New data reveals back-to-the-office trends in Pretoria, Joburg, Cape Town and Durban

Ongoing changes in the way people work have permanently transformed employees’ relationships with and expectations of work, says Gartner.

The research and consulting firm said that hybrid work is here to stay, however, many have shown a willingness to return to the office, preferring the structure, and engaging and connecting physically with their team.

The ability to choose how you work is of course dependent on your industry, and your employer.

Gartner said that although the younger generation is comfortable with hybrid work (having finished their education and entered the workforce during the pandemic), the experience has left something to be desired. To Gen Z, remote work is about continuing connections built in-person while maintaining a flexible schedule.

So what does a return to work look like in South Africa’s major metros post-Covid?

Data published by market intelligence firm Lightstone shows that business parks and secondary CBDs lead the recovery post-Covid-19, followed by industrial nodes, then primary CBDs and mixed residential.

Joe Spring, head of location and commerce at Lightstone, said the group analysed aggregated and anonymised telemetry data in conjunction with business data to uncover levels of post-Covid recovery.

Lightstone is a provider of comprehensive data, analytics and systems on property, automotive and business assets. It used CIPC and VAT registration data to identify business nodes.

“Deep dive analytics would have spread the net wider, but this study considered 40 metropolitan suburbs as South Africa’s key business nodes where either the suburb holds 2 000+ VAT registered businesses within them or only 500+ but suburb naming convention indicates a CBD/industrial/business area supplemented with a handful of other well-known industrial areas,” Spring said.

These 40 suburbs were clustered into one of five node ‘types’ namely:

  • Primary CBDs – Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban
  • Secondary CBDs – the area surrounding CBDs eg Alberton Central
  • Industrial areas –like Kya Sands, Isando, Paarden Eiland
  • Business Parks – eg Umgeni Business Park
  • Mixed residential – areas with a strong interspersed residential and business focus eg Bryanston, Sandown, etc.


“Telemetry data allows for an understanding of stop activity within these nodes,” said Spring. Limiting our lens to this activity that is both non-resident and not retail-based, within business hours, provides sound insights into business activity levels and recovery per node.”

Considering quarterly volumes of these stops against 2020 Q1 volumes, Spring said business parks and secondary CBDs had recovered most, followed by industrial nodes, primary CBDs and lastly mixed residential. Where the graphs indicate 100% it means the activity has fully recovered to pre-Covid times.

Spring said although the decline in mixed residential node activity was the biggest in terms of percentages, activity volumes still remained significant. For example, while Sandown is only operating at 59% of its pre-Covid level, it still has the fourth-highest activity volume of the 40 suburbs reviewed.

Read: This is what’s causing a massive work from home headache in South Africa right now

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