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The case for #WFH…Or not

“Is anybody here? Can you hear me? Hello….anybody….” crackling and some hissing sounds finally coming through…”ohhhh Thank G-d”.

This may sound like a séance, trying to communicate with the spirits but it is not. This became part of our 2020 experience of working from home or studying and communicating via any of the virtual platforms, such as Zoom, MS Teams and WebEx.

In a recent management meeting held at our office, after more than six months of not seeing each other, face to face, we felt how grateful we are for the human contact. (Regardless of an exasperating noise from construction outside our window that couldn’t be managed by just muting the microphone). Although productivity was not affected, from working remotely, there was no doubt that so much more can be discussed, explored and even come up with new ideas when we are physically together.

So when listening to experts and webinars dealing with the question of what will the workplace post Covid19 look like, it is no surprise that there are no definite and confident answers.

In a recent event held by ORT SA , Prof Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE at Wits University was the Keynote Speaker for the evening. “The Digital Transformation has been fast tracked due to COVID-19 and our primary function should be to focus on getting businesses online and familiar with the Digital World”.

Covid19 and the lockdown implications have prompt digital transformation in education, medical practices, the justice system and many other industries.  But what will the work place look like?

According to Prof Barry, the definition of a ‘job’, as we know it, will change.  Currently a ‘job’ is defined by the number of hours per day that need to be “filled” with work and an employment contract with one single employer. What he believes working from home did, is the realisation that some tasks can be automated and many can be done from anywhere in the world. He introduced the concept of a “Gig economy” where we no longer have a workplace and we no longer have a “job” but tasks to complete.

I, personally believe, that we should not neglect the possible effect of working remotely on our emotional and social state. Both for introverts that feel comfortable with isolation and for extroverts that get their energy from interaction with people.

Working at home created a false comfort zone. It is quite convenient to be home and not to worry what we wear below the chest and, as it is acceptable to have camera off in virtual meetings, not even to worry about our look.

While the world is dealing with the pandemic, contemplating with various degrees of lockdowns and shutdowns, we should be thankful for the technology that brings us together in computational means. But we also should be careful not to sink into a new routine that can lead to isolation, loneliness and maybe even depression.

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