Countless industries have been impacted by COVID-19 and the extended national lockdown. We’ve also found out that South Africa will be introducing a phased approach to re-opening economy, and while that is the best of course of action in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, it still leaves one significant sector of the country in a tough position – SMMEs.

We’ve seen government announce several initiatives in the form of funds aimed at assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs during the national lockdown but, as Paul Keursten (pictured above), CEO and co-founder of Workshop17 notes, these measures only reach so far.

“The global COVID-19 crisis is a bolt out of the blue for us all with serious implications as it is rapidly changing the way we live and work. Not only does it threaten the health of our people and our way of life; it will have far-reaching consequences for our economy as well,” he says.

For those unfamiliar with Workshop17, the co-working space specialists, have many relationships with entrepreneurs in the country. In fact, its office space play host to 1 700 members, consisting of SMEs, freelancers, nomadic workers and an increasing number of corporates.

It is the SMEs and entrepreneurs in particular that need to be focused on at the moment, however, with the SME sector specifically accounting for 47 percent of the country’s workforce.

“Encouraged by Government’s efforts to support entrepreneurs throughout and post lockdown, Workshop17 further calls on communities to continue embracing the ubuntu-mentality with the outpouring of solidarity and compassion for SMEs and entrepreneurs,” the company stresses.

Workshop17 has explained that it will try to assist members who are struggling financially to handle their costs of renting space, along with creating a digital hub to help members and other co-working communities stay connected through networking.

Our Entrepreneur Toolbox provides members access to useful resources such as apps, relevant webinars and podcasts, and shares tips on how to be productive when working from home,” notes Keursten.

The company has also created WhatsApp groups for all their sites to keep the co-working community spirit and momentum going, it adds. 

“We’ll also be using our Entrepreneur Toolbox and other virtual resources to remind our community that situations such as these provide an opportunity for innovation. It’s clear that this disruptive period in the long term will change the way businesses operate in the future. Those businesses that can meet the needs of the public in a changing world will find a way to thrive in the uncertain economic future,” adds Keursten.

“As workspace and community platform, we are also looking at how this forced and impactful experiment in remote working will impact the workspace of the future. We are embracing this chance and preparing for the work life of the future,” he concludes.

With remote working becoming the new normal, and traditional workspaces not an option currently, SMMEs will need to embrace innovative solutions, and service providers should aim to be equally innovative in providing them.