A few days ago, multi US dollar-billionaire and CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, said he wanted Tesla employees to return to their offices or to find other jobs. He argued that too many people weren’t working optimally for the electric car maker. Musk has also questioned the work ethic of Americans in general in the past.
But since the pandemic broke out in last 2019 and hard lockdowns were imposed in early 2020, millions of white-collar workers at companies have become comfortable with working remotely. Computer-based jobs have granted people more flexibility. Factory workers have tended to need to be at factories but work life has improved for Americans. A strong labour market with little unemployment has helped unions to be able to push back on pleas from managers to return to their pre-pandemic office routine.
Inflation however has begun to kick in and many staffers are worried for their jobs. This may shift some balance back to employers.
However in SA, where economic growth has been sluggish for years and where skills shortages mean professionals have a bit of clout in demanding a certain salary, work conditions and routine, employers are battling to get their staff back in offices worth hundreds of millions of Rand.
Some employees argue that SA’s overall Covid-19 vaccination rate is low with about 32% of the population having been fully vaccinated. They are concerned that non-vaccinated individuals could spread the virus to them. They are also just more comfortable working from home.
MD of Old Mutual Property, Peter Levett explains that office workers of all ages in SA have understood that working from home can help them to avoid traffic, spend time on errands and extra moments with family. Working in an office does not necessarily detract from someone’s work life balance tremendously and people are contracted for a number of hours of work a day but many people have become quite used to remote working, he says speaking to Property Flash.
“Employers are having to find varied ways to entice their staff back to their offices. I don’t think remote working will go away and that is why employers have to be creative with their managerial strategies. Similarly, landlords have to be creative in finding ways to fill office space,” Levett says.