Working in the time of Covid-19: will it be the boardroom or spare room?

Employees reveal mixed feelings about working from home

17 May 2020 - 00:00
Lauren Campbell with her 15-month-old son, Daniel. She says she is looking forward to going back to her office because productivity is a challenge with a toddler to look after while she is trying to work.
Lauren Campbell with her 15-month-old son, Daniel. She says she is looking forward to going back to her office because productivity is a challenge with a toddler to look after while she is trying to work.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

As business owners gear up for a further easing of restrictions, some employees say returning to the office is not on their to-do list. For others, the only thing they miss about the office is their "work spouse".

Richard Smith, who works for an advertising company, says he can get more done and is able to do lengthy tasks in the comfort of his home instead of staying at work late or on weekends. And, he adds, he has better equipment at home.

"Not having a wife and being good at my job just puts me at ease - no distractions at home."

Bianca Nkomo, who works at an advisory firm in Johannesburg, says she definitely prefers working at home.

"Lockdown is the cheapest thing that has ever happened to me. There is no traffic in the morning and no transport issues.

"Our company has invested a lot in safe video technology so it's not much different from how we usually work."

Bianca Nkomo says working from home has saved her time and money.
Bianca Nkomo says working from home has saved her time and money.
Image: Supplied

To ensure work colleagues maintain a relationship and have some company, they have virtual lunch dates, "and from 4.30 on a Friday we have our virtual team games".

Cape Town insurance company worker Bronwyn Davidson says she enjoys that there is no "chit-chat" at home. "The only thing is, there are no boundaries to my office hours."

Jeffrey Shield, an advertising art director in Johannesburg, also battles to draw the line. "Now, what could have been an e-mail instead of an hour-long meeting is just that! There is actually more structure to the day because I don't have to take smoke breaks or wait for others to finish their lunch breaks.

"But now work doesn't stop at 5pm. We still get calls as late as 9pm, so we need more boundaries."

A Johannesburg teacher says he can actually get more work done teaching over YouTube. He did not want to be named, especially after admitting he preferred working from home "because there are no children around".

"I've always believed I can do better at home than what I can do in the classroom. There are no distractions, nobody is kicking their chair or looking at their cellphone."

Dr Morné Mostert, director at the Institute for Future Studies, says that in the past few weeks of lockdown South Africans have made years of progress into the fourth industrial revolution in terms of using technology at home to perform tasks outside.

"People tend to look at it as linear - we worked from the office, now we work from home. But it's going to be more of a hybrid. People who perform rigorous processes and methods will be able to work at home. But those who make complex artistic decisions and fluid creative decisions usually need to be in a collective."

Lauren Campbell, who works in the beauty industry and has a 15-month-old son, says: "The toddler at home makes productivity a challenge. I need to get back to the office!"

Joburg tech analyst Kyle Venktess says that when lockdown started it seemed great to work from home, because he was in full control of his time. "But now I see the importance for people to meet face to face. Meetings are held on Zoom now, but it is actually making it harder to speak to colleagues."

Meanwhile, employees missing their "work spouses" have become apparent in a survey in SA by PRPioneer.com, a provider of PR and digital marketing resources. Of the 3,000 employees surveyed, 66% said they would be more productive if they were in lockdown with their work spouse instead of their actual partner. Some even admitted to calling their partners by the name of their work spouses - by accident, of course.

Says Jamie Ellis of PRPioneer: "If you have the space, try working in a separate room to your spouse and plan your lunch hours at the same time. This way, you will each be able to give more attention to your work tasks, while still enjoying time together."


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