Work from home flatlines in South Africa

 ·26 Jul 2023

Flexible working and work-from-home packages in South Africa are still available to job seekers – but they only make a tiny fraction of available positions, and the dial has not shifted on their prominence and popularity in over a year.

According to the latest employment insights from jobs portal CareerJunction, only 3% of job listings on the platform make offers for remote working.

While this could be seen as a significant number, given the post-Covid context where remote working is no longer essential, it has not changed for the last 18 months, showing that the trend hasn’t been widely adopted.

On the other hand, it also shows that it hasn’t necessarily lost its appeal in some sectors, either.

CareerJunction noted that remote working opportunities are heavily tied to specific industries – more specifically, industries that have a high demand for specific skills and where the job functions can actually be done remotely.

For example, remote work opportunities are most prominent in the Information Technology space, which makes up 59% of all remote working opportunities; this is followed by business and management, finance, admin and sales.

However, the jobs platform noted that there appears to be a direct correlation between job sectors that offer the most remote work opportunities and the highest demand for skills in that sector.

“This could be partly attributed to employers looking to attract skills or professionals in high demand by offering additional flexibility as a job perk,” it said.


The move towards hybrid or remote work has hit an apparent stasis in South Africa.

While some businesses were quick to make remote work a foundational part of their operations in a post-Covid world where workers got used to not going into the office every day, the realities of a post-pandemic economy and other pressures soon made way for hybrid (in-office and work from home) schedules and even a complete reversal of the policy in some cases.

According to the FNB’s latest commercial property broker survey, the trend toward working from home is still ongoing, however.

Brokers noted the impact of the policy on office vacancy rates, which have recovered significantly since the end of lockdown, but risk increasing in the future as remote working continues to cause a shift in employee behaviour.

However, this is also muddied in the data by businesses having to downscale their operations due to the prevailing economy, which has not geared many companies up for expansion and growth.

In addition to this, South Africa’s persistent issues with load shedding have made work-from-home opportunities difficult for some, with workers unable to adequately cover their workloads during outages, forcing them to return to the office.

This is also not discounting the host of other issues present in the policy – ranging from perceived fairness (some employees can do their jobs remotely, others cannot) and costs, to security risks, disassociation from workplace culture and colleagues, and skills development.

Skills crisis

Whatever businesses think about work-from-home policies in South Africa, remote working has gained traction in other countries – and with global demand for skills rising, this has led to a new type of brain drain in the country known as ‘virtual migration‘.

Notably, while only 3% of job opportunities offer remote work in South Africa, according to CareerJunction, 4% of the jobs listed are for international offers.

Speaking at a roundtable on South Africa’s brain drain in June, Simonetta Guiricich from payroll services group Playroll said South Africa faces a mass exodus of talent over the coming years, whether leaving the country physically to work abroad or abandoning local companies to work for international firms remotely.

This is a particularly concerning trend among graduates and young professionals, she noted.

To counter this, experts at the roundtable said that companies should embrace workplace flexibility to help attract and retain key skills at companies.

“In an era where workplace flexibility and fluid employment arrangements are top priorities for workers, companies that offer such flexibility stand a better chance of attracting and retaining rare talent on a global scale,” they said.

Read: ‘New’ type of emigration hitting South Africa – and young professionals are behind the drive

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