By Edwin Dzikiti
“The Telecommunications CEO Roundtable wishes to informyou that the conference slated for Nairobi, Kenya from the 1stto the 5th of April 2020 has been shifted to a virtual conference. This is in wake of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 which has seen many countries restricting movement. The conference will now be online, limiting movement and social distancing. Please be guided accordingly.” Michael read aloud amused at the rate coronavirus has taken over the world events. Upon its discovery in the Chinese province of Wuhan, Michael never thought businesses would be forced to operate in employees’ living space. With social distancing being one way to combat the spread of the epidemic, how are companies operating?
In a flash, the world has been gripped by an epidemic which is not only claiming lives but also changing the way business is done. Businesses have been forced to restructure and come up with exit plans so they can remain afloat. What that means is, workplaces have shifted from an office down the central business district to probably a living room down some suburb. The internet has become the pool-office many are conducting business from. Have organisations been prepared for this? Isproper infrastructure in place? Are employees trained to do business over the net? Many have transformed from officeworkers into telecommuters overnight. Inevitably our homes and workplaces have merged into one, but have we been prepared?
Meetings have not been entirely cancelled, work and school assignment submissions have not been totally discarded. The physical space of business is what has been dropped in favour of virtual space. Meetings are now online, with either video or voice conferencing being favourites in those matters that require immediate responses. Have the employees been trained on how to conduct themselves in a professional manner over the video-conferencing? Do they have the etiquette good enough not to jeopardise the organisation’s reputation? Yes, the employees have been protected from this epidemic by limiting movement. The bigger question also is, “Are business interests protected as employees are now working from home?” “There’s the technical issues and the discomfort of it all — people aren’t used to being onscreenand working online,” said Elaine Quinn, in her book “There’s No Place Like Working From Home
Businesses were caught off guard, no preparation might have really been done to equip the employees for such a transition. The monthly business demands haven’t really changed, yet there seems to be a reduction in activity making the organisation viable. How are we going to pass through this phase with little damage to the coffers and image of the organisation? Are we going to trust every employee to represent us online? Are we going to allow every salespersonto make a pitch in video-conference?
As an organisation, in our quest to remain vibrant and maintain some sort of presence, have we set up supporting infrastructure. Have we communicated effectively with the team, what we expect as management? While working from home are the employees getting quick support from their superiors so they meet deadlines? Writing in HarvardBusiness Review, Martin Reeves and Nikolaos Lang stress the need for organisations to set up small trusted teams, giving them leeway to make rapid critical decisions. Worth noting from their submission is that in this set-up, decisions need not to be delayed. The main reason companies have not necessarily shutdown, but opted to work from home, is the need to keep in touch with their customers. Every uncertaintybrings with it a shift from the norm. Companies that decide to stick to the normal channels may find themselves booted after the COVID-19 crisis. Equipping the employees to keep in touch with the customers, updating them on the latest market and industry developments is not to be undermined. There has to be a continuous awareness of the brand presence. What are the employer’s expectations from the team? Are their tasks correctly spelt out? There is need to analyse tasks and responsibilities to see which ones qualify for remote set working and what kind of support is needed.
Here are quick random facts for successful remote work;➢ Communicate openly and often- keep both ends of the stick well-watered. You would not want to leave anyonewith less information. Make it easily available.➢ Trust in your employees’ productivity- “Remote work success depends heavily on whether you trust your employees to do their work even if you cannot see them.” Aaron McEroan VP Gartner.➢ Bolster technology enablement- equip the team with relevant technology that makes easy flow of business from home.