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Load shedding saw even more people go back to work instead of working at home

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An increased employee reliance on company office space for continued power supply would encourage many companies to renew their leases and even take out more floor space.

File picture: Pixabay

AS LOAD shedding continues to disrupt workforce productivity, returning to the office may be becoming an attractive prospect.

Galetti Corporate Real Estate CEO John Jack said many companies had invested in back-up power solutions such as generators, inverters and renewable energy sources to ensure continued operations when Eskom load shedding was in force.

“South Africa is experiencing some of its worst power outages since 2021, and we are well on our way to a new record in 2022,” said Jack.

Engelbert Binedel, COO of Growthpoint Properties, the JSE’s biggest primary listed REIT, said load shedding had already resulted in a “significant pick-up” in people working from office buildings in order to get the power they need to be able to function and do their work.

“The fact is that it is exceptionally difficult to work from home during load shedding hours, and many businesses with hybrid workplace policies are struggling to maintain productivity as a result,” said Jack.

Jack said both corporate and small business productivity had been affected by the load shedding because of failing internet connections, missed deadlines as employees aren’t able to complete tasks on time, and disruptions to supply chains from the reduced output of goods manufactured.

“Staff are having to redo work owing to lost data and are generally forced to take a longer period to complete their work,” he said.

Covid-19 prompted a shift in the modern work environment that allowed employees to work from home or enjoy flexible hybrid work models. This resulted in the worsening of a significantly oversupplied office property market in South Africa.

Jack said an increased employee reliance on company office space for continued power supply would encourage many companies to renew their leases and even take out more floor space to accommodate the return of their staff to the workplace.

“The bottom line is that the costs of lost productivity and reduced output are far more deadly to a business than the costs of investing in premises with an uninterrupted power supply where employees can work as normal,” he said.

“In cases where a company has given up their physical premises and allowed employees to work fully remotely, we are seeing a trend of employers paying for their employees to work from co-working spaces with generators or other continued power supply sources,” he says.

“Covid-19 restrictions decreased the overall demand for commercial office space, but load shedding will likely have the opposite effect,” said Jack.

Discovery Insure’s Work from Home Index, which is compiled from telematic driving data from clients, showed people, on average, are now driving three days a week to their work or offices and that in the last couple of months, 80 percent of people are now working at their work locations.

The proportion of people working at their workplaces is still 20 percent lower than pre-Covid levels.

Last month, Growthpoint said in an update to its investors that an initial sentiment that offices will no longer be needed is receding, and hybrid working patterns are set to endure.

Bigger businesses were, however, returning their staff to offices with different strategies, some fully with others still on a rotational system.

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