Over the past year and counting, many have been adapting to the changes that the pandemic has brought especially in the workplace. Work environments are no longer limited to just the office. Many organizations began strategizing on new work policies that allowed remote work for their employees.
The global statistics show that 88% of organizations made it compulsory for their staff to work from home when the pandemic hit. Industries such as Tech have allowed employees to choose between temporarily working from home or going to the office. Given the perceived impact on collaboration and company culture, it is understandable why most companies were reluctant to accept working from home policies.
That being said, there are many barriers that prevent 100% productivity when working from home. A survey conducted by Fuzu revealed the main challenges that affect most employees working from home as highlighted in the chart below:
- Poor work environment
67% of the respondents cited that their households aren’t able to access good internet connection, 41% lack the proper physical workspace while 52% don’t have the right work tools such as a laptop, printers, and softwares. Not to mention 32% have young kids at home that need caregivers hence find it hard to balance work and home duties.
The ones who are most affected are junior professionals who do not have access or the means to easily rectify these challenges. In fact, at many companies surveyed, employees have been the ones requesting to return to the office to remedy these challenges.
- Poor communication
Inadequate communication or lack thereof at work can affect the company’s productivity. Those who were recruited during the pandemic have found it difficult to adapt to the company culture. About 27% find it hard to communicate with their co-workers.
A member of an HR team in an international agency told us that he is yet to meet some new staff who joined in 2020 because working from home has made social interactions among employees more difficult. Some HR professionals also saw a rise in disciplinary cases deriving from poor communication from team members. With 39% having tried to keep a regular schedule but too many distractions at home hindered employees from meeting deadlines, joining video calls on time, and even completing work deliverables.
- Lack of motivation
An estimated 53% state that their lack of motivation comes from too many distractions at home. Whether you are home alone or with the kids and everything seems to be in a mess, it is hard to stay focused on your day-to-day tasks. Remote work requires low supervision which has led 34% of employees to work less as hard. Low motivation or lack thereof negatively affects the company culture.
HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
Digitization in Africa is accelerating significantly, with 65 percent of companies projecting an increase in digital spending in 2021. With the current pandemic state, employers acknowledge the importance of digitizing their systems, as the need to raise productivity in a progressively globalized world.
Additionally, the presence of software and technologies that enable companies to make more informed business decisions make the shift towards digitization inevitable. Globally, a recent study by Twilio reported that 97 percent of executives revealed that covid-19 accelerated their digital transformation efforts.
Moving towards a post-pandemic era, the number of people embracing digital advancement will likely increase. Here are some insights to overcome the challenges:
- Technological skills
When it comes to getting a better work environment, you need to find suitable space at home that you can work in. The next step is to get the right work tools like a table, chair, laptop, softwares and so on. Since the use of technology doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon you’ll need to be more tech-savvy. Many companies have come up with strategies to provide the tech tools and training programs to equip their employees with adequate computer skills for remote work. “We had to increase the funds allocated towards internet access of employees. We provided employees with airtime bundles to facilitate remote work,” a manager in an international development agency in Kenya told us. At Fuzu, we provide internet stipends to employees working from home without reliable at-home connections. Investment in digital infrastructure and collaboration tools is necessary to facilitate hybrid work models as companies decide on their post-COVID-19 plans.
2. Effective communication skills
Virtual communication isn’t the same as in person but it is flexible. To get more social interaction in the office, you can set a date out of office hours to catch up as work colleagues. HR professionals can set a communication strategy which can include weekly formal report-ins about the company. This will get everyone on the same page on what the company’s agenda is and receive feedback. “COVID-19 has forced us to explore digital solutions that have eased communication and saved us time. As much as tools such as zoom were there pre-COVID, we didn’t utilize them. But now, we have been forced to explore these technologies,” said Milkah Mboche, HR Consultant for Ponea Health. Additionally, HR professionals should develop effective listening skills, particularly during virtual interviews so as to pick up more on the candidate’s character and personality.
3. Strategic thinking and critical reasoning
Staying focused just seems to be more frustrating and affecting your work productivity. One way to help you get back on track is writing down a daily plan specifying the task and time duration. This gives you a starting point for the day. Be sure to have a work-life balance. Manage your time by setting aside time for work and breaks. In order to manage your team remotely, managers can also build trust by being proactive, reliable and responsive.
The covid-19 pandemic accelerated the need to adopt working remotely, which has brought with it particular barriers. Companies have been forced to rise to the challenge and come up with strategies to support their employees who are working from home.
Even though the distribution of vaccines suggests that things are likely going back to normal, employers should recognize some potential benefits of remote work. If some job roles do not require individuals to go to the office for 100 percent productivity, it may be wise to entertain the idea of a hybrid / fully-remote work model even after COVID-19.
About the authors
Jussi Hinkkanen is Fuzu’s Founder & CEO. He is a software and strategy expert with 15+ years on-the-ground experience across African countries. He has a proven track record from multinationals and start-ups across the globe, from building strategic partnerships across 10+ African markets and from launching B2C services to millions of users in the region. His 20+ year-long career includes notable organizations like Nokia, Microsoft & UN.
Dylan McCall-Landry is Fuzu’s COO where he leads Fuzu’s teams supporting employers and institutions to find top talent. He was previously an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. where he led projects across the US and Africa on organizational design, business turnaround, and strategy. He holds a MA in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University.
Muthoni Mathenge is Fuzu’s Head of Account Excellence where she supports employers across East Africa to leverage the power of Fuzu to find their next great hire. Prior to Fuzu, she was a Lead Customer Support and Retention specialist at Poa internet. She holds a Masters’ from Egerton University.
Roshelle Kayeyia is a Strategy and Operations Associate pursuing her studies in Business Analytics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously worked as a Relationship Officer at Equity Bank.