The race to reopen the office before 2022 

The Cape Town office space industry has weathered a two-year storm since the coronavirus pandemic began, and there are positive signs that we can finally stop asking IF employees will return to the office.

South Africa’s economy is simply not geared for a work from home environment although many may choose to work close to home instead. Which means that with the work from home honeymoon is almost over, the question is no longer when but how soon can we get on with our future life together? 

For many businesses – if they aren’t already back in the office, the answer is 2022 or sooner. In this article, we look at the reality of going back to the office in Cape Town. 

The time to reopen the office is now 

Employers have been playing a waiting game with COVID, placing the health of workers and management above the very real need to get back to the office, collaborate, and reshape the strategies in a post pandemic era. With vaccines being rolled out in countries around the world, South Africa’s inoculation progress is starting to tick up – and the prospect of reopening the economy fully now seems very real.

In previous articles we questioned the effectiveness of a totally remote working model for many companies. 

  • As the pandemic has started to wane in foreign countries, many large corporations are returning to the office. This move comes as productivity has dropped in many parts of the world as a result of employees being isolated at home, unable to learn and collaborate as a team. 
  • South Africa’s economy lags behind developed countries in terms of digital integration and e-commerce and is particularly ill-suited for a totally online work culture. 
  • Infrastructure aside, our business culture, which is rooted in our national characteristics like friendliness, strong group dynamics, and team-based competitive strategy and decision making, points toward a commercial sector that is keen to get back to the office and back to work. 

On the other hand, it would be wishful thinking to believe that every aspect of our personal and professional lives can return to the way it was before the pandemic.  

Some companies have found new efficiencies by splitting their teams into on-site and remote units. Some even offer flexible working hours to employees who find it more productive to spend a few hours a day at the office or choose one day a week to work from home. 

A hybrid working model which integrates in-office and remote working is now becoming reality for many companies in South Africa and no longer a theoretical future scenario.

Short commutes and quality of life are essential for a return to the office

As workers moved through the pandemic cycle of staying at home permanently during lockdown and only returning to the office on a short-term basis recently, many have realised that having a place to work and collaborate is essential.

However, people also recognise that it’s not necessary to spend 8 to 10 hours a day in the office if it’s not productive time

One major result of this shift in thinking will be felt by both the commercial and residential property sectors. 

  • Professionals are now more keenly aware of the value of their time than ever before and will be using the hours at the office strategically to carry out tasks that they simply can’t do alone.
  • Commercial properties that are located a convenient driving or even cycling distance from trendy residential areas are likely to benefit in the post pandemic era. 
  • Cape Town is fortunate in this sense because most of the city’s business districts (including the CBD and Century City) are just a few minute’s drive from some of the most sought after suburbs. 

Once commercial building users have made the short commute to work, they are likely to expect a higher level of comfort and hygiene from their office environments than they did pre-pandemic. This is simply a result of many having worked from home and experienced the comforts and relative safety of our living environment, all day and every day. 

A redesigned office space that provides some variety for people who’ve been stuck at home, while matching the levels of comfort and safety they are used to, will do extremely well in 2022 and beyond. 

Reopening is the new reality. We’ll help you navigate it

As you prepare to reopen your business, the Commercial Space team is on hand to help you select the ideal Cape Town office space to suit your company’s evolving needs. 

Contact us today to speak with one of our area specialists.