Working from home due to COVID-19

Working from working gained huge popularity in 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan China and the subsequent spread of the virus to many countries around the globe. As it severely hit public health and cause unprecedented disruptions to economies and labor markets, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued one advisory on how to contain the spread of the virus; measures ranging from physical distancing, restrictions on the freedom of movement and the closure of non-essential companies and undertakings, to the lockdown of entire cities in different parts of the world but the main one was reduced physical contact.

Governments moved with speed to implement what will be a major turn in the manner people work.  Companies were forced to redesign how their employees are going to work while maintaining the social distance in order to minimize the spread of the virus. The only solution was to ask their workforce to stay away from the office and work remotely.

WFH is a working arrangement in which a worker fulfills the essential responsibilities of his/her job while remaining at home, using information and communications technology (ICT). Progress in ICT in some developed countries has enabled and facilitated alternative working arrangements, including WFH, teleworking, and telecommuting. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 68 percent of the world’s total workforces, including 81 percent of employers are currently living in countries with recommended or required workplace closures, Kenya being one of them.

When worksites and premises were required to close across the entire companies and organizations as a result of a governments’ COVID-19 directives, many had to implement WFH arrangements to achieve continuity of service, maintain productivity, and preserve jobs while safeguarding the safety and health of workers. According to Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study, only 22 percent of companies were ready for mass remote working prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. The study also found that only 44 percent of companies systematically assess jobs for their adaptability rather than allowing flexibility to be determined by the worker’s circumstances.

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In Japan, for example, a survey conducted prior to when the government declared a state of emergency, found that while 96 percent of respondents agreed with the importance of WFH or working remotely, 31 percent of companies were unable to adopt this form of working. The main reason was that paperwork was not digitized and the required internal rules and procedures for teleworking were not ready. While tech companies like Twitter and Facebook were some of the first to require their employees to work from home, even before official shelter-in-place orders went into effect. Companies were generally concerned about the productivity of their employees. But employees on their end seem to like working from home.

The ultimate guide to working from home.

1. Mutual trust and shared responsibilities

In the absence of face-to-face contact, the traditional “command and control” style of management becomes less relevant and managers may struggle to find other ways to make sure that workers are getting their work done. It is the responsibility of employees to be genuinely faithful to their duties so as to foster continued work from home arrangement. Workers’ self-discipline and mutual trust and confidence between employers and workers are essential in this working arrangement.

Furthermore, the effective management of WFH requires a results-based management approach. This involves identifying objectives, tasks, and milestones, and then monitoring and discussing progress without overly burdensome reporting requirements. Employers should build mutual trust and establish shared responsibilities with workers through open and transparent discussions about expectations and outputs.

2. Set up a workstation

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Identify the tools you might need in order to work effectively. Do you have Zoom for video conferencing, Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats, or Trello for project management? How about appropriate equipment, such as a laptop, as well as network access, passcodes, and instructions for remote login, including two-factor authentication? You may need to be ready to experience technical challenges, such as connectivity problems.

The COVID-19 hit the SMEs so hardly as many lacked the required communication infrastructure or sufficient equipment for all staff to work from home at the same time. There is a range of software tools that make communication, collaboration, and transparency easier. Many are free or low cost.19

Employers should seek cooperation, ideas, and commitment from workers as to how they can best address and overcome the challenges that come with working from home. Some employees may have limited resources or their home may offer a less optimal working environment than the workplace would. Employers need to understand and assess the limitations that staff encounter and adjust expectations, responsibilities, and tasks accordingly.

3. Data protection and security

The use of technology has enabled and facilitated WFH, it also presents higher risks of cyber-attacks and confidentiality breaches. Safe WFH processes are essential, especially if workers are using their personal laptops or devices to perform official duties and connect to the company network. Some companies have existing data protection, confidentiality, and security policy for this purpose.

4. Plan extra social interactions

Some love the thought of working in solitude, but even the most introverted among us can start feeling a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home, alone, staring at the same project for long hours. It can get lonely. Be ready for that, and try to schedule some connect-with-the-outside-world time, like a lunch date, a video chat with a friend, or an exercise class.

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Enock Bett
Digital Media Enthusiast|Tech, Business, Corporate Affairs, Politics, and Governance. [No Modes]
EMAIL: [email protected]
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Enock Bett

Digital Media Enthusiast|Tech, Business, Corporate Affairs, Politics, and Governance. [No Modes] EMAIL: [email protected]

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