COVID-19

Working from Home During #Covid19

Many times, the complaints about irregular performance are “I don’t have access to my family.” “I have jet lag. I am tired of many trips… “too much traffic jam”, “it was raining… “the kid is sick, I need to be at home…” and a plethora of so many other excuses.

Not this time.  No travels. Not traffic. No jet lag. No rain. No worries about children, as you are with them… Plus you have all access to your family – including the big babies! So, what complaint do you have for poor performance?

Trust people, they will always find an excuse for avoiding responsibility. Either it is slow internet or lots of interruptions at home or lack of power. However much you try to solve problems, someone who does not want to do something will find a reason not to. When you focus your mind on what is not working, it will always find a reason for you. The best way is to think about what is working or how to make what is working better.

As Top Management Team, how do you help your team navigate the turbulences safely without any casualties? Remember, if you are renting, and have a payroll to cover. Two of your top costs are rent and payroll. You must analyze all the costs and see which ones to save. Costs are piling up and all of us are thinking about how to cope both in the short term and long term. In the worst-case scenario, the covid19 lockdown is extended to beyond 15th May 2020, some leaders have decided to reduce their rental space to ease the cash flow burden that could continue throughout the year.

That is how this pandemic is going to disrupt the business.

Assuming covid19 fails to get a cure this year, we shall not resume work normally. Employers should provide options for remote working. This means now is the time to embrace working from home. Even if the covid19 vaccine is found, getting it to Ugandans could take months.

Winning companies must, therefore, promote remote working and working from home. Here are some options for consideration:

  1. Let people who qualify take their annual leave
  2. Support those who can work from home
  3. Let those who cannot resign

Annual leave

Which staff have untaken leave pending? Now is the time to give them the option to take their outstanding leave. Remember, staff on probation or those who are yet to complete 12 months by the time of the lockdown, do not qualify for annual leave. In that case, such staff should be given options b) and c). When qualifying staff opts to take annual leave, they continue to be paid as they have always been.

But keep in mind this is a crisis. You need all hands active to help navigate the crisis. Now more than ever, you need teamwork and all sacrifice.

Work from home or remote working

How many staff can work from home? Identify the staff with tools and willingness to work from home. You need a portable device, Internet access and space at home that could be dedicated as an office. Identify the staff in key processes that need remote access and provide the required tools specifically a computer preferably a laptop and internet access. In Uganda, MTN has set up a work from home data bundle, which is valid from 9 am to 5 pm, daily at a fee of Ugx. 2,000. This has been a great innovation as it facilitates home working. MTN should consider extending the time for this bundle to run from 8 am to 6 pm, to allow for the lunch break and evening break. Otherwise, it is tough to suddenly remember it is 4:30 pm and you won’t have Internet access, yet a report is still pending.

To work from home, you should establish remote working policies and procedures. That the team should follow.  Such a policy should provide for time to log on to the company portal to share daily priority tasks and outcomes, as well as logging on the portal before the day end to provide updates of what happened. Remote working calls for personal discipline and consistency.

You don’t want to be waking up at 8 am, yet you would by that time be expected to log in at the office. You need to practice the same discipline as if you are traveling to the office.

The respective directors and managers must provide clear targets (Monthly and weekly targets) to staff to facilitate remote working. Daily, staff must share their daily tasks on any platform like Skype, which is available free of charge and offers all features you could find in any commercial application like zoom.

Resignation or suspension of non-performers

Every company is struggling to remain afloat. The role of the leaders is to anticipate challenges and manage them proactively. If the company knows that it may not have the cash flow to meet all the payroll costs, now is the right time to identify the staff to let go in time. What the company must do is to follow the employment law of the land in effecting any terminations.

I know some people want to be populist and write that now is not the time to terminate any employee. But what should an employer do if they keep a staff who expects a salary which no one has made?

True, the most critical asset is an employee. And now, than ever, employers must support their staff to go through this pandemic. This means extending salary advances and providing any support or help for staff to be able to buy food and pay rent at home. Imagine your staff being home and don’t have money for food? It would be catastrophic.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, employers must be proactive. It is more expensive to keep a person on your payroll and fail to pay them.

The alternative is to terminate the old contract and provide a new performance-based contract, depending on your kind of business. Some organizations are involved in the selling of intellectual property, like education institutions, consulting firms, and technology companies, to mention but three. Such companies should continue operating even during the lockdown.

Give staff targets and those that cannot perform, let them be paid only basic. See, the times are tough. You can pay out only what you have made.

The fact is, if the staff do not sacrifice and work to their best, businesses shall close, and more jobs shall be lost.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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