Firms sustain work from home arrangements in the New Year
Firms have sustained work-from-home arrangements in the New Year as remote working continues to have a foothold in the domestic labour force.
Working from home (WFH) became a tag in 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March as the global health emergencies forced the hand of employers in allowing staff to work remotely.
In spite of an ease in COVID-19 restrictions in recent months, working from home arrangements continue to co-exist with in-person working.
For Imaginarium, a tech-based financial solutions provider, the anatomy of the firm which has a lean workforce had forced the firm to adapt to remote working long before the pandemic.
Patrick Awori, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer states other firms have quickly followed suit deploying the remote tactics to not only keep the virus at bay but also contain overhead costs such as renting out office spaces.
“Based on our anatomy, most of our team are working remotely we check in remotely and communicate remotely. I can say the company was prepared for this new working dynamic,” he said.
“I don’t think we will be going back. Many Kenyans have been spending hours on road to and from work. At the same time, businesses have had to rent out entire floor spaces at times leading to higher overhead costs.”
On his part, business unit lead for people and change at PwC Kenya James Muhia believes the COVID-19 pandemic has only served as a catalyst to changes that were already dawning on the local and world labour forces.
“Prior to COVID-19, we thought the world is complex, ambiguous and volatile, the pandemic in itself is part of this reality, only that it has accelerated the changes we need to consider,” he said.
Working from home and remote work arrangements have nevertheless tagged along a fair share of challenges including depression, fatigue, reduced motivation levels and lower productivity from the physical isolation of staff.
Further, remote working has complicated aspects such as employee onboarding, the identification of the right talent and the monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs).
According to Mr. Muhia, entities must endeavour to build back better in the New Year as he favours a hybrid model of working in 2021.
“Things will not be going back to how they were, but the question will be how we build back better. What I foresee going forward is a hybrid model where there would be certain period where staff work virtually,” he added.
Cost-saving by firms through outsourcing and saving on rent is seen as an additional motivator for remote working while the emerging work arrangement has enabled firms to leverage global talents.
Both Muhia and Awori call for a shift in organizational culture including the institutionalization of remote working.
“Before you would find someone stating ‘but I cannot work from home!’ the same people are now working remotely. We not only have to think outside the box but also think as if there is no box,” James Muhia stated.
“Remote working has presented the opportunity to end the old and toxic dispensation of work which has features a pyramidal management that has been an obstacle to people managing themselves. We have for instance have a boss, who has a boss with yet another boss,” said Patrick Awori.
“Output has for long been measures in man-hours, in the future, its about how many more tasks one can expedite on in a limited amount of time. We have to think differently on the values attached to staff and on how we produce.”