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South Africa’s Remote Work Revolution, Impacting Corporates And Beyond

COVID 19 has seen much of the globe encouraged to work from home where possible. With so many people operating remotely during this pandemic, we are all experiencing an unprecedented blend of work and private life. Businesses lucky enough to have survived the ravages of the Covid-19 lockdown have been forced to quickly adapt to new ways of working. In response to market demand, South Africa’s top workspace solutions provider, Workshop17, has taken the lead to provide a continuum of work environments that blend physical and virtual workspace services. 

“The office of the future will no longer be a specific space in one building, but a combination of physical spaces accompanied by virtual office resources that enable online meetings, planning and collaboration” says Paul Keursten, Workshop17 co-founder and CEO. 

“The future of the office became clearer to us during COVID-19 lockdown. Physical workspaces will always be relevant, but the need to keep our members connected inspired us to re-evaluate our value proposition and shift our focus to provide flexible solutions offering an interchangeable mix of physical and virtual spaces and functionalities. We intend to be a work solutions provider to enables corporates, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and others to be productive wherever they choose to operate from – at home or in one of our physical workspaces”, says Keursten. 

The company also has the benefit of insights from local market research on how COVID-19 and technology have reframed our understanding of the work-setting. More than half of the SMME’s surveyed in the #CombatCovid SMME Survey (co-sponsored by Workshop17) reported that they had used technology to keep their businesses ticking over during these trying times. 54% of businesses had adopted and/or increased their use of technology, with tools such as online video conferencing, in order to work remotely, run their businesses and streamline processes.  

A remote revolution for corporates and beyond 

By all accounts, remote work is here to stay, for a growing number of workers, and this has a major impact on the future of offices. Despite the easing COVID19 restrictions, many companies, big and small, are continuing to allow their employees to work remotely. This shift has had an impact on the traditional idea of the office.  

In recent months, Workshop17 has seen an increase in enquiries from large corporates and smaller businesses alike looking for more flexible workspace options.  Keursten says “The corporates who have reached out to us, are telling us that while they recognize that employees do not necessarily need to be based at a corporate head office to be productive, the long-term work from home arrangements are not a solution for everyone.” He adds, “The reality is that some employees may not necessarily have all the resources they need at home to handle their professional commitments, including adequate workspace, ergonomic furniture, certain office equipment, a stable internet connection and in some cases enough quiet time to work. And that is before the predicted load shedding kicks in. Further, there are some professionals who find it challenging not to have regular in-person interaction and engagement with their colleagues when working from home full time.” 

Keursten continues: “In order to adapt to the new world of work, we are hearing from corporates that they are open to limiting their traditional office space environments, in some cases reducing their office premises by more than 50%. There is a real appetite for a so-called ‘third space’: a mailable office concept that is relatively close to their employees’ homes to avoid long hours in traffic, that is ergonomic and functional, and just offers a great atmosphere in which their staff can be creative and effective, as well as interact and be inspired by others.” 
These fundamental shifts led us to develop new offerings next to our ‘traditional Workshop17 full’; from the ‘office for the day’ for small businesses, all the way to the larger ‘serviced white box plus’ for larger companies who want to keep dedicated space with their own identity, while at the same time tapping into shared Workshop17 offerings.  

Online platform keeps entrepreneurs together while working apart 

When the workplace stops being one location and co-workers are working from home, a corporate office, or a Workshop17, a virtual platform is needed to tie it all together. 

One solution is Workshop17’s new W17 World online platform, which contains a wide range of secure features for co-working, co-learning and well-being. The platform provides access to the company’s fully encrypted video conferencing platform, available to all members as well as the public. The secure W17 Meet video conferencing solution provides a secure and efficient alternative to Zoom. Hosted by Workshop17’s servers in South Africa, the platform allows for free unlimited calls and call time. 

W17 World also facilitates ‘blind networking’ for members who may be looking to expand their business network, share a business idea, or connect with a specific industry expert. Already renowned for its event hosting facilities, Workshop17 now in addition provides members with comprehensive virtual event management services for webinars, seminars and workshops.