For most people in South Africa, the hard lockdown at the end of March meant that business needed to be conducted differently.

South Africans, for the most part, commute to an office environment, which was not permitted under levels 5 and 4 of the lockdown. We all had to find solutions to keep our businesses running as smoothly as possible, and one of the biggest shifts for many South African companies was the introduction of remote working (or working from home).


For many, this shift has changed the way we work. We are all aware of the benefits of working remotely. No traffic, no interruptions, and a more flexible way of completing our work each day.

Companies, especially those classified as non-essential during level 5, are able to service clients and provide support. Technology has provided us the tools to stay connected, as well as enabling us to keep our customers and bosses happy.

However, there are disadvantages to working from home, and it is important that companies take these disadvantages into consideration and assist employees where possible.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) conducted a study[1] into remote working titled Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work, which noted that while remote workers are more productive when they work outside of the conventional office, they’re also more likely to working longer hours, at a more intense work pace, and, in some cases, greater psychological stress. Couple this with the heightened anxiety of Coronavirus, and there is the very real possibility that workers will be much more vulnerable to depression or anxiety-related problems.


There are a number of areas where remote workers are vulnerable. This article will focus on the following:

  1. Overworking
  2. Prioritising Work
  3. Interruptions
  4. Isolation
  5. Tech glitches.


  1. Overworking

Many companies, especially in South Africa, shy away from permitting remote work, and it would appear that this occurs in other countries as well. According to the ILO study,  “…[for] most of the national studies for this report, there appears to be a considerable degree of management resistance to T/ICTM in many organisations – including those that already have teleworking/telecommuting polices in place. All the national studies concur that this resistance is due mainly to the fact that the traditional ‘command and control’ style of management is not really possible with T/ICTM, and many managers fear this loss of control.” For example, the US national study notes, ‘’Managers are often distrustful of teleworkers. Out of sight, they assume teleworkers are slacking off.”

The report notes, however, that the opposite is usually true.

Remote workers are more likely to overwork. When your personal life and your work are both under the same roof, it’s harder to switch off.

To combat this, it is important to have a separate work area, with a comfortable chair and flat work surface. If you don’t have a lot of space, use a bookshelf to cordon off an area so that you have some sort of barrier, so that when your finish your work for the day, it doesn’t bleed into your home life.

Set your working hours and stick to them. Most companies require an online presence for 40 hours a week, with flexibility between 7:00 am and 18:00, so make sure you know what is expected of you and when you need to be online and contactable. When your working day is complete, switch off your laptop and remove yourself from your work area.

  1. Prioritising Work

Remote workers need to be self-motivated experts at time management because we don’t have others constantly overseeing our work or managing our time for us. While every worker might find it difficult to stick to a schedule and manage their to-dos, it’s especially challenging for remote workers who have more flexible, free-form days.

This can be managed by having a daily task list and sticking to it. Set up regular meetings with your team and customers, so that your remote working day has a similar structure to your office day.

  1. Interruptions

The lockdown has forced many families to work together. Children are attending classes online, and adults have to conduct online meetings or telephone calls, sometimes in the same room as their partner or children.

If you are working with others in your home, make sure that everybody understands the boundaries. Designate an area (perhaps a bedroom or study) where meetings and phone calls can be conducted without interruption and schedule your meetings so that you and your partner can each utilise the space.

  1. Loneliness and isolation

If you don’t have your family with you, you are more likely to be vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which has been amplified by the lockdown. This is especially problematic for workers who suffer from depression and/or anxiety.

Having a routine where you are forced to interact with other human beings can be extremely beneficial to depression and anxiety sufferers, especially those who live alone. Your colleagues become your social circle, and when that is removed, it can be difficult for you to reach out electronically.

Most recommendations for combatting isolation include taking your laptop to a coffee shop so that there are people around you, but this is currently not possible during lockdown. The best way to deal with this is to practice self-care and make sure you are in regular telephonic contact with friends and family.

If you are having online meetings, make sure that cameras are enabled so that you can at least see a friendly face. Take regular five-minute breaks to get some sunshine or go for a quick jog around the garden (or living room!).

  1. Tech glitches

In South Africa, data is extremely expensive, and most remote workers are responsible for their own connectivity. In addition, we are vulnerable to unplanned power outages, and load-shedding.

If you are using a Fibre connection which requires electricity to function, a power failure can be catastrophic; not only is your equipment vulnerable to power surges, but workers who require connectivity to do their jobs lose productivity.

The only solution here is to have a plan B. Many employers provide remote workers with  WiFidongles or routers, which can operate without electricity. Many of us have power inverters or battery banks, while others have invested in a generator.

Whatever you choose, make sure that you select a solution that fits your pocket and keeps you connected.

The good news is that many South African companies have seen how effective remote working can be, and some businesses have even taken the decision to continue with Remote working when the lockdown ends. Greater productivity, happier employees and no exorbitant rent on office premises can benefit companies in the long run.