The Coronavirus pandemic has over the past two months caused an unprecedented number of lockdowns in several countries, effectively locking millions out of the workplace. However, since virus or no virus, global economies had to find a way of limping on, in spite of the crisis. That is how the concept of 'working at home' came to be a widely accepted solution for people trying to maintain a social distance to avoid further spreading the viral infection.
In the Western nations and parts of Asia where technology has advanced to high levels, the notion of taking the office home was not too hard an adjustment for many. Research from software insights company GetApp, published in January 2020 showed a 400 percent increase in remote working behaviors since 2010. Nationals of developed countries were already taking up the trend of working at home. Of course with the arrival of COVID-19, more people had to take up the work-from-home approach. Very soon, we began to see people linking up with workmates via computer software like Zoom and Microsoft teams. Still, even in these developed economies, working at home was not smooth sailing. For particular work that could not be done online such as jobs in the service industry like waiters, shop and restaurant workers; some of these simply got laid off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29 percent of Americans can work from home, including one in 20 service workers and more than half of information workers. Again, as statistics show, not everyone can work from home, even in the developed world.
The other concern, of course, even for those who could work at home, was how to keep the children out of their parents' hair while they worked. Many jokes and memes were shared on social media including one of mother who had tied up her three children so that she could get some work done on her computer.
The balance between life and work while the entire family is locked down at home has been harder to achieve than most people imagined. Parents have had to get creative. In some of the less developed economies where many still have not adopted the right software or where our bandwidth and data charges would not support the idea of working remotely, people have had to get very creative to manage the sudden increase in time spent at home. Pictures on social media are predominantly of fathers remembering childhood games and skipping around, riding bicycles or improvising rides out of old car tyres to keep the teen and toddlers busy since they too, are 'working from home' during the extended holiday.
Surely after this lockdown, working life will never be the same or more accurately, working people will never be the same, whichever continent they live on. In all scenarios, people may find that working at home is not as easy even where technology is available. A particular challenge is how to keep teams motivated with a lot of distance between you and them.
Given that we were largely unprepared with the infrastructure to continue work at home, in the developing world, we have been reduced to the basics in order to kill the boredom that comes with no being able to work remotely in many cases and not having a bar to drive to at the end of the working day, which probably explains why we have many memes, images and videos circulating of men carrying babies on their backs, skipping rope with the children or simply attempting to play golf in the bathtub.
Be it as it may, i am certain that Covid-19 is going to create a digital revolution globally, even in our developing economies, we can embrace the abnormal situation as the new normal. Both employers and employees are now facing a new reality; we are already remote and unsure of when we will be able to return to office. There are many tools available for us and below, i am attempting to suggest some of those that i am aware of which we can begin or enhance in this crisis-driven work-from-home scenario;
For internal communications, i recommend slack and google hangouts and if your team is already using gmail, then hangout is a great option
For Video Conferencing, there are a variety of options namely zoom which many of us are already using in fact last week i was glad to attend a webinar hosted by Bernard Oundo on ‘Covid-19 and the rule of law: Testing the Constitution in the face of the Pandemic. Other Apps/platforms may include Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting.
Professional Development can be enhanced through the many free and paid courses in a variety of fields and using different platforms and particularly for employees, you can use this period to learn new skills that can increase your productivity even post Covid-19.
No doubt productivity will plummet during and immediate post Covid-19 crisis but i am sure we can steer through this turbulency with a sense of optimism and determination to fight on.