While announcing the unsettling news of two more Covid-19 coronavirus cases on Sunday, March 15, President Uhuru Kenyatta urged employers, including the government to allow employees to work from home to reduce chances of infection.
“Where possible, government offices, businesses and companies are encouraged to allow employees to work from home with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services,” urged the president.
This was the first time the president was personally addressing the nation directly regarding the Covid-19 pandemic ever since it became apparent it would be reaching Kenya in mid-February, 2020.
Kenya Red Cross paramedics and volunteers at the Nakuru County Level 5 Hospital during a training exercise on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic on Saturday, March 15, 2020.
The first case of the virus in the country was confirmed on Saturday, 14, sending Kenyans into a panic-buying spree where supermarkets were cleared of all sanitisers, antiseptics and interestingly, tissue papers.
Kenya could join tens of countries that have effected a work-from-home policy to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
A Niche Solution
Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Hitachi, Apple, Amazon and Spotify are among some of the companies that have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of the Covid-19.
Yet, the president has not addressed how Kenyans will work remotely given that home broadband is still considered a largely luxury service in most households.
Even in first world countries like America, challenges of working from home have arisen with a report from Time Magazine highlighting that only a niche group has access to the luxury to work from home.
“Those who work remotely tend to be both better-educated and wealthier. Among workers ages 25 and older, 47% of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher worked from home sometimes, compared to just 3% of workers with only a high school diploma.”
The Broadband Question
As per statistics released in 2019, 89.8 per cent of Kenyans had access to the internet through their mobile phones. A reliable internet connection is one of the key necessities for those working remotely.
This phone enabled access to the internet may be used to serve employees who wish to connect their machines to log on to software like Outlook, Slack and Google Hangouts and do their job.
This will, however, have significant costs on the user as the amount of data that needs to be processed through a computer is significantly larger than what ordinarily goes through a phone.
Those working in fields like retail or hospitality will be largely unable to use these resources in their line of work.
Another challenge that could arise as it has in Britain is the question of whether Kenya’s installed broadband infrastructure will be able to handle the millions of people who will be working from home.
Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna Health issuing an update coronavirus at Mbagathi Hospital on Saturday, March 14, 2020
What to Do
It is not all bleak however and working from home can be achieved with a few tips and some patience. If it comes to it there are three key things aside from a good internet connection that employees will need.
The first is clear communication between management levels on what needs to be accomplished during the day. This will avoid a communication breakdown that would negatively impact performance.
The second recommendation given is to treat the work as a real job. This means that you should avoid lounging around because you are in a comfortable environment and instead stick to more or less the same routine you would if you were at the office.
The last is to avoid getting demotivated by the situation. Experts urge those working from home, not to hyperfocus on the negative headlines surrounding the Covid-19 as this could lead to feelings of depression.