The coronavirus has changed South African businesses – The good and bad of it

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt on the South African economy for years to come, and businesses have been forced to adapt their operations.

A major facet of this change is the increase in remote working necessitated by social distancing and an extended national lockdown.

Former FNB CEO and venture capitalist Michael Jordaan said this has resulted in an unprecedented adoption of work-from-home strategies, which will have long-term effects on South African businesses and citizens.

“We have made more progress in working-from-home in the last three weeks than in the last three years or longer,” Jordaan said.

“Managers have come to realise that they can get the same or even better results from employees without having to monitor when they arrive at or leave the office.”

“They are probably now considering how to save on office rental costs,” he added.

Good for employees and ISPs

This change is good news for employees who are self-motivated and productive, as being able to work from home leads to less wasted time in traffic and fewer distractions.

Increased reliance on videoconferencing has made executives more comfortable with completing deals when not meeting in person, too, which will result in a reduction in business travel and physical meetings.

“Boards have experienced efficient meetings over Zoom, Teams, and Hangouts,” Jordaan said.

“There will be times when face-to-face is still required but videoconferencing is no longer the exception.”

“Professional, self-motivated workers have benefitted even more as they spend a lot less time being frustrated in traffic and can work with far fewer interruptions,” he said.

Jordaan added that the increased demand for data in residential areas has resulted in huge demand for fibre, 4G, and 5G home connectivity.

This is good news for ISPs, which could see a big increase in customers on high-end packages as a result of remote working.

Negative impact

The expected increase in remote working could have a negative impact on certain industries, however.

Specifically, Jordaan said petrol stations, public transport, and car dealerships would be negatively affected by an increase in remote working, as there will be less demand for their services.

Even clothing stores which specialise in formal attire would see a decline in demand that follows fewer face-to-face business meetings.

“Areas negatively affected are commercial property, airlines, petrol stations, car dealers, and even providers of formal clothing,” Jordaan said.

“Business travel will also take a long time to recover as many deals have been struck successfully over screens.”

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The coronavirus has changed South African businesses – The good and bad of it