Llong queues outside Makro in Otterey, Cape Town as people shop before lockdown. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Llong queues outside Makro in Otterey, Cape Town as people shop before lockdown. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

For the past three mornings my wife — a mergers & acquisitions lawyer — has logged into video-calling service Zoom. But instead of the usual conference calls about a deal, she’s using it for an early-morning yoga class.

As this period of self-isolating against Covid-19 begins in earnest, those of us who can shut ourselves away are finding novel ways to use technology to carry on doing the things we normally would.

This smart way that yoga teachers have found to repurpose business conferencing technology to replicate the immediacy and intimacy of a yoga class is why I love humanity.

We’ll find a way to do what is important; that’s how we evolve.

There’s a surge of interest in work-from-home tech that’s being punted to "flatten the curve" of new infections by "self-isolating", two of the phrases that this pandemic has imprinted in the language.

The laptop, the iPad and superfast connectivity via fibre and wireless broadband have made it profoundly easy to work remotely.

For some. Who can. And we need to remember that. The middle classes in SA can self-isolate but we need to help all those who can’t. I sincerely hope everyone is doing what they can to help the people in their network.

We’re embracing all the technologies that enable us to isolate, while staying connected

All of this seems like we are reaching a tipping point in our evolution, doesn’t it? Because we absolutely have to, we’re shifting to online meetings and group calls. We’re embracing all the technologies that enable us to isolate, while staying connected.

There is an abundance of ways to work from home. There are great document-sharing services like Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive and plain old e-mail. We’re all using messaging apps more and more, from simple WhatsApp groups to Slack channels.

Kids who can are logging on using classroom management software from Microsoft and Google, while online education is available from services such as Khan Academy and YouTube’s plethora of instructional videos.

When this all settles in a few months, or however long it takes, I foresee a drop in corporate travel and business meetings around a physical table. If they can make it work in this crisis, companies that host big conferences will realise that they can turn to online all the time.

Emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) will come into their own in the next year. I’ve been playing with the Facebook-owned Oculus Quest VR system, and it’s impressive, especially for gaming. Its use as an educational tool is about to accelerate, and it will be recruited for formerly group-orientated activities such as yoga or spinning classes.

Covid-19 has thrust technology into a leading role in adapting to a time of crisis. There might be future spin-offs and new ways of working that we never expected.

Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine (stuff.co.za)