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South Africans Are Reducing Stress and Saving Money By ‘Semigrating’ Due to New Remote Work Structures

As more workers switch to remote working during lock-down, a growing number of South Africans are looking to emigrate out of major towns and cities says Chas Everitt International property group.

Everitt said that many more people and companies have had to switch to remote working mode to survive and have realised that:

  • It is much easier than they thought;
  • It does not necessarily mean a drop in productivity; in fact, people are often more productive when working from home;
  • Many types of work lend themselves to working remotely on a permanent basis – and from wherever one prefers to live.

“We are thus not surprised that more employees as well as executives are now seriously exploring the idea of moving away from a big metro to a smaller town or an estate in a more rural area,” said Everitt.

“This pandemic has been a wake up call for many people and families who are now seriously reassessing their priorities, and seeking ways to make permanent changes to achieve a lifestyle that is less rushed and stressed, and we see this reflected in a significant increase in enquiries for country homes.”

In keeping with international trends, however, Everitt said that most do not want to relocate to another province or region, but just to a small town or estate that offers the possibility of a quieter life and is still within a couple of hours’ drive of their origin city – particularly if their friends or family members still live there.

The City of Cape Town is the most expensive metropolitan area in South Africa for rental prices. Many simply cannot afford to live in the city anymore, and are seeking homes elsewhere now that they have the freedom to work from home, alleviating much financial stress.

Everitt said the areas that could be prime targets for this process of “de-urbanisation” in South Africa are:

  • The Cape West coast;
  • The Winelands;
  • The Garden Route;
  • The Little Karoo;
  • The North Coast of KZN;
  • Hartebeespoort;
  • The Vaal;
  • Lanseria;
  • The Waterberg in Limpopo;
  • Towns in Mpumalanga close to Mbombela and the Kruger National Park.

Everitt said that not all towns in these areas will immediately benefit from this trend.

He said those areas that can attract the “de-urbanites” with good municipal management, reliable power and water supplies, reliable and fast internet connectivity, reasonable proximity to an airport, good shopping and medical facilities and good schools if they have children will prosper most.

Looking at the type of properties these new semigrants are likely to buy, he said, there is already high demand among affluent buyers for homes in out-of-town lifestyle estates.

These include Val de Vie, Pearl Valley and Boschenmeer in the Wineleands, for example, as well as the golf estate in Mossel Bay, the estates at the Vaal and around Hartebeespoort and the high-end estates along the KZN North coast such as Zimbali, Simbithi and Mount Edgecombe.

“We expect to see rising demand for ordinary freehold homes and whatever apartments may be available in and around various small towns – and possibly also for smallholdings where young families can keep horses or some livestock, go off-grid and grow their own food if they wish.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Coronavirus: The End of the Office?

Many SA companies have resisted the idea of letting employees work from home. The coronavirus will force them to reconsider.

Could the coronavirus pandemic hasten the demise of the traditional SA office environment? The country is several years behind much of the world in adopting “remote working” — the ability to work for your company from wherever you want.

But now, as in the rest of the world, the need to limit Covid-19 infection rates is likely to force many SA companies to have employees work more from home. Once the trend takes hold, it will be difficult to turn back the clock, say experts.

For many people, remote working, sometimes called “telecommuting”, enables them to work away from their corporate cubicle either full-or part-time. As long as the work is good and on time, companies that encourage the practice don’t care where their staff are based.

It’s difficult to get an accurate estimate of the popularity of remote working. The US census says about 8-million Americans, or 5.2% of the working population, work from home full-time. Swiss research suggests that 70% of professionals around the world work from home at least one day a week, and 53% for at least half the week. Another study found that 44% of companies around the world don’t allow any remote working.

Remote working is not limited to home. Coffee shops and libraries are among venues favoured by people whose domestic circumstances don’t allow work.

Research by Jack Hammer, the US-based executive head-hunting firm with offices across Africa, says that of SA companies polled, 80% say they will offer remote working options to job candidates.

The company says the trend is in its early stages locally — a view reinforced by Sharron McPherson, a former Wall Street investment banker and attorney who is now an expert on technology disruption in emerging markets.

McPherson, a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, says that globally the number of remote workers grew 173% between 2003 and 2019. She says SA is “about four or five years behind the curve”, but predicts “a big spike” over the next two years — even without the coronavirus.

Why has SA been slow to adopt the idea? McPherson blames culture and mindset. South Africans, she says, like being together. For many employees, the idea of a solitary working environment does not appeal. “Some people are simply better suited to remote working than others,” she says. “Self-initiation and self-motivation are crucial traits.”

It’s not just employees. Many employers cling to the idea that staff must be seen at all hours of the working day. As Esther Canónico, a UK-based author, researcher and consultant on organisational behaviour, says: “As far as some companies are concerned, if they don’t see a worker working, then that worker is not working.”

Wits Business School professor Bhekinkosi Moyo thinks the problem is particularly prevalent in Africa. “This whole thing of going to the office and seeing people says to me that while the rest of the world is caught up in the fourth industrial revolution, our leaders are stuck in the second,” he says. “They measure people’s performance by how long they spend in the office. We need a strong culture shock.”

Covid-19, as devastating as it may be, could provide that shock. “If it wasn’t this virus, it would be something else,” says Moyo. “Something has to give.”

Canónico, who lectures at the London School of Economics, believes that while traditional offices will always have a place — companies need people on site and some employees like working there — the need for vast, expensive corporate HQs will diminish.

She agrees that the coronavirus will force companies that have resisted the idea to reconsider.

The pandemic isn’t the only factor forcing a rethink in SA. Gridlocked urban roads, made worse by failed traffic lights during load-shedding, cause workers to waste hours of potentially productive time sitting in traffic. Then, when they get to work, loss of Eskom power causes more frustration.

“Flexible hours and remote working may be the best solutions to helping businesses survive amid the chaos,” says McPherson.

But there’s more to it than convenience. As Canónico points out, remote employees are more loyal, happier and more productive.

Jack Hammer research shows that, in many interviews, remote working is one of the first issues to be raised by potential employees.

McPherson says: “Research from Stanford University shows that people are 13% more effective when working remotely. They take off fewer days and are less likely to take sick leave. They are also less likely to leave their company. There’s a clear bottom-line impact.”

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.
Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Green Chameleon [1], [2].