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The changing work landscape as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic: insights from remote workers life situations in South Africa

Walter Matli (Vaal University of Technology, Johannesburg, South Africa)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 20 November 2020

Issue publication date: 2 December 2020




The Covid-19 pandemic has affected most organisations' workplaces and productivity. Organisations have had to make provision for staff to operate remotely following the implementation of lockdown regulations around the world, because the pandemic has led to restrictions on movement and the temporary closure of workplace premises. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights from remote workers' experiences in South Africa about immediate conversion from the normal workplace environment to working remotely from home. The structuration theory was adopted to understand the social structural challenges experienced by staff working from home.


Data were collected using a Web-based survey, administered when the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in movement restrictions, using the judgemental sampling technique.


The results are presented using both external and internal features that are linked to the social structures experienced by remote workers who participated in the survey. The key findings indicate that despite the positive aspects of remote working using advances in technology, there are also negative aspects and risks attached to remote working such as work overload and pressures to perform timeously. This can pose severe threats to workers' routines and lifestyle, and the lack of interaction can impinge on their health and general well-being.

Research limitations/implications

The online survey was carried out with first-time remote workers who were the target for the study. Some respondents may have had an affinity for remote working because of the novelty. The sample size may not be generalised, as the collected sample is moderately small, although the purpose of the paper was to report on a small sample size, given the rapidity of the study.

Practical implications

The paper seeks to highlight social structures that exist in South Africa, which accentuate the resource divide for remote workers. Also, the paper aims to encourage organisations (employers) to better understand challenges that workers encountered while working from their homes during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions.


The relevance of this paper is in its contribution to the structuration theory and remote working literature, as well as to the study of these topics in the context of South Africa.



The researchers are thankful to the respondents who took part in the survey and anonymous reviewers from the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy whose comments were important in finalizing the article.Declaration of interest statement: There was no external funding for this research study.


Matli, W. (2020), "The changing work landscape as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic: insights from remote workers life situations in South Africa", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 40 No. 9/10, pp. 1237-1256.



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