The coronavirus pandemic could potentially create a new normal in how societies function. The calls to self-isolate and maintain social distance are changing the ways people socialize and work.
Employers and their workers are both dealing with the challenges of maintaining productivity…and profits with fewer numbers of people in the office.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Wednesday that all state and public employees with pre-existing medical conditions or who are 50 years and above are to take leave or work from home.
Kenyan private companies and institutions were urged to adopt similar measures and began ordering employees who could work from home to do so.
Jillo Kadida is a deputy news editor at the local daily, the Star Newspaper. She is among the many employees now working from home.
Kadida has not changed her daily routine. She wakes up normally at 5:00 am to take care of her domestic chores and her toddler before turning her focus to her career.
The mother of one says working from home has its pros and cons.
“It allows me to spend more time with my two-year-old daughter but it comes with the challenge of not being able to work uninterrupted. Overall it’s a new challenge and any challenge is always good for it allows one to find creative ways of getting a job done but also spending time with loved ones.”
Kadida says the lack of daily interaction with her colleagues and friends is a downside to working from home.
Kisumu County Director of Communications Atieno Otieno says she thinks she works longer hours now that she’s working from home.
“I’m always checking for the latest news on my county, responding to queries on our social media pages, reaching out to colleagues to handle this or that issue…organize online and phone interviews, etc etc. So for me, Covid-19 has made me busier than I’d anticipated.”
James Sakwa is a marketing and communications consultant who has prior experience with the work from home concept. He works at home for approximately four hours and spends the rest of his workday engaged in meetings, pitching ideas and training. He says the pandemic and the new requirement to stay home have forced him to become more disciplined.
“I have to wake up as though I was going to the office, and then write down 3-5 tasks I have to do for the day.”
He says he takes a shower, grabs a cup of coffee or tea and sits at his work station dressed for the job. He also has a designated work station that is away from normal in-house distractions.
“I work on block hours, say two hours then break and come back for another two hours or so. I keep the morning productive, then watch all I want plus social media in the afternoon while dealing with just emails and calls.
He says sometimes this routine works while at other times it goes south but he’s making progress by the day.
Paul Mugoh, an Information Technology expert specializing in website designing, says self-isolation and social distancing are not affecting his work routine.
“Even when I have offices, I still do the bulk of my work at home because I work best in the afternoons and at night. So, when self isolation became necessary, my life didn’t change much, I just increased my home work load a little bit. For those who are just starting to work from home, welcome to my world.”
Fredrick Muitiriri is a journalist who says he desires to work from home. But for now, he is at the battlefront covering news related to COVID-19.
“We are working on half shifts and therefore workload is more than usual and it can be draining…so during those off days, I’m enjoying them,” he says.
“Funnily I’ve always asked God to grant me more days at home with my wife and kids. I know how this sounds but now I’m working 3/4 days a week which gives me more time with them. Because I live in the suburbs, I’m having more time on activities I love like building stuff at home and watching movies.”
Mary(not her real name) is a court clerk. The Kenyan Judiciary suspended most cases with Chief Justice David Maraga directing the staff to work from home. She says it can be stressful working from home.
She argues that just two weeks after she started doing her job in the comfort of her house, she feels stressed. She always has an urge to eat and keep eating which she finds depressing.
But Fatuma Yakub a translator working for an Islamic Non-profit organisation says she’s grateful to be working from home.
” It’s so much fun to work from home because of the flexible schedule…and no office distractions. It also saves money…no more spending money on transport.”