COVID-19 is a pandemic that is rapidly spreading all over different countries around the world. To mention a few noteworthy points, it has killed thousands, many other thousands are not sure of their fate, as they are infected, and a whole lot of others are very scared. The virus does not differentiate between the rich and the poor, it has put a lot of countries in disarray. Most countries are devising various means of containing the virus.
There have been different ways to approach the issue. This has ranged from banning entry of citizens of countries where the infection rate is high, to closing down schools, shutting down conferences, cancellation of events, postponing of planned travels and even marriages are being indefinitely suspended.
Working from Home to contain COVID-19
A lot of offices in many countries are closed to workers and their workers have been mandated to work from home. This is also known as working remotely. Remote work is key in helping contain the spread of the COVID_19 coronavirus as it helps employees practice one of the key recommendations of public health agencies – social distancing. However, for those not used to this way of work, it comes with a different set of challenges.
Infrastructure to support working from home
There is a basic infrastructure requirement that comes with working from home. The most basic is a quality internet connection and uninterrupted power supply. For countries with poor public infrastructure, this can pose a challenge to employees who now have to source alternate power and expensive data plans.
Tools for remote work
Next are the tools required for collaboration with colleagues, customers, vendors and other stakeholders in the course of working. This ideally should be the responsibility of the employers to enable or facilitate collaboration among their staff.
A high number of companies today already have subscriptions to various digital tools that enable remote work such as
Meeting and Collaboration tools
Challenges to working from home or remotely
Availability of required infrastructure
For workers in developing countries, there still exists a wide gap in the availability of the fundamentals to drive work from home. Some common infrastructure challenges are power outages and unreliable internet connections. Most workers might not be able to live in communities with access to high-speed internet connections and end up paying for expensive mobile data to stay connected.
Work unfriendly environment
One way to overcome the power challenge is to resort to alternative power sources with the most common being generators. This, however, introduces its own problem with the attendant noise, and the need to leave work and source for fuel intermittently. This can hamper productivity or make it hard to join meetings with the background noise from your own generator or those of your neighbours.
With schools also closing due to COVID-19, parents with school-aged children also have to double as babysitters and homeschool teachers. If you have been saddled with kindergarten and grade school children for a day, you already know how demanding it can be. This situation makes it more difficult to get any work done.
The business or your role does not allow it
There is a lot of businesses where work from home does not apply. These apply to some industries. Say for example that your doctor is working from home, there is a remote possibility that your doctor can treat you remotely. These businesses function primarily through interaction, and we do not have technology advanced enough to help us in such scenarios.
Some businesses are also not able to allow their workers to work from home because they are still manual and are not ready for the digital disruption that is already here. They still deal with tons of paper and have all their processes manual. They are not utilizing tools such as Business Process Management to facilitate approval of workflow, they are also not utilizing Robotic Process Automation to free their staff for intelligent work. they have been set back by not facing the reality of the current technology trend.
Challenges for Entrepreneurs/Companies
The challenge some entrepreneurs face due to COVID-19 has to do with how is how to keep up with payroll and ensure employees salaries are paid in full and on-time. The question on the mind of a lot of entrepreneurs is “how am I supposed to pay employees when they are not able to work?”.The employees are also thinking about how to meet their respective obligations.
A potent weapon to deploy at a time like this is effective communication. It is key for employers to let their employees know what is happening in the business. When the leadership is not transparent, the employees often resort to speculation which can be demoralising to overall productivity. Let them know what options are available.
Some Countries are looking to give grants to Employers of labour so that these problems are addressed and the economy does not shut down completely. As an employer of labour, look up what your government is offering and start the process of applying for the benefits or assistance that apply to your business so you have the buffer to support your people through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every company should have active Business Continuity Policies, that answers some of the questions raised above, every company should have work from home policy that allows better management of employees’ time, companies should revise their security around VPNs, and should be able to release same to their Contractors.
Employees should also try as much as possible to cultivate savings habits, not spending all their income and putting away an emergency fund to cater for unforeseen circumstances such as these. This is time for Governments world-over to step up and demonstrate leadership and provide the necessary confidence and guidance to their people as we all fight this pandemic.
Let us all do our part by maintaining proper hygiene, washing our hands, social distancing and not spreading panic.