As we reflect on 2020, for most of us, it will be a year we will never forget. All started well during the first quarter of the year; however, on the international front concerns were being expressed about the Coronavirus and its threat to the global economies. South Africans started to see the impact of the virus across Europe, through social media and our local television channels, blissfully unaware of the impact this was to have on all of us. Then in March, we heard about our first case in Hilton, and suddenly on the 26 March, we were confined to our homes as South Africa completely locked down. While the debate rages on as to whether this drastic step was the correct manner in which to tackle the crisis, we can look back on the significant impacts on our lives.
For years, people have argued the benefits of working from home (WFH), such as saving commuting time, increasing productivity, and creating a better work-life balance. Many companies were sceptical until Covid-19 forced offices to close indefinitely, ushering a new era of mass telecommuting. Many of us were uncomfortable, unprepared, and unmotivated by the concept, but after settling into the rhythm of working from home, many now prefer the ‘new normal’. Some companies have even decided to let their employees work remotely after the pandemic ends. For obvious reasons, WFH is neither practical nor possible for some industries, such as manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and travel – these industries suffered heavily under the lockdown measures declared by many countries and have only recently started to show some signs of recovery.
While the pandemic put millions out of work and forced many to a adjust to a life of WFH, the lockdowns resulted in a positive effect on our climate, with fewer cars, buses, trains and planes in operation, which resulted in less pollution and better air quality. The reduction in commuter traffic also meant there were fewer accidents. Many used quarantine circumstances to improve their cooking skills and prepare healthier meals. In many cases, it resulted in stronger relationships with loved ones (some might say it was taxing!). It brought home the message that being hygienic is no longer just a good habit, but essential for our survival. The ‘new normal’ also challenges us to become more innovative to sustain our organisations, our clients and our employees.
Going to school (some kids might not agree!); attending and participating in sports events (our beloved Two Oceans and Comrades ultramarathons were cancelled); the Olympic Games; going to the movies; concerts and even watching our favourite soapies or series, because production had to be halted. But most of all, because we are social beings, we missed socialising with family and friends.
Pfizer, one of many pharmaceutical companies working on finding a vaccine against the virus, announced the results of their clinical trials, which showed that its vaccine was 90%-95% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in clinical trials. Other pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are in the late stages of testing; this bodes well for the fight against Covid-19 as the entire world waits for an effective vaccine. Countries everywhere are still fighting this pandemic, but we will surely overcome this challenge – we are a race of survivors! Yes, the battle is hard and long, but the human spirit is resilient – we shall overcome!
Thanks to all our clients for the laughs and frustrations as we figured out Teams and Zoom meeting platforms together. While there were challenges, together we never wavered in our efforts to ensure all appropriate measures were taken to protect the well-being of each other during emotionally and financially stressful times.
From all of us at Chartered Employee benefits we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a relaxing festive season and a Happy New Year! We look forward to hopefully meeting you again in person in the new year, and until then, please be safe and well.