Almost all of us have heard about the ‘new normal’ or attended at least one webinar/zoom meeting since Covid-19 became a reality.
Following the spread of Corona virus and the government directives provided, most organizations have adopted the concept of working from home. Even though the Kenyan work culture as we’ve known it for a very long time, has been that of working from the office, we are now coming to terms with the fact that some jobs can still be done from home and the required results achieved. As we adapt to this, one of the major challenges that have come up the the inability to define, ‘working hours’. In an office set up ordinarily, employees work from 8am-5pm as opposed to the current setup where employees are flexible enough to start and finish their work as they plan individually. The Kenyan employment law provides for 52hrs of work per week, except for those organizations with Collective Bargaining Agreements that state otherwise.
What is happening with this ‘new normal’ is that some employees have come up with flexible times to work which fit into their home lifestyles thus shifting the well known ‘office hours’. Some are comfortable starting their work early in the morning while others have opted to work at night. Employers on the other hand have refused to draw the line as to when to make official communications with their employees with some of these phone calls and ‘very urgent’ emails coming in way past the ‘working hours’. Basically, the expectation from some employer is that since you are working from home, you are supposed to be on call whenever you are needed. As a result, instead of this providing the much needed relief to the employees to effectively balance family life and work, the stress and pressure resulting out of this conflict has left these two parties at a crossroad.
It is very important to note that whether you are working from your office or the comfort of your sofa set at home, there are expectations that must be met. It is also very important that these expectations are clearly defined and communicated so that the work process can move very smoothly. Operating on assumptions will only result into more conflict. Both parties need to agree on when the official working hours will be so that this does not interfere with the employee’s personal life while still maximizing on productivity. The expectations as far as deliverables are concerned should also be clear. Set daily/weekly targets and both must agree on these and how these will be measured and supervised. As a Supervisor, you need to remember that constantly calling your junior and sending them unnecessary emails will not make the work move faster. As an employee, you must note that regardless of your family set up, you still have obligations to your employer that must be met and should there be any special circumstances that may hinder you from performing, this must be brought to the attention of the employer in reasonable time. These points seem basic but I’ll tell you, so much resentment has come up as a result of these seemingly basic concepts not being clearly articulated.
I believe that this ‘new normal’ is going to stay with us for a very long time, if not forever, so it is up to us to find a way to make it work. Change is a process and it is going to take us awhile to find our way around, and that is okay. As we fumble through and adopt best practices, let is remember to clearly define the expectations from each party and maintain an open door policy. It will save us a lot of time and headache.
PS: In case you are seeking to come up with a ‘Working from home Policy’ for your organization, do not hesitate to drop me an email or a phone call through the numbers provided on the website. All the Best!!!