As of 2nd April 2020, Kenya had 110 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3 casualties. There is palpable panic as the nation grapples with the new realities presented by the spread of COVID-19. As organizations attempt to deploy their responses to the crisis, there have been concerns about the effects on the workforce. For some firms, it has been easy to transition to a remote workforce. The use of remote working platforms such as Office 365 and Slack has made it possible for workers separated geographically to realize their targets. For some enterprises, this has not been possible due to travel restrictions, challenges with the supply chain and the nature of their work. The economic effect of the health crisis is slowly being appreciated by the government. Several economic measures have been put in place including the president and his deputy taking 80% cut on their salaries.
For employees, there are concerns that the jobs that have been rendered redundant might never come back pushing more people into unemployment. In a country where the unemployment rate stands at 9.68%, the looming threat to the future of jobs is difficult to confront. For employees working remotely, there are concerns that even with the measures taken by the government to reduce some taxes, the financial stability of organizations hangs in the balance.
What do organizations need to do in the wake of this new reality?
What matters most for now is the safety and health of your employees.
Different employees face different health risks. For instance, an organization that deals with clients face to face has front office and back-office staff. The level of health risks that front office staff have to face may not be similar to back-office staff. An assessment will help determine which functions need to be on-site and which functions can be done remotely. For functions on-site, it is not just important to print out recommended guidelines, it is equally important to update internal occupational safety and health guidelines and ensure they are adhered to.
Working remotely is not as simple as stay-at-home.
Organizations need to consider eligibility, approved tools and protocols for security compliance. It is not clear how long and how far into the year the effects of COVID-19 will spread globally and locally. For this reason, it is important to develop a remote working plan that envisions this. The infrastructure gaps and cyber security risks need to assessed and addressed to ensure the remote working plan runs smoothly.
Fine, tactical details need to be addressed such as:
Does the organization have the adequate infrastructure to manage a remote working model?
What about employees who do not have laptops? What is the best way to ensure they are not left out?
What tools adequately match the specific tasks that need to be carried out?
What tasks need to be carried out and how frequently?
How will collaboration be ensured for activities that need documentation?
What are the business performance indicators in light of the new working model?
How will the organization document its lessons and implement them for posterity?
Anxiety is everywhere, someone has to deal with it.
It is not as simple as “keep calm, work from home.” There are concerns about the future of organizations in the country. The flower industry in Kenya has taken a significant nosedive as access to markets has been impossible due to the grounding of flights. As online delivery companies thrive, there are brick and mortar companies that are weighing their options. The leaders of each organization need to assure their team members. They need to communicate about the changes that are taking place at the organizational level. For organizations whose finances are in a precarious state, this would be the perfect time to demonstrate the organization cares about its employees.
Recently, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Airways announced that he would be taking a pay cut of 80% to avoid laying off staff. Leadership at this time is less about what is said and more about what is being done. The economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 will last for months. If an organization can avoid laying off staff in the meantime, it would save many from sinking into abject despair. Kenya Airways is leading the pack. Even though 65% of the airline’s flights are currently grounded, the airline has decided to keep its staff on a paycheck for lesser pay.
Other organizations are offering their employees shopping vouchers to cushion them as the organization strategizes on how to keep afloat. Others are finding ways to keep their employees at work by exploring alternative business strategies. For instance, there are distilleries in America that have opted to use their raw material to make hand sanitizers in order to keep their workforce. In order to pay salaries, these organizations have sought donations from the public. Locally, there are a number of manufacturers who are offering to use their logistics department to transport medical supplies to far flung areas of the country.
These times call for innovation, creativity and compassion. We believe you are doing your best by your staff and as we appreciate this is business unusual, we are also optimistic that we will continue to figure things out as we learn to live with our new normal. In the meantime, if you are among those who are in the essential services and recruiting, our recruiting operations are ongoing and we would be glad to offer our support in getting you the talent at a discounted rate.