Tag: pandemic

Remote working is here to stay

Source: IOL

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the corporate world has seen a huge move towards remote working or, at the very least, more people working from home more often.

And considering this trend has been in place across the world for almost two years, there is strong belief that it is here to stay, forever altering the office property market as we know it.

Some professionals are even refusing to return to the office or to accept new positions at companies which insist they work on site.

This presents corporates across the globe with a dilemma, and it is playing out differently from company to company. Some are luring top talent simply by allowing them to work remotely.

The compromise appears to be a hybrid approach which allows employees to work from home a stipulated number of days a week.

International trends

PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, released in January, found that remote work had been an overwhelming success for both employees and employers, with 83% of employers saying the shift had been successful for their company, compared to 73% in its June 2020 survey.

Fewer than one in five executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. “The rest are grappling with how widely to extend remote work options, with just 13% of executives prepared to let go of the office for good.”

The survey also found that real estate portfolios are in transition, with 87% of executives expecting to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. These plans include consolidating office space in premier locations and/or opening more satellite locations.

“Over the next three years, while some executives expect to reduce office space, 56% expect to need more. These mixed findings show that some companies are planning to reinvest the remote work dividend in new ways in order to create a special experience in the office.”

In the UK, recent research released by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, similarly reveals that employers are now more likely to say that the shift to home working has boosted productivity than they were in June 2020.

The figures are, however, lower than their US counterparts, at 33% and 28% respectively. The findings are part of a new CIPD report exploring how organisations can learn from ways of working during the pandemic to make hybrid working – a mixture of working at home and on site – a success.

The CIPD stresses the need for employers to look at flexible options beyond home working, recognising that not all roles can be performed from home.

“The pandemic has shown that ways of working that previously seemed impossible are actually possible. “Organisations should take stock and carefully consider how to make hybrid working a success, rather than rushing people back to the office when there are clearly productivity benefits to home working,” says Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD.

Employee demands

Another survey, in the US by insurance company Breeze, found that the work-from-home trend as a response to the pandemic has turned into a revolution in how people want to work.

Results showed that:

• 65% would take a 5% pay cut.

• 38% would take a 10% pay cut.

• 24% would take a 15% pay cut.

• 15% would take a 25% pay cut.

• 39% would give up health insurance benefits.

• 23% would give up 50% of their paid time off. • 36% would give up their retirement plan.

• 47% would give up mental health benefits.

• 34% would give up “their right to vote in all future local and national elections for life”.

Weighing in on the remote working debate, FNB commercial property economist John Loos says remote working has been shown over many years to work well, and is getting better as technology improves. What is surprising is that some work-from-home opponents do not see the opportunity for cost reductions.

On his LinkedIn page, Loos writes: “Employees reduce costs through less commuting, time and transport. Companies reduce costs through less office space and related infrastructure.

“On top of this, surveys… suggest that the labour market may adjust in such a way that market-related salaries of remote workers may in future be lower than office-bound employees.”

The potential savings opportunities seem “huge”. “Many employees want better quality of life, and they are prepared to take a pay cut for it. The progressive companies will see opportunity and drive greater work from home. The denialists and resisters will pay higher salary bills and battle more to retain and attract top skills until the market has punished them enough. This will be the continuation of a multi-decade trend and the office property market is likely to battle and ultimately to shrink in relative size as a result.”

Corporate response

Recently, the BBC reported that, in June, Apple chief executive Tim Cook sent out a company-wide memo telling staff they would be required back in the office by early September, and workers would be expected to be present for three days a week, with two days of remote work.

But some employees pushed back with their own letter and some even quit their jobs. This trend has been unfolding in several big corporates in the US.

Others, however, have bucked the trend by offering a full or partial switch to permanent remote working. Some of these corporates, who will no doubt attract top skills looking for such working conditions, include:

Remote working looks to be the way of the future, with some on-site work part of the mix.

What South Africans owe on their credit cards

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

The findings of TransUnion’s Q2 2021 South Africa Industry Insights Report covers a period where unemployment was still rising, but prior to July’s civil unrest and peak in the third wave of Covid-19 cases.

The report shows that a number of the trends, seen immediately after the outbreak of Covid-19 more than a year ago, have continued to advance with some notable exceptions, especially when looking at delinquencies.

Understanding the delinquency picture

Delinquency rates during the pandemic have been influenced by a number of important factors, the credit specialist said. Deferrals, payment holidays and other accommodations by lenders have helped borrowers in need. A decline in new borrowing in the past year since the onset of the pandemic has also shifted the overall ratio of good versus bad debt within lenders’ portfolios.

While a general increase in overall debt has been apparent, the total number of new loans and accounts has decreased as a result of the decline in originations. This means that while the numerator in the delinquency equation (i.e., existing accounts with delinquencies) is rising, the denominator is not growing at the same pace, said TransUnion.

Add in other drivers for which accounts financially distressed consumers choose to repay – e.g., prioritising product utility such as credit card functionality for online payments or car loan payments to ensure you can avoid public transport- and it’s clear that there are often multiple drivers for changes in delinquency levels, the group said.

Typically, delinquencies have often followed wider macroeconomic trends such as GDP growth and changes in unemployment.

In the latest Q2 2021 figures, although there were improvements in most of the major consumer credit categories, unsecured personal loans recorded a significant increase in balance-level delinquencies – bank personal loans were up 260 bps YoY and non-bank personal loans 700 bps.

A higher delinquency rate for non-bank personal loan providers is to be expected as they have historically targeted higher-risk consumers who are more likely to default and will be less resilient to sustained financial hardships, such as those caused by the pandemic.

“Finding and funding resilient consumers becomes even more crucial during challenging economic periods when looking to maintain a healthy portfolio delinquency ratio.

“The key is to fuel new credit growth by finding good consumers, who are likely to perform within lenders’ target thresholds and in return can help maintain a healthy bad-to-good ratio for longer-term lending growth,” said Carmen Williams, director of research and consulting at TransUnion South Africa.

Credit demand in a post-pandemic world

Throughout the pandemic, TransUnion’s data has shown reduced appetite from both consumers (demand) and lenders (supply) for new account openings (as measured by originations), and this continued in Q2 2021.

“However, with the world economy slowly starting to reopen and vaccination programs gaining pace, the future shape of the consumer credit market will depend on a number of important variables,” it said.

Historically, macroeconomic conditions have been an important factor in the pace of credit growth. Equally, consumer sentiment also has a significant bearing. Although the latest IIR data is for Q2 2021, TransUnion also conducted its regular Consumer Pulse Study in August 2021, which was post the civil unrest and the initial peak of wave three Covid-19 infections seen in early July.

This study showed a number of important trends relevant to potential future demand and direction of the market in South Africa, the credit specialist said.

The number of South African consumers anticipating in August that they would apply for new credit or refinance existing credit within the next year was just under a third (31%). Personal loans (43%) and new credit card (35%) applications continued to be top of the list, said TransUnion.

“There continues to be significant turbulence in the South African consumer credit market, with a number of potential new trends emerging, especially in the delinquencies space. Wider economic and political news continues to impact consumer sentiment and outlook, and these will shape the recovery as it continues to emerge,” said Williams.

“Lenders need to constantly monitor for shifts in consumer behaviours and adapt to the changing demand and future preferences of consumers if they are to succeed. There is no doubt the road to recovery will be a bumpy one, but by being informed, lenders will have the best possible chance to compete and succeed.”

Credit card is the only credit product to show high levels of continued origination decline since the beginning of the pandemic (down 23% YoY in Q2 2020, 63.2% YoY in Q3 2020 and 48.6% YoY in Q4 2020 and 42.7% YoY in Q1 2021). This is largely due to lenders implementing tightened credit-granting policies in the midst of economic uncertainty, said the credit specialist.

Lenders remain focused on extending credit to existing customers rather than onboarding new borrowers. Average balances increased by 17.6% and total credit limits increased substantially by 15.2% while new loan amounts increased by only 2.2%.

Outstanding balances for credit cards (up 10.6% YoY) have been driven by consumers’ need to balance household budgets, maintain liquidity, and finance subsistence purchases, especially where incomes have been negatively impacted. However, increases weren’t evenly distributed, and a clear generational divide has emerged.

Younger consumers increased their outstanding credit card balances more than older generations. The Q2 2021 YoY change for Millennials (born 1980-1994) was 9%, compared to 6% for Gen X (1965-1979) and only 3% for Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).

Younger generations tend to transact more online, and the utility a credit card provides is fundamental to this activity. Credit card account-level delinquencies were down 50 basis points (bps) from their peak in Q2 2020, and in Q2 2021 stood at 12.3%, and were at the same level as Q2 2019.

This improvement provides further evidence that credit cardholders are protective of and value the revolving functionality that this product holds, TransUnion said.

The future of the South African office

A recent Business Day Dialogues LIVE discussion focused on what the future holds for the South African office.

In response to lockdown restrictions imposed in 2020 many organisations moved their staff to working from home. Even as restrictions have eased, some companies have opted to move permanently to remote working, while others have opted for a hybrid model between working from home and time in the office. In some quarters there is a reticence to returning to the office full time.

Clinical psychologist and the chair of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Dr Colinde Linde said most people soon started to miss human connections during the hard lockdown. Enforced social isolation has resulted in a mental health pandemic.

Working from home suits some people, she pointed out, while others prefer an office environment or a hybrid arrangement. The challenge, she said, is not everybody has the luxury of a dedicated space to work at home where they will not be interrupted.

Irrespective of where people choose to work, work-life balance will always be a challenge, she said.

Rob Kane, CEO of Boxwood Property Fund and a board member of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), said declining demand for office space has had a devastating impact on certain commercial property sector nodes, including Sandton and the Cape Town CBD. However, this was a trend that was apparent even before Covid and was merely exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, he believed the work from home honeymoon is over as more employees return to the office. Although the expectation is that the office market will ultimately shrink by around 20%, he said evidence indicates that office spaces will continue to exist. However, they will become less sterile and warmer environments than in the past.

Linda Trim is a director at Giant Leap, a company which helps companies get the best out of their people by creating award winning workspaces. Innovation, creativity and speed to market are all harder to achieve when staff are working remotely, she said.

According to research conducted by Giant Leap, more than 80% of employees want to get back into the office. However, she stressed that there is no one size fits all solution and that organisations need to find a middle ground that suits them. The future office, she predicted, will offer greater flexibility and less rigidity. Work spaces need to become spaces where people want to be, offering great coffee, ergonomic furniture, enticing meeting spaces and state of the art technology.

Professor Francois Viruly, associate professor at the University of Cape Town and a non-executive director of the Accelerate Property Fund, said the danger of looking at global trends where people are returning to the office more rapidly than locally, is that you lose the local context. He agreed that working from home suited some more than others but was less than ideal for first time workers who had not had the opportunity to pick up on workplace culture or to receive the necessary support.

What the pandemic has shown us, he said, is a trailer of the future and what is possible. However, in transitioning through these possibilities, there are uncertainties as we adapt to a new environment and a new normal.

By Londiwe Buthelezi for News24

With Covid-19 waging a brutal war on human life, 2020 became one of the toughest years for insurers as death claims surged to levels not seen in recent history.

Insurers paid R522.7-billion to policyholders and beneficiaries in 2020 after fielding almost half a million (434 216) legitimate death claims.

But the industry had to deal with another epidemic: fraudulent claims which sought to fleece the industry R587.3 million.

Those providing funeral insurance were the hardest hit as 2 282 of the reported 3 186 cases of fraudulent claims related to funeral cover.

From a desperate family that laid a dead body on the road so that it can claim accidental cover to syndicates who buy dead bodies or prey on drug addicts, fraudsters had plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

The insurance industry’s representative body, the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa), said it was not surprised. Even before the desperation brought by Covid-19 as people lost incomes and some stayed with bodies they didn’t know how they’d bury, insurance fraud was rife in SA. In 2019, SA insurers reported 2 837 fraudulent and dishonest claims to the value of R537.1 million.

READ | Unlawful for insurers to push exorbitant funeral cover increases, says regulator
Megan Govender, the convenor of the Asisa forensics standing committee, said funeral insurance has always been a soft target for fraudsters. But the Covid-19 pandemic has made it worse as the desperation due to job losses drove more people to resort to crime, especially because the excess deaths last year made it easier to source dead bodies for fraudulent claims.

“Since funeral insurance policies do not require blood tests and medical examinations and are designed to pay out quickly and without hassle when an insured family member dies, criminals and dishonest individuals most commonly try their luck in this space,” said Govender.

Some hair-raising cases

Asisa said the buying of dead bodies often involves syndicates and mortuary employees. The syndicates buy dead bodies and then use them to claim against policies that were fraudulently taken out some months earlier. They usually buy unclaimed bodies.

Another modus operandi involving syndicates targets drug addicts and alcoholics from poor communities with a promise of a job to obtain their personal details and fraudulently buy funeral cover for them.

When the waiting period lapses, the syndicates then have to find a body, which could be done through the purchase from a mortuary. But Govender said in one incident, the syndicate tried to murder the addict they’d covered. But the victim escaped.

However, it’s not just the syndicates that insurers have to worry about. One family collected the body from the mortuary before the death was registered and “purposefully” placed it on the road. It reported a hit and run accident and submitted a claim.

Govender said cases of families so desperate for funeral cover payouts are common, especially when the person died while they were still under the waiting period that insurers impose. Some resort to these tricks as accidental death benefits have no waiting period.

As for the other insurance products, Asisa said there were 388 fraudulent life insurance death claims totalling R264.3 million. Policyholders submitted 325 fraudulent and misrepresented disability claims, 141 hospital cash-back claims, and 50 retrenchment claims. KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of detected fraudulent claims, followed by the Eastern Cape.

 

By Londiwe Buthelezi for News24

Consumers are facing heavy debt pressure as the impact of the pandemic continues to hit home.

DebtBusters says the number of people approaching it with debt counselling inquiries rose 18% in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the same time last year when SA was under the harshest lockdown level.

DebtBusters said while more people might be back at work now, many consumers are seeking help because of the after-effects of the lockdowns. Reduced incomes because of stop-and-go economic activities in the past year meant that many people’s ability to borrow has narrowed.

“It is clear that the debt situation of SA consumers has further deteriorated recently. In the absence of a meaningful increase in real income growth, SA consumers continue to supplement their income with more unsecured credit,” wrote DebtBusters.

But the company also attributes this pressure on consumers to the long-standing decline in real incomes in SA.

According to DebtBusters’ calculations, while nominal incomes in the country have increased 3% compared to 2016 levels, the cumulative inflation growth of 24% over the same period means that real incomes have shrunk by 21% over those five years.
With real incomes moving the opposite direction of living expenses, more people have been borrowing to supplement their incomes just to get by.

Unsecured debt, which includes credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans – debt usually used for consumption – has increased by 32% for the average client who approached DebtBusters since the second quarter of 2016. Top earners’ unsecured debt levels are now 49% higher than five years ago.

As the debt mounts, more consumers consistently need to spend around 60% of their take-home pay to service their debt, at least until they turn to debt counsellors for help.

DebtBusters said in the second quarter, the debt-to-income ratio for all income bands (among their clients) increased to its highest levels to date. This is the percentage of people’s gross monthly income that goes towards paying their monthly debt obligations.

Among their clients, the debt-to-income ratio sat at the average of 122% across the income bands. But for those taking home R20 000 or more per month, it increased to 152%. In the second quarter of 2016, these consumers’ debt-to-income ratio stood at 126%.

“With all this said, there is some positive news. The number of clients completing debt counselling successfully has increased by sevenfold over the last five years,” wrote DebtBusters.

 

Nearly 18 months after we left the office, businesses should not simply try to pick up where they left off and hope people return to the workplace environment as it was before.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says: “There are no precedents to follow in the aftermath of a global pandemic. Giant Leap has devised a list of 7 ‘must do’ actions that corporations, large and small, should consider when attracting new employees and welcoming back old staff, in light of unfamiliar working reality.”

Have a clear idea of who needs to be present in the office

Do you really need an in-office presence to order supplies or make cold calls? Smart business have learned that productivity is not a function of location; many job functions are location independent. “Identifying groups that can re-enter the workplace in phased stages is critical, based on the impact of location on the job function,” says Trim.

Begin to make the workplace ‘work ready’

In keeping with the primary goal of promoting a seamless transition back into the workplace, what needs must you address? Dedicated spaces for phone conversations? Expanded access to Wi-Fi? White Boards and erasable markers? A primed, well-prepared workplace evokes the feeling of homecoming as an alternative to yet another upheaval in the normal routine of life.

Creatively repurpose under-utilised space

The key to repurposing space is to ensure that it still benefits your company in its new incarnation. “For example, the addition of a coffee bar, ping-pong, day car or fitness room may seem like the perfect choice for repurposing empty space. It’s easy, inexpensive employee-centred fix,” says Trim.

Consider a workplace in the absence of assigned offices and/or dedicated seating

“The traditional office model of mazes of assigned workspaces has run its course and will be discarded in favour of a looser, more utilitarian work environment,” Trim notes.

“For anyone over the age of 40, this will likely be the most disruptive change they will encounter, while for those younger than 30, this will be welcomed as an engaging, community oriented working environment.” Strategies designed to allay anxieties, and promote acceptance, will require corporate investment and in-house promotion to accelerate acceptance and usage and promote well-being.

Create on-demand workplace services

In the absence of a full time onsite workforce, you no longer need a fully stocked canteen to feed employees that have opted for remote work settings. The same principle applies to workstations, conference rooms and lounging areas and parking garages. “The focus should be on adjusting workplace solutions for employees from an ‘on-site’ suite of services to ‘on-demand’ services,” Trim adds.

Make employee wellbeing a top priority

Employee wellbeing is a vital element for companies that want to attract and maintain top talent. A new generation of millennials entering the workforce seek companies that offer the right environment and values. “These workers need a workplace environment that is energising, engaging, and connected to the broader corporate community. Wellbeing is a theme that cuts across multiple aspects (safety, health, morale) of the workplace.

“Wellbeing is of paramount interest to executives today. The benefits of any post-pandemic workplace strategy must equally apply to all employees, regardless of income, education, or location,” Trim concludes.

Emerging successfully from an economic downturn and global pandemic is no easy feat, especially if you are an SME business without large cash reserves to see you through. How do entrepreneurs combat these difficult times and come out the other side relatively unscathed?

Warren Bonheim, MD of Zinia, a leading ICT and telecoms provider, shares his strategies for success that have seen Zinia thrive through tough times.

Embrace customer reviews

Word of mouth has to a certain extent been digitised with many customers often deciding who to contact off of google and social media reviews. This strategy embraces transparency by asking customers to go public with their experience across digital platforms.

Bonheim says feedback directly from the mouths of the customer has a unique way of driving a culture of continuous improvement and dedication to customer excellence.

By focusing on customer experience as a priority in your business, you can determine if you are delivering on your service promise or not. Simply asking what your customers are saying about your business also allows you to benchmark your service and find a starting point to improve. However, exposing your business by actively seeking out customer reviews is not without risk.

“Opening your business up to customer feedback is daunting because there is absolutely no control over what people will say,” says Bonheim. “In addition, it is human nature to criticize and not take the time to give positive feedback.”

Whilst this approach may open a business up to negative reviews, these reviews allow business decision-makers to create targeted intervention programmes to improve their services that are far more resource-efficient in the long run.

Invest in people and service

During tough times leaders may seek to cut costs through their wage bill. However, making a strategic decision to not carry out retrenchments may be better as it allows you to protect the livelihood of employees who make a high level of customer service possible.

This also proves that you are loyal to your employees, preserving employee satisfaction and motivation which leads to a productive and positive company culture.

Zinia made the decision to stand by their employees and demonstrate their commitment to personalized service by limiting retrenchment during the Lockdown. They also improved the customer experience by incorporating easy to understand tools, sales documents, processes, checks, SLAs, and customer satisfaction surveys to make dealing with the company effortless. In the same way, links to provide customer feedback are readily available at a variety of touchpoints, making it easy for customers to share their thoughts.

Give recognition

Getting buy-in from executive-level members is also imperative to implementing these strategies. Reviews both positive and negative should be monitored regularly by executive level company members. This allows positive reviews and the employees responsible for them to be given validation and recognition. Negative reviews can be investigated and the challenge properly identified – be it in processes, people, or systems – to inform future strategies on how to improve the business.

Bonheim says, “When we get a positive review everyone at Zinia celebrates, and when we get a negative one, we see it as an opportunity to learn. It is difficult not to take a negative review personally at Zinia because every staff member is so passionate about customer service. However, we know we are doing something right when 97% of our customers rate us a 4 out of 5 and above for service excellence.”

Creating a positive service culture internally through internal communication initiatives and leading by example is essential. After all, if your company members don’t believe in what you are doing you will struggle to implement any strategy within the company.

Digitise appropriately

Another strategic decision that paid off for Zinia was investing in a digitization strategy in 2018 that carefully considered which key business processes could be automated to support, manage, and sustain the businesses growth.

Automation has an incredible capacity to drive efficiencies and ensure that customer service is not compromised by lightening some of the manual administrative load. Investments in IT systems, customer engagement and ticketing, productivity monitoring and more, allowed Zinia to remain strong during 2020 when other businesses struggled.

The leader’s investment in an IT managed services platform known as ZMS allowed them to virtually manage their customer’s IT and network environments; improve efficiency and productivity of their own internal resources; proactively service their customers and minimise their downtime.

Effective digitisation has the benefit of allowing a company to be flexible and pivot according to challenges, big or small, that they may face. During a crisis situation like the pandemic, a solid digital infrastructure allows for remote working when needed, providing everything that the employee needs – internet, access to business systems, telephony and so on – so they can work productively.

Any good business strategy should focus on implementing the systems and controls necessary for the company to scale and provide the flexibility to react quickly. In Zinia’s case, their combination of systems and entrepreneurial flair allowed their team to quickly investigate the implications and opportunities within the crises when international rumours of a lockdown first began.

This resulted in the company being ready for lockdown with remote working solutions that included hosted VoIP (Voice over IP) PBX and custom productivity tools that could be delivered virtually. These solutions answered a very real business need in the market: How to manage employee’s remote activities and identify operational inefficiencies, productivity trends and prevent any IT security risks of remote working.

Embracing a digital way of interacting includes benefits such as increased sales activity and output of work, reduced travelling costs, reduced time spent travelling, reduced printing costs and so on.

Using these business strategies above can combat downturns in the economy, provide consistent feedback on business health and help clients trust organisations that deliver value in today’s world. Creativity and innovation are key to running any business, but especially in rapidly changing climates, they can make or break your success.

Businesses with strong growth strategies, forward-thinking decision-makers and positive workplace culture are emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever. Whilst many will agree that a fully work from home approach is not sustainable, with the correct strategy and investment in infrastructure we can effectively marry in office and work from home scenarios and create more resilient companies, with leaner operating models and more positive culture that recognise and support the human element of successful businesses.

Kulula flights stopped until September

Source: MyBroadband

Comair has extended the suspension of Kulula.com and British Airways flights until 31 August 2021, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that South Africa will remain on lockdown level 4.

Comair said the prohibition of all non-essential travel in and out of Gauteng means there is limited demand for business travel.

Comair suspended all scheduled flights from 5 July 2021 with the intention to start flying again on 30 July 2021.

However, given the uncertainty of the expected length of the recently adjusted level 4 lockdown, Comair decided to suspend flight operations until 31 August 2021.

“This decision has been taken in the interest of the well-being of employees and customers,” Comair said.

“Without Government engagement with or support for the aviation sector and associated services, the ability to plan constructively for a meaningful service beyond 30 July 2021 is exceptionally challenging.”

“Taking the potential variables into consideration, Comair plans to resume scheduled operations on Wednesday 1 September 2021.”

Comair CEO, Glenn Orsmond, apologised to customers affected by the suspension, adding that the decision was not made lightly.

Tickets for travel with Kulula.com from 28 June 2021 to 31 August 2021 will remain valid for 12 months until 31 August 2022. No change of booking fee or fare difference will be charged.

 

As many South African workers continue to work from home, many feel increasingly tired, stressed and uncertain about the future which is leading to rise in mental health concerns.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says: “Coronavirus and the imposition of lockdowns year has significantly raised mental health challenges.

“These are some of the major factors that have contributed to the stress and anxiety during this time:

  • Disrupted work-life balance: Balancing the work and personal life has become a major issue during this period. Extended hours of work just to finish off the task has led to the severe disruption of work-life balance.
  • Uncertain future: “Uncertainty about one’s career prospects for the future can be frustrating and worrying,” Trim said. “And it’s especially challenging for younger workers trying to learn from more experienced workers and trying to get ahead in their careers.”
  • Financial uncertainty: The economic impact of lockdowns has proved ruinous for many economies. “Many people live in fear of losing their jobs,” said Trim.

But there are ways to push back against the anxiety. This is how you can preserve the mental health while working from home:

Have separate areas for work and play: It is recommended to have a dedicated workspace to help you stay focused when working remotely.
“Having separate areas for work and play also makes it easier to mentally move from work mode to home mode,” says Trim.

Don’t use your work computer in your free time: Just like having different locations for work and private life, it’s important to separate your work tools from your play tools. The most obvious example is your laptop. “If you can afford it, make sure you don’t use the laptop where you are drafting your best selling novel for any other activity,” Trim advises.

Go for a walk after the workday is over: “If it’s safe and you can observe covid rules, go put for a walk or bike ride as soon as the workday is over. This will help you mentally switch to ‘home mode’ by getting you focused on a different activity, thereby relaxing your mind,” says Trim.

Do exercise to keep both your body and mind healthy: If you cannot or are worried about going out, do some exercises or stretches at home. Not only will physical activity help you divert your mind from work, but it will help you stay in shape and help you relax.

Plan your after-work time: When everyone is locked in and there isn’t much life outside your home, it’s difficult to break yourself away from work. Says Trim:” It’s essential to keep a check on what you are doing after work. Make plans beforehand so that it makes you look forward to finishing off the work.”

“It’s also really important to stay in touch, keep connecting and talking to each other, particularly friends and family,” Trim concludes.

By Rudolph Nkgadima for IOL

While Gauteng premier David Makhura considers imposing further restrictions in the province, in an effort to curb the increasing number of Covid-19 infections, some health experts are saying they will not be enough.

In the past few weeks, Gauteng has seen a sustained steady increase in Covid-19 cases and is the epicentre of the third wave, accounting for about 60% of the latest daily increase.

Welcoming the military health personnel deployed to help health-care professionals in the province on Monday, Makhura said a stricter lockdown could be announced soon as the number of new cases and hospitalisations continued to soar.

However, health expert Dr Kgosi Letlape said Gauteng was left with only one option.

“The only thing that we can resort to are the non-pharmaceutical intervention methods which have worked for us during the first and second wave. People should be behaving as if we are on level 5 because the numbers are too high,” he said.

Letlape said restrictions on social gatherings needed to be tightened.

Life Healthcare group chief executive Peter Wharton-Hood said further restrictions would not improve the situation.

“The infections are already in the system; a hard lockdown is not going to prevent the peak. The social consequences of a hard lockdown and the economic consequences are grave for those people who are not able to work,” he said.

“Prevention is better than cure. I think that the learnings of wave 3, for us, is a direct result of social behaviour and people not taking the necessary guidelines and following the obvious advice that has been given to them for months. Social distancing, wearing masks and responsible behaviour are the best ways to prevent this outcome,” he said.

The provincial coronavirus command council is set to meet on Tuesday when further restrictions are expected to be discussed.

 

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