As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 14h 2020
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
There are people who have worked remotely for most of their career life. Some have done so because they are part of a global team that works remotely, others out of choice and others forced by circumstances. Traditionally, work was expected to be carried out from a certain physical office setting. However, remote working gives one the ability to work outside the traditional office environment. Today, many people work on the go, work from home or co-working spaces and even from coffee shops. The COVID-19 pandemic requirement for physical distancing has made the need to work remotely from home even more important.
Four weeks ago, the government issued a recommendation for Kenyans to work from home. It is obvious that many jobs cannot be done from home but some can. Many Kenyans working from home today are beginners. Most had little or no preparation for working remotely. Another key challenge is that children are home too and mainly indoors. Without a home office, working in the midst of so many distractions has become the order of the day. In some virtual meetings I have attended, children are crying for attention, dogs are barking, or a TV on full volume can be heard in the background. The question that lingers for most is – Is working from home productive? A survey released last week by Consumer Insight Africa showed that 81 per cent of Kenyan workers view working from home as unproductive. Another key question then is – how can we make working at home more effective?
To be more effective when working from home, there are several simple steps that we can take. First, it helps to find some space, designate it as the workspace, and keep it organized. That means not working in bed today and on the sofa tomorrow. I find it helpful to have a specific start time and end time to the day with scheduled breaks in between. The question of whether to get off our pyjamas is debatable but certainly, no video conference should catch us off guard. Be familiar with the remote working tools that your company is using and be ready to integrate them to your day. Also, and possibly most important step is to have a structure around our day and to organize the tasks at hand. It should be evident what we have achieved every day.
When working from home, one can be easily distracted. It is crucial to log off from distractive social media sites. Further, let the people at home with us including the young ones know our expectations including when not to disturb. It is not enough to log in to the remote working platform. It is important to stay connected with colleagues, make calls, hold meetings, send and receive reports. When working from home, let us check on each other and pre-schedule virtual meetings and socials. If we have a team, keep all the members engaged throughout the week. With time, we should be able to develop a remote working routine and get more clarity on how each day should look like. For those of us able to work from home, let us aim to become more productive each day!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy