WATCH | The future of the South African office

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even at a time when we are obliged to socially distance with the benefit of pervasive technology to keep us connected, the need for in-person human engagement remains something we yearn for.

This need is being felt particularly among those who relied on a dedicated office or workspace for daily interaction, and it’s asking businesses to take a fresh approach on how they provide safe, collaborative environments for their people.

Despite the lockdown-induced working-from-home phenomenon, the office remains an important space for collaboration and creativity where business performance and personal career development can be bolstered. But the purpose of the office, and what constitutes one, needs to be redefined.

Admittedly, the availability and accessibility of technology has allowed for a rapid shift from the traditional work environment to one where businesses can continue their operations with a distributed workforce. It has been what necessity has demanded. However, 18 months after SA first went into Covid-19 lockdown, it has become clearer that the isolation of  working from home is stretching human resilience to its limits.

A recent online survey by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) reports 65% of South Africans believe their mental health has declined during lockdown. There are numerous factors at play in this regard: issues about job security; financial commitments; making ends meet on reduced pay cheques; panic about personal health and safety; and concerns about the welfare of loved ones.