IIG News

Navigating the World of Work Post a Pandemic

Today’s session was hosted by IIG’s charming Deputy President Simphiwe Mtyali.


Getting back into the swing of things cannot be easy, aside from facing a new world of work, we are confronted by new ways of working, living, and parenting as a few examples. Everything we have become accustomed to pre-pandemic has been turned on its head and our axis has tilted to an uncomfortable and unfamiliar position. 2yr Old kids are unfamiliar with their parents leaving home at the crack of dawn and there are new employees who’ve never had a dedicated workstation.

So how do we then re-adjust or re-align? A question our guest speaker unpacked, as well as sharing some guidelines to navigate our way back to the office whilst still making the most of one’s time at home working.

Sungeetha Sewpersad is an experienced and seasoned commercially minded People Leader. Her degrees in LLB and Social Science has held her in good stead and provided a solid foundation in her career of almost 20yrs across various industries including retail, legal, banking and technology. Her track record includes developing HR strategies and establishing or ‘fixing’ complex people related contexts such as managing leadership team performance and related team culture for improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency.  Sungeetha is currently the Human Capital Executive at Old Mutual Insure.


Sungeetha began her presentation by commenting on her own experiences as she began at OMI during the pandemic, so hybrid working was most certainly going to be the way forward as part of OMI’s culture. In 1926, Henry Ford introduced the 80hr work schedule and a 5day work week which now is 100yrs ago so it’s definitely time for a change. Hybrid working is consistently changing so we need to be cognizant of the ongoing tweaks that would need to be implemented at work. 51% of employees are considering going completely remote in the future. Companies, therefore, need to provide other opportunities for networking and social support. Making hybrid-work a reality, will require radical functionality and thought by leadership.


The Future of Work… Reinvented…

The priority of the workforce such as talent retention, hiring and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is rising among senior leadership. In South Africa we cannot take a third world mentality and apply first world business models. We need to consistently wear a South African hat when designing a supportive hybrid work environment as hybrid is becoming more mainstream. Our millennials and Gen Z’s are forming a higher percentage of the current workforce. Gig economy workers that want to be more purposeful in their lifestyle. Come into work, but also balance it with social activities as well as giving back to their communities. There is a shortage of critical talent and ‘brain-drain’ across critical skills. We cannot perpetuate silo mentalities in the way we work. Well-being has become a key metric. Traditional employee experience indicators, such as engagement surveys and turnover metrics aren’t showing the whole picture. People are sharing more on social media their mental health challenges and corporates can no longer ignore these issues. Previously hotlines offered discreet support whereas now incorporating this into mainstream discussions is becoming the norm. During the pandemic, women had taken on the role of fulfilling their work responsibilities, but also being a mum, a teacher, housekeeper etc.


Future of Work Trends post Covid-19

Staff turnover will increase as hybrid work has become the baseline expectation for most employees, and organisations are already seeing the effects. Turnover has significantly increased when employees are required to come back to the office full time, and 52% of employees say flexible work policies will affect the decision to stay at their organisations. Manager’s roles are changing as they need to be equipped to manage multi-generational employees. Shorter work weeks are a new EVP and this is challenging organisations to rethink their EVP with reduced hours. Data collection is expanding as employees are being monitored through digital tools.


Bringing it home – A South African context

We must acknowledge multigenerational leadership when solving hybrid work and use a bottom-up build when solutioning for hybrid work. Remember to have fun and excitement.

 We must not drive the divide between the have and have nots with social context being key. Gen Z’s and millennials need instant gratification e.g., gadgets like iPad, iPods etc. Focus groups need to be cognizant of the outspoken as well as those especially that are not contributing to the discussion.


How do we build a corporate culture in a hybrid world?

Reshaping Culture – for culture to succeed in a hybrid world, leadership must intentionally align to more purpose driven work. Alignment and connectedness operate like the left and right sides or your brain – rational and emotional. Both contribute to culture’s impact on outcomes, such as performance and retention. Connectedness suffers in a hybrid world, without intentional efforts to cultivate it. Identification and alignment to company culture is important to the workforce. Office spaces and face-to-face connectedness have long been the default way to foster connectedness among employees. In a hybrid environment, we must find creative ways to either have virtual coffees, lunches or meet in real-time to connect with fellow colleagues. Strengthening culture connectedness therefore is key for a successful and sustainable hybrid workplace.

The future world of work also needs to include love and empathy which historically were unheard of.

 We need to create micro-based experiences that include sharing, empathizing and equip teams to create their own micro-cultures using macro-culture as a diagnostic to steer away from toxic behaviours.


 A 90-day action plan can include new drivers for culture connectedness by identifying opportunities to diffuse culture through work. We must also reexamine the employee lifecycle to identify “moments that matter” for connection. We must also get leader buy-in for micro-cultures. Embed emotional proximity and the employee experience and rebalance culture ownership to support micro-scale experiences. The old way of working has no place in the new world of work.


Wellness and wellbeing

There are six identifiable dimensions of wellbeing that are proven drivers of performance, fulfillment, and engagement. It’s not just physical or mental wellness but financial, spiritual, and social. This goes beyond the traditional employee wellness programs focused mostly on physical health. It’s a holistic approach to a happier and healthier life. One needs to engage employees’ levels of wellbeing through surveys and/or assessments. Archaic leaders need to go through a generational shift in order to understand wellbeing and accept it as part of the norm in building a healthy work culture. Having access to mental health resources and creating an environment where employees feel safe to discuss wellbeing challenges.


Remaining Future-Fit

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” – Alvin Toffler (Futurist)


Six Skills to Reskilling

  • Rapidly identify the skills recovery business model
  • Build employees skills critical to new business model
  • Launch tailored learning journeys to close critical skills gap
  • Start now, test rapidly and iterate
  • Act like a small company to have big impact
  • Protect learning budgets


5 B’s:  Build, Buy, Borrow, BOT, Bounce

Leadership must strive to enable everyone to be the best version of themselves everyday.


Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world – Nelson Mandela


The session ended with Simphiwe accommodating a brief Q&A.


Article written by: Asiya Swaleh