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Bottom Up Development Local Economic Development Thinking out loud

Thinking about places we live AND work in

We have just completed twelve months of lockdowns in South Africa. As many of my international friends would know, our initial lockdowns were quite harsh. No going beyond our property, no alcohol sales and no travel.

Thankfully it got a little “easier” or less-draconian somewhere along the line. A constant stream of memes and jokes about making beer from pineapples, or re-arranging a bathroom into a makeshift office made it all a little more bearable and maybe even a little funny!

During this year our family often reflected on our privileges. We have a house that is big enough for our family of four to work from without being in each other’s way too much. We have a good internet connection, a beautiful garden to relax in, and enough computers and devices for our children to access school from. We are very blessed indeed.

But we are acutely aware that our arrangements are an exception to the rule here in South Africa. People either cannot stay at home or cannot work from home either.

Most of my fellow-South Africans are living in really harsh circumstances. Millions of people were forced to lock down in dense settlements, informal housing or small apartments. Many still live in informal settlements (which means no public services) without electricity, running water or a toilet inside their property.

Furthermore, many South Africans do not have the education or job opportunities to work from home, nor do they have digital connectivity. They have to travel beyond their neighborhoods to find or do work.

While some of my friends are complaining about working from home, I also hear of organizations that will most likely never go back to being fully “on-site”. Maybe workplace rental prices will go down, enabling new businesses to move in. But maybe more people will choose to work from home. Or choose not to work in an office but to work from a shared working space, a coffee shop or a park bench.

I see many parking lots are vacant, shops have closed down and many office buildings are underutilized. If the pressure to create larger concentration workplaces is going to be lower in the future, can we not rather invest more in making more residential areas “liveable” or maybe even “home-workable”?

I know that I could do more intensive work over the last year because my home office, home, and the surrounding area encourage this. I cannot help but wonder how you all feel about your arrangements?

I am wondering, how has your relationship with your home and your office changed over the last year? What is your wish for the area that you live and work in?

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