Business unusual: How coronavirus will shape working trends in future

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By the time the world gets the spread of the coronavirus under control and countries change their stance on social distancing, the way people do certain things will have shifted dramatically - and business will not be spared.

Business community and lobby organisation Sakeliga warned its members about the negative impact of the virus on their businesses. It asked them to do "business unusual" by finding ways to stay open and moving their products, even as consumers in South Africa are visibly keeping indoors since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster.

Elsewhere in the world, particularly in US, brick-and-mortar stores, including Nike and Apple, have temporarily closed stores, naturally diverting traffic to online stores. In South Africa, while no retailer has closed shop, retailers such as Woolworths claim they have recorded a marked increase in sales of certain products, both in store and online.

Massmart also said it has noted "significantly increased" sales of hygiene cleaners and products associated with the Covid-19 virus, both online and in stores.

But as the number of infections in the country continues to rise, online shopping is one of the trends that's expected to accelerate andthrive beyond the crisis. "I believe that some trends are simply accelerating," said Efficient Group chief economist, Dawie Roodt.

"People are buying on Takealot and typically buying less in actual shops," said Roodt, adding that in the next couple of months this will likely accelerate.  

Forced virtual offices will test SA’s readiness for 4IR

Many offices in companies that offer services were left deserted this week as employees opted to work from home. Aadil Patel, the national head of the employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said that, with people working remotely as companies encourage social distancing, the country will gauge whether it's ready to follow in the footsteps of countries like Finland, where there is a preference working from home for most working hours.

"This is a test for the fourth industrial revolution, whether as a country we are ready for flexible working arrangements, to start working from home and being responsible about it," he said.

Roodt said his entire team at Efficient Group took up the opportunity to work remotely without hesitation.

"I went to the office this morning and there was just nobody…Within one day, everybody is working from home and business is going on as usual," he said.

He said, while Efficient Group cancelled events and travel, it was still in contact with clients in other ways.

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