The threat of a worldwide pandemic has always been a subject of debate and discussion for as long as we have occupied this planet. Today the COVID-19 crisis has brought about the discussions on a shift to Remote Working.
The Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, as it was later named may have started in the far East- a market in Wuhan, China- but its impact is now being felt around the globe. Governments around the world, including Kenya, are scrambling to contain this highly-infectious and rapidly spreading disease.
While the rallying cry has been not to panic but to be cautious, the fact remains that we are dealing with a pandemic whose worst days are just beginning.
Here are the facts according to data collected by the WHO and other organizations and visualized by the John Hopkins University on their website.
- Over 160,000 people have tested positive by the time of publishing this guide, with cases rising exponentially every other day.
- Over 6,500 people have succumbed to COVID-19 around the world.
- About 77,000 people have recovered from the infection by the time of publishing this guide.
- The virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica
COVID-19 In Kenya- Are We Staring at a Looming Lockdown?
By the time of publishing this article, the number of active cases in Kenya was three as confirmed by the Ministry of Health. This has prompted the current government to announce new directives with regard to the management of COVID-19 in Kenya that include encouraging employers to allow employees to work from home.
COVID-19 is highly infectious as it can spread from person to person, much like the flu or common cold. Allowing your workers to work from home will help reduce the chances of the virus spreading by:
- Eliminating unnecessary contact in the workplaces
- Allowing individuals to stay at home and avoid public places
- Eliminate daily commutes using public transport
- Helping the public stay productive in case there is a lockdown
- Allow them to take care of their children after the shutdown, and many other reasons
Are you a Kenyan employer thinking about shifting to remote working? What do you need to do in order to facilitate your workforce to work from home? Which jobs can be done remotely in Kenya?
List of Jobs That Can Be Done Remotely in Kenya
About a decade ago, it would have been challenging or impossible to shift to remote work in Kenya. Fast forward to 2019, and a majority of white-collar workers (and some blue-collar workers) can work remotely thanks to improved internet access. Here are some of the jobs that can be done remotely in Kenya:
- Project managers
- Customer services
- Data analysts
- Some Engineering jobs- e.g., design, architecture
- Legal advisory
- Web designers
- IT support
- And many others
As you can tell from the list, many white-collar jobs can be done remotely, provided you have the right systems and strategies in place as outlined in this guide.
Preparing Your Employees to Work from Home in Kenya
Communication is by far the most important thing in any work environment. While physical communication is easy, remote work has some additional requirements. You must prepare your workers from the onset of the expectations with regard to communication.
- How often do they need to give updates?
- How do they communicate?
- Which platforms do they use to communicate?
While working remotely, you will find that communication takes a significant percentage of your employees’ productive time. However, this can be managed if you have a clear communication strategy and have the right communication infrastructure in place.
To facilitate remote work, you need to have the right technology in place. Here are some of the things you may need to set up to facilitate remote work in Kenya.
There are several options to choose from in Kenya as far as internet connectivity is concerned as outlined here:
- WI-FI connectivity- Major home Wi-Fi providers such as Zuku, Safaricom, Jamii Telkom provide monthly packages starting from 2000 Shillings. This is the best option if you need reliable and fast internet for your workers. Some of your employees may already have an internet connection in their homes.
- GSM/LTE- You can opt to purchase monthly/weekly internet bundles for your employees to facilitate communication. For easy access, you can teach your employees how to use their mobile phones as hotspots for laptop access using tethering.
It’s important to train your employees on internet safety. Some of the things they need to know include
- How to encrypt or password-protect files before sending
- Avoiding unsecured websites on work laptops- e.g., File sharing sites, free movie sites, pornography, free streaming, online gambling sites, some social websites, etc.
- Using a VPN for secure access to organization resources – It’s important to have a VPN in place for remote work. You can either use an enterprise-level VPN in your firewall or purchase a standard VPN license for each worker- they are quite affordable.
- Identifying fake/phishing emails.
- Doing backups to your server or cloud storage, etc
Remote access and communication software
Work with your IT team to enable secure remote access to the software you use on a day to day basis. Most of the popular CRMs, ERPs, and file management software can be accessed remotely, provided the required safety standards are adhered to.
For regular communication, you can use normal instant messaging services such as WhatsApp and SMS. However, sensitive communication should be done through email- preferably behind a VPN- or via telephone. Video conferencing tools like Skype, Hangouts, and even WhatsApp can be used for face to face communication.
3. Tracking Hours
How would you know if your workers are putting in the hours If they are not checking into the office? Thanks to cloud computing, it’s now easier to manage remote teams without following up on them using tools such as Bitrix 24, Time doctor, Timely, Basecamp, among others.
Of course, you can also avoid the time tracking altogether and judge your employees’ performance by the work they complete each working day. Besides, working from home is more about flexible schedules and trust.
4. Training Staff to Work Remotely
It’s important to train your employees before you release them to work from home. Ideally, you should prepare a training package that includes the following topics:
- Communication – Define communication channels, hierarchy, frequency, tools, and etiquette
- Technology- Teach them how to use remote working tools such as browser-based CRMs and ERPS, how to log into company resources, communication tools, logging time, activating VPNs, allowing remote access for assistance, etc.
- Internet safety- general internet safety and best practices
- Culture shift- Prepare staff to work from home away from colleagues and office banter
- Productivity tips for remote workers- avoiding distractions, procrastinating, and organization
- Health and safety
5. Handling Payments
You may need to set up an electronic payment processing system for your business to avoid sending your accountants to the bank if they are working from home. Most Kenyan banks provide electronic payment systems such as PesaLink, EFT, mobile money, among others.
Remote work has always been encouraged as a means to motivate workers and reduce costs. Kenyan businesses should use this difficult period to transition to a work-from-home arrangement that comes with many associated benefits.