Not having to wear a mask outdoors after two years comes as a relief, but warning signs remain – the coronavirus still lurks.
The move comes at a time when many workers are faced with choices or instructions to return to the workplace.
Some companies have insisted on Covid-19 vaccine mandates, others have added the option of regular tests for workers who are not vaccinated.
In the workplace, social distancing and wearing masks indoors are still a must – so giving up the freedom of the home workspace feels like a loss.
It was only last Wednesday when President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was no longer mandatory to wear masks outdoors.
All gatherings which are restricted to people who can produce a valid vaccination certificate or a valid certificate of a negative Covid-19 test are allowed at up to 50% of the venue capacity.
Gatherings that do not require proof of vaccination or a valid vaccination certificate are limited to 1 000 people or less for indoor venues and 2 000 people or less for outdoor venues.
The changes have made it possible for the workplace to return to some semblance of normalcy, but getting workers to agree to come back isn’t so easy.
However, the virus has not gone away – nearly 100 000 people succumbed to Covid-19 in the last two years in South Africa.
Some point to the cost of travel – given the rising fuel prices, others have simply gotten used to the carefree dress code they enjoyed while working from home.
But one relatively young company nestled among lush greens and secured behind high walls next to the M1, near Johannesburg, anticipated the adjustment problems workers were likely to encounter.
iTOO MD Justin Naylor told The Bulrushes earlier this month that his company had invested in making the workplace safer and more appealing for staff.
Naylor spoke of flexible working times and staff having the option of working from home on some days of their choosing.
“They have to spend 60% of their working week at work and the rest they can work from home,” Naylor explained of the new working arrangements.
iTOO is only six years old – but it holds its own in the insurance industry, where it opts for exciting ventures like insuring persons against kidnapping.
“We can even offer skilled negotiators to help free the hostages,” Naylor said.
He said the iToo workplace has already been redesigned in such a way that staff do not need to have permanent desks.
They also have choices of meeting rooms depending on the number of people.
The iTOO MD said staff now have access to telephone booths for staff if they need to speak privately.
Free pizza and a gin bar are the biggest draw cards for staff to come to the workplace.
Asked if iTOO’s Offices were like Google, Naylor, quipped: “You can tell Google our offices are better 100%”.