Heading into the office three days a week is the new work-from-home normal in South Africa: study

 ·16 Jul 2022

Discovery’s Insure’s new Work From Home Index shows that South Africans are currently – on average – travelling between work and home three days a week.

“Our analytics team has watched with keen interest as people changed their movement patterns during Covid-19 in line with the peaks and dips of the infectious waves we experienced,” said Discovery Insure chief executive, Anton Ossip.

“Our interest isn’t at all random or purely for curiosity’s sake. As an insurer seeking to protect our clients from risk, it is important to understand how these risks are changing or emerging over time and how this impacts our clients.”

The chief executive said Discovery created a Work From Home Index using telematics driving data to look at how clients have shifted from working predominantly from home to returning to the office.

He said that the starting data point for the index was a pre-Covid baseline set in February 2020 – the month before the first officially diagnosed case in South Africa and just prior to the subsequent level five hard lockdown.

How it works 

“The two dominant destinations on which to base our measurements were intuitive – an individual’s home and their work environment. Here we could compare detailed location data,” said Ossip. “A ‘home’ location was determined as being the place where our clients spent the night hours of most weekdays. This was also based on the end location of their last driving trip for each day.”

He said that the team then defined a ‘work’ location as one that had a driving trip link to a specific location and back home again within a day.

“To define these ‘work’ trips, we needed to identify certain criteria that made sense. For example, a client would need to have left their home in the morning on a weekday to go to ‘work’ at some other location, where they would then have stayed for a number of hours, before returning home by the end of the day.”

What the data shows 

The Work From Home Index shows a clear shift to hybrid working in 2022.

  • A large percentage of Discovery Insure clients are not going into ‘work’ consistently on the same days each week. This points to a changed pattern of expectations whereby more workers are enjoying increased levels of flexibility in their workday.
  • The average number of days people are going into ‘work’ is three days per week.
  • The proportion of people going into ‘work’ three or more days in a week is 10% less than pre-Covid levels.
  • The proportion of people going into ‘work’ every day during the week is 20% less than pre-Covid levels.
  • The most popular days for travelling to work appear to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The least favoured day is a Friday, with around 20% fewer trips recorded on that day.

“Our data team has graphically represented the ‘work’ and ‘home’ trends, and findings reveal that during the last couple months of this year, around 80% of people are now working at their ‘work’ locations again, compared to data on the pre-Covid levels,” said Ossip.

“By contrast, people were most certainly home-based between March and May 2020, correlating directly with the initial hard lockdown.”

“The graph also clearly highlights a decrease in the number of individuals travelling to work during the various lockdown periods where Covid-19 peaked, with the virus being more virulent and infectious during these times. It is interesting to see how these increased again very quickly once waves dissipated. Again, this is intuitive.”

He also noted how the graph continues its trend upwards following the initial hard lockdown dip in April / May 2020.

“We believe this continued ascent distinctly illustrates the resilient nature of our population, which could also have been influenced by individuals getting vaccinated during the second half of 2021,” he said.

Read: South Africans are returning to the office – but with a list of demands

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