a company in the long run to make use of technology, start trusting employees and let them work from home, and maintain ownership of their greatest asset, human capital?
Let’s be honest Johannesburg. Every morning the highways are feeding you with talent and money. You need to start using technology to your advantage, or in a few years, people will start building the business empires in Pretoria and the immediate surrounding areas. Get over the urge to hover over the shoulders of your employees while they are working, and relax the leash.
The e-toll system could have a bigger impact on the future of your business than you initially expected. It could also be the slap in the face you needed to wake up and become more innovative by exploring the true power of technology.