Maintaining Connection Despite Social Distance

The human connection, so necessary in the world of start-ups and entrepreneurship, has been obliterated over the last few months with the requirement for social distancing in South Africa. The lockdown hit and with it, the end of face-to-face meetings, physical collaboration, the chemistry of a brainstorm session and the ability to connect.

Despite this, almost a third of organisations in South Africa experienced improved productivity over the period with the shift to remote work. This is according to a study conducted among 400 enterprises by World Wide Worx for Cisco, titled: Remote Working in South Africa 2020.

On the opposite end of the spectrum commercial real estate brands and coworking spaces have felt the full impact of COVID-19. In March 2020 alone, operators of coworking spaces experienced an almost 50% decline in visitors.

But the owners of these establishments aren’t the only ones losing out. For the start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs who use these spaces, remote work means that they can no longer take advantage of the networking opportunities and collaborative culture that is synonymous with shared office space.

Abraham Cambridge, CEO of South African renewable energy start-up, The Sun Exchange, works out of Absa’s WorkInProgress (WIP) innovation lab, a co-working space in Cape Town. “It can be very lonely running a business all on your own,” Cambridge confesses, highlighting just how valuable it is for entrepreneurs to be in an environment that has been curated to support the type of work they do.

Eldrid Jordaan, the founder and CEO of GovChat – South Africa’s official citizen engagement platform for the South African government – agrees. Jordaan notes that he and his team have really missed being surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar goals. It’s hard to replicate the collaborative and supportive vibe that you get while working in an office space, he adds.

But the pandemic doesn’t spell the end of co-working as we know it. In fact, entrepreneurs will in the coming months call on their networks and connections more than ever, in the attempt to regain their footing after a period of widespread economic uncertainty.

Enabling collaboration in the world of remote work

Throughout July, WIP hosted a weekly webinar series called ‘Wise-Up Wednesdays’. The virtual sessions gave some of South Africa’s entrepreneurial success stories the opportunity to share their journey. “The series was inspired by the prodigious work our members and ‘friends of WIP’ are achieving during the lockdown, explains Charmaine Lambert from Absa WorkInProgress, continuing that the idea put a spotlight on the range of expertise boasted by SA’s start-up and SME community.

The conversation continues tomorrow,  Wednesday 19th August with a focus on female entrepreneurs. “Our next event will feature four inspiring female CEO’s, founders and pillars in the tech community,” says Lambert. Aisha Pandor CEO and co-founder of SweepSouth, Joy des Fountain, co-founder of MyFanPark, Alexandra Fraser, founder of Fraser consulting and Lauran Dallas, co-founder of Future Females.

They will each share their own lockdown experiences and provide a mini masterclass in their specific field of expertise. Catch this event live from on the WIP Facebook page on Wednesday, August 19 at 11am.