Authorities acted swiftly

Geoff Jacobs, president, Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Despite the hardships imposed on all of us by the president on the advice of the World Health Organisation, there can be no doubt they are for the good of all of us, and we can be thankful that the authorities have acted swiftly.

The coronavirus is a serious threat to everyone. Poor living conditions in many informal settlements and the prevalence of tuberculosis/HIV make it important for those fortunate to have jobs to do all they can to slow its spread.

As businesses adjust to the new environment created by these attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, new ways of doing business will come to the fore – ways that may well survive after the pandemic is over. In that sense, the situation is an ironic opportunity for forward-thinking companies.

Small-to-medium enterprises may react more swiftly than large ones, and younger managers may see opportunities presented by digital technology sooner than those of an older generation.

Above all, the behavioural changes demanded of us all for health reasons challenge long-held assumptions about offices, conferences, business travel and face-to-face networking.

Many of the changes we will see will be cheaper ways of doing things, and for that reason alone, should be welcomed by any chief executive. Many are already available in larger companies such as video-conferencing, and conference calls on landline connections, but these are seldom used to their full potential.

Other technologies, meanwhile, have overtaken such old-fashioned means of doing things cheaply. A smartphone can make a video conference call at almost any time and from any place at a fraction of the previous cost.

Working from home has so far been only tentatively adopted, often in special circumstances and for limited periods. With the pandemic in full swing, it may become the norm.