The South African response to WFH

It is not easy, but we somme just carry on.


Work from home, or WFH, was introduced en-masse when the pandemic first arrived in the country and has been a part of many people’s lives almost 2 years now. 

In June 2021, an estimated 50% of the South African workforce was working from home full-time (according to Business Tech) and while stats vary, a large portion of the SA workforce has worked from home since March 2020. 

At the start of our lockdown, most of those who fell into the WFH category i.e. can complete their work off-site, had NEVER done so before. An experiment on a HUGE scale.

Pre-pandemic, we all dutifully travelled to a shared place of work before and now… we must do what we did before? But from home? And more often than not, without physically meeting people. Everything was different. 

But in true “Souf Effrican” fashion, we proved resilient, and the stats say so. When looking at the Decoding Global Ways of Working study by Boston Consulting Group (released March 2021, global study, 190 countries), 53% of SA participants said they would prefer to continue working from home occasionally. A whopping 44% of them said they’d prefer WFH full-time, compared to the 24% global average.

“South African respondents felt a generally positive impact of COVID-19 on the way they work, particularly in terms of the flexibility in when and how to work, the use of digital tools, effectiveness, and team collaboration,” says Rudi van Blerk, Principal and Recruiting Director at Boston Consulting Group, Johannesburg. “The only exception was work-life-balance, where the impact reported was negative. Overall impact was worse in physical or social contact jobs, like social care, manual work, and customer service – but it was positive for knowledge/digital jobs.”

By February/March 2021 we were 10 months in, and if the survey is any indication, many adjusted quite well to the “new normal”. 

Mirror Mirror were curious. What did South Africa have to say from February 2021 to February 2022 as the trend continued? Here’s what we found: 

Looking at the graph below, for the first 4 months of our analysis period WFH earned relatively steady volumes. 


The first uptake in volumes was in late May 2021, at a time when speculation was rife as to vaccine rollouts and the envisaged impact on WFH . The peak was not because of vaccines alone, rather several themes within the topic. 


Increased discussion about vaccines and their impact on WFH continued through July 2021. The biggest peak of the period was on on 27 July. During a \”family meeting\” that day the President announced that employers should still allow for WFH unless on-site work was necessary.


In August, some lekker, local WFH humour from @simon_orgill brightened the day:


But the truth of it is that WFH has affected different people differently. The Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor 2021 released in August revealed that 

  • 41% of those who work from home all or most of the time report a better balance now
  • 22% (1 in 5 home-based workers) feel that their work/life balance has deteriorated
  • Side hustles, second jobs, poly-jobbing, extra freelancing, contract work – whatever you call it – many more of us have developed multiple, often diverse income streams. Mostly driven more by young people (youth unemployment and lower paying, entry level jobs would contribute)

After months of abnormally high stress and anxiety almost all the time, whether you feel you’ve attained the elusive balance or not, there are many WFH difficulties to deal with:



August volumes also included a number of posts from @iamkoshiek, highlighting some WFH cons that were frequently shared and engaged with, contributing to the month’s second spike.


Either way, we continued to offer support to each other on social media,  in the form of practical advice, motivational messaging, or friendly banter. 

And then Spring sprung! With the change is season, we saw a change in the mood of top posts – September’s big spike was caused by a single humorous post that earned extremely high engagement. Thank you for bringing smiles to our faces @Lush_Beauty1!


In November, loadshedding drove increased volumes, with many people lamenting the (very real) impact that it has on South African’s ability to WFH.


The announcement from Portugal around new “right to rest” laws in response to WFH caused the most recent spike in SA conversation over the period. 


As we look at the last three months of the period of assessment – the volumes are steady without major peaks.

We have begun, in earnest, to look to practical ways of making WFH work in the long-term. Do companies decentralise (the opposite of what they did before)? Do we even want to go back to the office?  Is a hybrid model the best solution? Do we go the coworking office route? 


For people with disabilities, there is a different discussion altogether. Why should they be forced to go back to the office if it is a challenge to do so? After all, it\’s now been proven that WFH is possible.

Are you excited to go back to the office?

The WFH experiment continues…and we will be watching.

Have a great day from one bunch of lab rats to another!

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*Publicly available social listening data pulled Brandwatch from 1 February 2021 to 21 February 2022 & confirmed as originating in South Africa (i.e. location set to SA or within our borders).

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