So 80% of us are back at work? Sandton traffic tells a different story

It has felt surreal coming into the Biznews offices this past week. Being in the heart of Sandton usually guarantees plenty of time to catch up on podcasts. Not so at the moment. For me, driving to the office and home has been almost like doing so on a Sunday. We were told that at Level Three, 80% of us would be back at work. Not from what I see on the roads.

Then again, it could be a physical manifestation of Covid-19 economic carnage that’s turning out to be even worse than feared. Yesterday’s RMB/BER Business Confidence index dropped to single digits for the first time since it was created in 1975. Those surveyed put their confidence at just 5 on an index where 50 is ambivalence and optimism maxes out at 100.

Interviewed for our Inside Covid-19 podcast, RMB’s chief economist Ettienne le Roux said the 1800 executives who participate expect conditions to be dire for at least a couple more quarters. He reckons it will take the SA economy four long years to get back to the already depressed level of 2019. Access the full podcast here:

The same message came up in yesterday’s inaugural Midweek Catchup webinar where Dr Jakkie Cilliers put recovery time at five years. On the upside, colleague Linda van Tilburg’s other guest, Moeletsi Mbeki, argued that now the IMF support may turn out to be the best thing to have happened to SA’s economy. Here’s the link to the YouTube recording of the webinar:

* Two more Biznews webinars available for your pleasure before the weekend:

– Need a new plan? At noon today I host entrepreneur, business coach and start-up specialist Allon Raiz on today’s interactive Noontime Thursday webinar. Register here:

– And tomorrow at noon, Jackie Cameron’s Finance Friday webinar has independent financial advisors Magnus Heystek and Dawn Ridler on hand to answer your questions. Register here:

To receive Biznews founder Alec Hogg’s Daily Insider every weekday at 6am in your inbox click here. You can also sign up to the Weekender for a wrap of the best content Biznews has to offer, for a leisurely Saturday read.

Comment from Biznews community member Chris Bladergroen:

I thoroughly enjoy reading your newsletters every morning, but I would like to put it to you that your observation this morning was flawed.

The traffic in Sandton is not a good indication of whether we are back at work. Sandton is the heart of office work in Johannesburg and as such most of the businesses in Sandton have been able to adopt a work from home principle during this time.

Instead of putting employees at risk and going through the huge H&S requirements to fill an office again, many of the businesses have continued to allow employees to work from home. Many of the office workers in Sandton drive to work everyday to sit at a desk and do what they could have done at home – there is little need for them to be in the office.

My friends at EY, Deloitte and many of the large banks are all working from home at full steam. They are working everyday but not adding to the traffic.

Reduced traffic leaves more time in the day for those that need to drive in – thus one could argue Sandton is working at 80%+ with more time than ever before.

The company I work for has many construction sites and all of them have been opened and are operating.

I think 80% of South Africa is back at work – but those that can work from home are and that is doing great things for the traffic and will be great for our livelihoods going forward.

Have a great day,

Kind regards.

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