The coronavirus pandemic has brought several significant changes on the market. Organizations were laden with unnecessary huge costs. The costs, in some situations stretched the organizations’ resources, hitting straight into revenue base. Some of the costs related to canteen, fuel, airtime, data, subsistence allowances, hotel allowances just to mention a few.
Just after lockdown, some of the costs disappeared and individuals started working from home. The only necessary cost was data, given that most of the people were now working from home. It was just a matter of transferring the cost from physical working set-up to remote working. Aided by installation of internet connectivity, the cost was not avoidable. However, other costs were avoidable, and some companies trimmed such costs.
The other big advantage is that there was some form of discipline in utilization of adjusted fuel which was in line with the lockdown operating environment. Huge savings were realized in this regard. During normal times, big cars used to consume full tanks of fuel and depending on distance where the employees resided, significant amount of fuel was utilized to go to and from work. In addition, requests for big vehicle purchase disappeared. The question was, what do you need the big vehicle for given that you are working from home? You rarely travel during lockdown nor do you need a big vehicle.
In countries like South Africa, big cars are normally for tourism activities or when travelling long journeys. Fuel saver vehicles are utilized for travelling to and from work. There can be an argument that Zimbabwe and South Africa are different economies. However, when the economy cannot sustain huge costs, adjust and eat what you can kill. In Zimbabwe, there seem to be huge entitlement for such big cars and posh benefits. If you do not drive a big car, you are still a novice in the profession is a response which is sometimes shared.
Such mentality presents operational challenges to organizations which are also ladened with legacy debts. Furthermore, working capital seems insufficient in the country owing to other market pressures. On the backdrop of easing of lockdowns, we have heard calls for employees to go back to work thereby bringing back the previous costs. There is need to pose and reflect. There is need to understand what worked and not and how the gaps can be closed.
Working from home and physical working should corelate. Over and above decongesting the workplace amidst warnings of third wave, leaders should not make hasty calls about introducing physical working environments. At times, managers feel they are not working when they do not see their subordinates physically. They want to see people physically.
With increased uncertainty around the pandemic, working from home is becoming increasingly popular. More companies in developed countries have been hiring people to work remotely from 8am to 5pm but individuals can do alternative jobs as long as they have the energy to remain productive. Although working from home can be freeing, it can also be surprisingly hard. In order to work from home productively, some strategies have to be adopted and some of them have been explained in this article.
- Internet connectivity
The internet is key to getting things done. As long as the company has invested in internet connectivity, you might as well kiss goodbye to the posh office. Given the hassle around navigating the poor Zimbabwean roads, it will be a benefit for the employee and the company to save costs of vehicle maintenance and time. Some organizations have invested heavily in the home internet connectivity.
- Office space
As the individual is working from home, there is need to make sure that there is a place where the employee can put a small desk but where the company has resources, a budget for home office furniture is recommended. The employee can get a loan which can be paid over some time say, six months depending on the amount. This also acts as a motivator.
Even if the employee is working from home, he or she should be available when needed. The “not available or reachable” is not acceptable. It can give different signals-either the individual is not at the new place of work or the phone is off. Some companies have managed this by installing the teams application where the individual can call straight to the extension of that employee. If the employee does not answer the call on teams, the message is sent to the phone or email. Ignoring such signals might be perceived as lack of respect. This improves productivity. Other applications for use are skype for business, whatsap platforms just to mention a few.
- Dress Appropriately
It is important to dress appropriately even when working from home. At times companies can ask you to show your video and it will be an embarrassment when you dress improperly like attending a meeting when putting on sleeping gowns which are associated with leisure. Putting on appropriate clothing shows seriousness about what you will be doing and can help you remain focused and increase productivity.
In a pandemic operating environment, rule books are tone. At times there are such rule books, but you learn as you go. When coronavirus attacked Zimbabwe, there was no such rule books. We were all experiencing the impact as we go. We developed systems and practices by experience. Do not confine yourself to your room just because you are working from home. This will affect your level of productivity. Connect and network with outside world. There is no need to re-invent the wheel when other countries and professional friends have gone through the process. There is need to continuously link with your team members as well. Do not shut out your subordinates. Check in on them. This has a huge impact on productivity.
- Vision, mission, and Values
Even if employees are working from home, there is always need to remind them about the superordinate goals of the organization. As employees are reminded about the goals of the organization, they remain focused and productive. It is important to prioritize work to ensure that you are on track with assigned tasks.
- Performance Expectations must be real
It is important to note that when working from home, you default to your own manager. You work by results and you are expected to grind results. It is not about ticking the boxes. You are measured on the basis of results. There is no need for excuses. Organizations do not bank excuses but results. The statement “work in progress” should be eliminated. It can mean that you will never achieve the assignment. It can also show that you do not want to do the assignment. Agility is key on time-bound assignments.
In conclusion, working from home requires dedication, motivation, agility, results-focused and committed mind-set. Mind shifting is key even on expectations.
Dr Phil Chitagu is the current IPMZ President and writes in his own capacity.