The Second Wave: Considerations for productive working from home

In an era of uncertainty and unpredictable lockdown measures instituted to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Management of employee welfare becomes pivotal for Business Continuity Planning.

Following Uganda’s 42-day lockdown, thousands of employees in the formal sector have been confined to their homes and forced to work from home again. It is imperative that Human Resource leaders and administrators revisit HR manuals/guidelines to better manage human resources while addressing continuity of work in the new normal, to ensure the new workplace and culture strikes a favourable balance for both employers and employees.

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In the past, for many companies, working off-site wouldn’t make any sense at all, but COVID-19 has since pushed many employers to redefine the workplace and accelerated the need to embrace working from home as an alternative to the traditional office environment.

Moreover, with the new Presidential guidelines to maintain only 10% of employees at the workplace, HR and managers have had to quickly transition workers from the traditional work setting to their home setting. This transition has obviously come with a number of limitations for both the employees and the employers. How can this transition be made seamless? Here are some tips for consideration.

Tips for productive working from home

Device and connectivity support: Sending employees to work from home is relatively easier, but ensuring they have everything they need to smoothly operate can be challenging. As a starting point, ensure that your employees have the basic work needs of the new normal, that is a device like a laptop or a computer and a wireless internet router like the Airtel 4G Mifi or fixed internet solutions with adequate data bundles. Airtel Uganda for example has led a lot of innovation in this space for example the Chillax data that does not expire.

Digitize office documents: Remote working during lockdowns, for non-essential workers means no access to the office and no physical signing of documents. It also means most of your service processes and documents have to go virtual. Therefore, digitization of office documents becomes very important to ensure better workflow and ease of monitoring work in progress. This should happen both internally and externally with suppliers that are in position to transact remotely.

Work in shifts: For essential service providers like telecoms, medical services providers and banks among others, some employees are required to get back to the workplace because some tasks can’t be completed off-site. With the limitation of 10% staff, it necessitates working in shift by the key workers. Therefore, HR and admin managers should put together rotational schedules that allow these employees to work from the office space as well as at home.

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Observe the SOPs: Working from the office during the current times exposes staff to the risk of COVID-19, therefore it is important that the workplace practices the recommended Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Provide items like facemasks, gloves and hand sanitisers to staff at all times. Additionally, due to transport limitations, make arrangements for transportation of staff from home to office and back to ensure convenience and safety.

Free COVID-19 tests and vaccination: More to that, effecting free vaccination onsite in partnership with the government. This is will not only prevent more staff and their families from getting adversely infected but also improve morale and productivity as staff do not have to join long queues for vaccination.

Fitness & fun:  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, therefore if remote working isn’t spiced up with fun, physical or mental activities, it will have a negative impact on the productivity and output of employees as well as their mental health. The mental well-being of staff can be improved by spicing work routines up with online fitness, mental therapy or group online fun sessions. This can be done once or twice a week with well-selected therapists or trainers. At Airtel, we have set up a two times a week schedule for staff to engage in Virtual fitness sessions. We have partnered with fitness experts to help us seamlessly execute this.

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to explore new ways of working. The mandate lies between the employer and employees to reconnoitre the benefits. At the end of the day, for a successful work from home routine, one’s mindset and full adoption of the new ways of working is extremely important on the side of the employee.

Your role as the employer is to support the employees to fully immerse into the new phenomena. This is a revolution, we cannot avoid it, if anything it brings with it some great innovations in digitization, better work-life balance, opportunities to learn new things through DIY, greater connectivity across and especially with many Subject Matter Experts sacrificing valuable time to freely share their knowledge, among others.

These are unprecedented times, and we can benefit a lot from them despite the adverse effects of loss of lives, loss of employment, and the like. As a Human Race, we are wired to overcome, and create greatness out of all situations!!!

The Writer is Flavia Ntamba, The Human Resource Director at Airtel Uganda.

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