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Nevo Hadas, a partner at DYDX, chatted with 702’s Nickolaus Bauer about how companies can rethink the fundamentals of productivity in the workplace for effective results from their employees. What are the implications of the automation and the future of work for South Africa?

Listen to the discussion here:

Key Takeouts:

  • The traditional understanding of being productive is sitting on a chair in an office for 8 hours. 
  • Our ideas of what is considered as ‘productivity’ fundamentally stem from Adam Smith’s economic theories; which are hundreds of years old. 
  • At the time of constructing his theories, (including that of the circular economy) Adam Smith lived with his mother, did not contribute to running a household and had little other responsibility than his work. 
  • What creates value in an economy – things like looking after kids and ageing parents, in fact, anything that we actually spend money on or invest our time in or that we find valuable as human beings – did not make it into Adam Smith’s idea of productivity. 
  • Unfortunately, a lot of theories like Adam Smith’s have taken hold and a lot of what we perceive as valuable in the workplace is based on these theories, versus a more holistic view of what a person does which creates value for the company and society as a whole. 
  • If you have a broader idea of what productivity is, you realise that a) no one has to be glued to a seat in order to be productive, and b) it does not have to be 8 hours. In fact, globally there’s a big shift toward flex time and flexible working. 
  • This also shifts how you can be productive. As technology takes hold, a lot of tasks we do will not be necessary in future – things like forwarding emails or sifting through basic data can be done by bots meaning people will have more time for making decisions or for high-level functions versus these basic tasks. 
  • A big risk we face in South Africa is that the types of jobs we are currently creating are not in line with the types of jobs we will need in future. The big challenge for us is international technology impacting South Africans with more entry-level white-collar and administrative jobs as a lot of tasks within these roles can be automated. It’s not that the jobs will be unnecessary, it’s simply that many tasks can be automated so the nature of these jobs will change. 
  • Most jobs don’t require eight hours a day so you can be more effective with your time if some of your tasks are automated. The same technology that is terrifying for an employee can be enabling for an entrepreneur because you can perform at higher productivity and functionality without a huge team’s support. 
  • Freedom and flexibility will increase, spilling into family lives giving us more time for a better work/life balance. 
  • In terms of digital transformation, it’s hard to know exactly where South Africa is compared to the rest of the world because there are different types of economies in the country. Through experience working with many global organisations around the world, on a global trend perspective, we are about at least 8 years behind.
  • A lot of this has to do with a lacking investment into infrastructure required to support a remote workforce. Data is expensive and businesses don’t provide data subsidies. There are still a lot of PCs instead of laptops for staff to work with. Networks are not easy or not possible to be accessed remotely. These and many factors are holding back companies in South Africa. 


Nevo is the founding partner of DYDX and has led the development of “The Culture Canvas”—an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours—as well as the latest ebook “Me.We.Us – Remote Team Management”, which is available for free download, and the 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment tool designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams. 


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