IS THIS THE NEW NORMAL?

We all hear people saying “this is just the new normal” a million times a day, and this just begs the question… has Covid become a convenient excuse to be less productive?

Productivity has become scarce, especially within government services. Administration, which was once upon a time slow, is now border-line nonexistent, with excessive backlogs across the board. SAQA is currently requiring 3 to 4 months instead of the usual 4 weeks to issue their certificate, and as a result, most work visa applications facing massive delays. We have all experienced an employee at home affairs on a power trip, without any urge to serve for the greater good of building or improving our wonderful country. Is this arrogance that is fostered by workers of the state, or does it stem from a larger issue: Covid-induced work ethic? I would like to say that the private sector has an iron fist that would straighten such ‘arrogance’ out, but this “new normal” has penetrated numerous industries.

During lockdown, we all indulged in working from home while baking banana bread and watching Netflix in the comfort of our sweatpants. And while I assumed this would be a closed chapter as Covid regulations allowed employees to move back behind their desks and the economy to rise again, this does not seem to be the case. People are continuing to work from home, and the fashion industry has embraced sweatpants to such an extent that it has become acceptable, nèe fashionable, to work and shop in loungewear. Could this be the root of all our problems? The reason for the backlog on cases. The reason for the endless delays when trying to get anything done.

In an attempt to silence my mind, I asked a cherished staff member, who worked in public administration for several years before joining our team, why there just seems to be no one taking the responsibility to sort out backlogs and deliver a service that enables our country to move forward. She just smiled at me and replied: “Andreas, you with your European thinking- the greater good? ptshhht– if you are working fast, you are a capitalist.” 

While this problem is deep in the public sector, it is an equally big problem within privates… I recall my most recent ordeal with my ISP Mweb, or my private banker, who takes an eternity to get back to me (I had to contact him over LinkedIn to get a response – all other channels were in vain). Then I wondered, if this home office thing is really working out for the companies. Just in the last week we received two payments in error from otherwise super reliable UK and US companies we have done business with for years. They are the first double payments in years. I fear that new habits have formed and they will stick, this might just be “the new normal”, and to be frank – that scares me.

However, there are some businesses who have adapted to Covid and remote working. For example, Vodaphone who was able to assist me with excellent service, delivering my new cell phone to work. Thus, I hope it is not naïve for me to have hope. Hope that one day we will be productive again, that cases will be filled, processed and approved swiftly. And hopefully, my private banker will value me again, or at least respond to his emails!

I remember the emphasis placed on a proper dress code – suit, tie, and all – from my days at Deutsche Bank. We were told that office attire leads to an office mind, aka productivity. So, I would like to make a call to all, let us rejoice in the privilege to be able to wear a blazer again and pack away the slippers. We have the power to save our economy – and it might be as easy as a change of outfit…

In this month’s edition, we have quite a few important immigration updates, I hope you enjoy our content. I am always interested to hear your feedback, positive or negative, please mail me and share your feedback.

(Disclaimer: I am aware that it might not be as easy as this to save the economy)

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by Andreas Krensel