There’s no going back as we are living and working in a new era

2022-05-04  Denise Van Huyssteen


There’s no going back as we are living and working in a new era

The Herald, Business In Action featuring CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Denise Van Huyssteen

As our lives and businesses shift from two years of surviving a pandemic to learning how to live with it, this is a good time to rethink and reimagine what type of future we want to live in.


In the same way that the Covid-19 virus is continuously evolving and adapting, so too have we had to continuously adapt how we live, do business and interact with people.


In the same way many scientists believe the virus is likely here to stay, albeit possibly becoming less dangerous over time, the need in life and business to be adaptable, flexible and agile isn’t going away either. Thinking things are somehow going to go back to “normal” or the “way they were” is an illusion.

The world has changed and we are not going back.


Even before the pandemic turned the world on its head, we saw signs pointing to the need for new ways of thinking about how we do business — the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 (and the waves of repercussions that followed), increasing awareness and acceptance that climate change is a real and present threat, the rise of the fouth industrial revolution, the entry of Generation X, Millennials and now Generation Y into the workforce, with very different expectations of the nature of work from their parents.


The pandemic highlighted the interconnectedness, and vulnerability, of global supply chains.

The impact on availability of shipping services, and the pricing of everything from manufacturing components to essential foods, is ongoing — and emphasised again more recently by the war in Ukraine, lockdowns in China and events closer to home including the unrest of last July and the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal.

All of these factors have opened the door to a new era of thinking differently, leading differently, reprioritising, expanding our horizons and being open to new possibilities.


Reflecting on the past two years of pandemic-induced change, we have seen much hardship, but also much innovation and a rise in compassion, empathy, acts of human kindness; a determination to find hope amid fear.

Not all businesses have been affected negatively — think of video-on-demand and the boom in online meeting platforms, online shopping, home deliveries, IT hardware and software sales for working and learning from home, PPE manufacturing and so on.

Many businesses have pivoted into new service offerings and value propositions. Restaurant and catering suppliers that shifted to home deliveries for consumers when the hospitality industry shut down, event services companies that shifted to tech support and organising of online events, perfume and drinks manufacturers shifting to producing hand sanitiser — just a few examples that come to mind. These businesses have found new and profitable product lines and services, and are unlikely to go back to doing only what they did before.


We’ve seen competitors and businesses that previously didn’t see shared interests becoming more open to collaboration. The realisation that by working together, we all benefit, and that by uniting we have a stronger voice can be seen locally in the number of businesses in the

Bay that are joining forces to form sector or geographic clusters to jointly tackle issues of common interest.

The socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, on loss of livelihoods, increased poverty and hunger, loss of schooling, have not been some remote event. The effects have been seen directly and locally, spurring a move towards supporting local and connecting with communities in need.

The rapid shift to working from home has led to companies being more open to flexible working arrangements. In turn, businesses have fasttracked adoption of technology that previously seemed faroff and less urgent.


Companies are reconsidering the need for acres of office space, and there are shifts in thinking on urban development and in the property sector. All of these will change the shape of how and where we live and work.


At an individual level, we are reconnecting with parts of their lives and people possibly previously taken for granted. Relationships with family and friends, appreciating and seeking good health, reconnecting with nature, a desire for authentic experiences — we are valuing life over work.

For business, this is an opportunity to develop new products and services to serve new human priorities, and a challenge to adapt the nature of the workplace and how work is structured.


This is the time to create future-fit organisations that work better for people, able to act as a force for good while serving economic, social and environmental needs.

This is a new world of opportunity for early adopters and innovative thinkers, the agile and the flexible, the risk-takers and those open-minded to opportunities others don’t see.


A new era is here. There’s no going back to the way we were.