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[LISTEN] Does the Pandemic Spell the End of the Office?

Sep 03, 2021

Umm Muhammed Umar

Many people have been forced to work from home as a result of the pandemic. While for some it was a comfortable arrangement, for others it posed a number of challenges. Many companies also saw it as an opportunity to cut costs and continue to allow staff to work from home in this technological age which makes meetings and so on possible via different platforms. Colleen Quist, a business and life coach spoke to Radio Islam about whether we were witnessing the death of the office environment.

Quist said that working from home in South Africa was on a similar scale to what we saw in other parts of the world, although in other parts of the world they have been less locked down than in South Africa. While there have been many advantages to working from home, such as no long hours stuck in traffic, a lot of people have said that there are difficult aspects to it too. Quist said the most difficult thing about working from home is the lack of boundaries – the blurring of the work-home line. Quist said, “Previously, people got into their transport, dropped the kids at school and then they went to work. There was a very clear line; you knew you couldn’t clean the kitchen floor at 10am.” She added, “So now people are juggling all the work issues and all the home issues all in the same space.” Adding home-schooling into that scenario increases the chaos, as does living in confined space which does not necessarily have access to resources and infrastructure.”

Further, there is no ‘cut – off’ time when working from home. There is also no time, which one would have had, travelling home from work, to think, to process, and to let go of the goings-on of one’s work day. Quist says that she has seen that a lot of the stress in the work from home situation has fallen on the shoulders of women.

meanwhile, many big companies, which had been paying high rents, or have had to purchase huge properties, have also questioned whether the space was necessary, and have let go of it. Further, small entrepreneurs haven’t been able to pay for the space due to reduced incomes, and so have also let it go. People have questioned, having found themselves in a pandemic, why they had been operating the way they had been, and have come up with different solutions.

Quist says that she did not think there was going to be an extreme where an entire workforce stayed home or returned to the office. She was expecting work life to become more remote, “we are going to have really remotes, that if we were on top of a mountain somewhere, as long as you’ve got signal, you can work from wherever.” Nevertheless, she believes that offices are not simply going to disappear, with people no longer going to go into a formal, organized workspace.

Despite the commercial property market suffering as a result of empty spaces, and noticeably less traffic on the roads with more people working from home now than before, the office environment, nevertheless, seems far from dead.

 

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