What you need to know:
- Creating a comfortable work space at home was also quite hard for Otieno because he did not have enough furniture.
- Soon after Kenya recorded its first case of Covid-19, the company Otieno works for directed all its employees to work from home.
- Another perk for Jackline is that the new routine enables her to be much more creative than she has ever been.
There is an African adage that goes, “A tree that won’t bend to the storm can’t survive a storm.” Perhaps this explains why most organisations have had to change their modes of operations in response to the pandemic.
But how is this Covid-19 period changing the lives of young professionals? Are they struggling more than older generations to work from home? How is remote working shaping the future of the workplace?
We bring you the perspectives of four young professionals who share their deepest worries and the lessons they have so far learnt.
JACKLINE JEPTOO TERIGIN, 26 Economist
Jackline’s work schedule, like that of many young professionals, has been significantly altered by Covid-19.
“My job now involves a lot more phone calls and emails. We even had to learn to use apps such as Zoom to host and attend meetings. This is different because we were used to converging physically in a room when holding meetings,” she says.
As the cases of new infections increased in the country, Jackline’s managers decided to allow all staff to work from home, save for those whose roles were essential. This was her company’s way of complying with the ministry of health’s directives on social distancing. It was also aimed at reducing the risk of cross-infection among staff.
“The concept of working from home was new, and I took some time to adapt. At first, it was hard to effectively manage my time and balance my professional and personal life. I often found myself working way beyond the normal hours,” she says.
According to Jackline, self-discipline is key for anyone who is trying to maintain focus while working from home.
“I realised that I needed to use my time wisely and beat my deadlines. This sometimes means I have to work past 5pm to achieve my objectives,” she says.
But even then, working from home hasn’t been without its perks. Jackline has observed that her work-life balance has greatly improved since she started working from home.
“My new routine allows me more flexibility compared to the eight-to-five schedule. Right now, I have time to study, spend quality time with my family, take care of any businesses, while at the same time delivering on my roles at work,” she says.
Another perk for Jackline is that the new routine enables her to be much more creative than she has ever been. She has more time to think outside the box and take on more tasks.
“I have also had time to learn new skills in IT, identify my strengths and work on my weaknesses,” she says.
The only downside, she says, is that she sometimes gets overwhelmed and finds herself working till late in the night, or even on weekends.
Jackline loves travelling, but with the restrictions on movement, she can no longer pursue her wanderlust.
“Meeting and hanging out with friends has changed to video calls and chatting on social media. Baby showers, birthdays and even bridal showers are now held online.” she says.
DOLLYCATE MURIUKI, 23 (Procurement officer)
As the procurement officer at her company, Dollycate interacted directly with clients as she helped them make payments, which were mostly in cash.
“So much has changed, such as the introduction of cashless transactions and the possibility of making orders online. This has minimised direct interaction with clients significantly. A new system to help in efficient delivery of our services and products has also been introduced. In short, the pandemic forced me to learn how different systems operate. That was the only way I could meet my obligations,” she says.
To supplement her budget and also to keep herself occupied during her free time, Dollycate has begun moulding concrete flower vases, candle holders, making fabric book covers, and selling clothes.
Due to the nature of her work, she has to go to the office, but she strictly adheres to the set health and safety guidelines.
“Times have been extremely hard. From matatu operators hiking fares, fewer operational hours due to the nationwide curfew, long queues at bus stations during rush hour, forcing one to take a taxi to beat curfew and so on. All these are expenses I hadn’t plan for,” she says.
At first, her biggest challenge was the increased transport cost, and the fear of contracting the virus while making her way to or from work. Keeping her face mask on at all times was also a challenge for her. She is only now starting to get used to breathing normally while having it on.
“Amid all these challenges, I have learnt that for a long time, we have been so engrossed in our comfortable routines that we forgot to think critically, to diversify our lifestyles, to be more innovative and to keep learning. I have since decided to embrace change.
“I still feel like the pandemic has brought so many restrictions to my social life but unlike the early days, I am now more comfortable being alone. I’ve had time to re-evaluate my decisions, improve myself through learning and research, and to focus on the things that matter most,” she says.
But despite this, Dollycate cannot ignore the fact that she misses her friends.
“I just hope that all shall soon be well. Let’s stay focused and positive. These challenges will only last a season,” she says.
OMONDI OTIENO, 26, Digital Content Creator
Soon after Kenya recorded its first case of Covid-19, the company Otieno works for directed all its employees to work from home.
“Most of my work can be done remotely so my schedule hasn’t changed much during this period. The only thing I had to change was my internet service provider. I had to invest in fast and reliable internet so that I could attend the regular online meetings,” Otieno says.
“Face to face communication, which is a key part of my job, has been replaced by emails, text messages and phone calls. Online meetings have replaced the physical meetings we used to have at the office.”
Otieno liked the office set up more because it was easier and faster for him to consult and interact with other employees, which is very crucial in his job.
“Adapting to the new work environment where you have to call a colleague, drop a text or write an email and wait for a response was quite challenging at first. However, things became easier along the way,” he says.
His biggest challenge was access to reliable internet.
“Before Covid-19, I used the internet mainly to socialise and for entertainment. When we started working remotely, I had to get stable internet because I didn’t want to risk losing connection while making a work presentation,” he says.
Creating a comfortable work space at home was also quite hard for Otieno because he did not have enough furniture. To start with, he got a reading table and chair.
“Outside work, I found it difficult to fill up my free time. Covid-19 had caused fear and made it very difficult to move around. I ended up spending most of my time at home,” he says.
The two things he has learnt during this period?
“Maximise on tools that allow for remote connection such as Google sheets. Frequent communication via messaging apps was very helpful for me, especially in instances where I needed detailed explanations regarding various assignments.
“Secondly, talk to your friends and borrow their ideas on how they spend their free time. I have subscribed to various online movie streaming sites, I frequently watch educational content on YouTube, I am reading more, trying out new recipes, and more importantly, I have time to bask in the sun.
“A major perk of working from home is that I get more hours of sleep since I do not have to wake up very early for work. No transport expenses or long hours wasted in traffic jams. Also, the exposure I now have to online collaboration tools has made me more efficient despite the fact that I am away from my colleagues,” he says.
His social life has also changed considerably.
“My friends and I had so many plans this year, but Covid-19 disrupted them all. We regularly keep in touch, but we rarely meet and we no longer have much to share. Our conversations mainly revolve around knowing how the other person is doing.
“To my credit, however, I have managed to make new friends in my neighbourhood!” he says.
CLIFF MUNENE, 32 Banker
“One of the first things I needed to do was to get strong and reliable network connectivity. This came at an extra cost. I also had to get training on how to effectively host and attend meetings and conferences online, as I wasn’t too familiar with this before the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says
At his work place, all employees were assigned new shifts to maintain social distance and protect their safety and health.
“We started working in shifts, which was not the case before Covid-19. It was hard to work at home where there are so many distractions. Even on days when I worked from the office, I had to adjust to working fewer hours as a result of the nationwide curfew,” he says.
To overcome these challenges, Cliff had to come up with a new plan. He also had to revise his budget to cope with the new changes in his income, yet he offers financial support to a number of friends and family members who lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic.
“My social life has also been affected. I love church fellowships, but I can no longer go to church. I also enjoy making new friends, but I can’t even meet my friends over nyama choma or have a coffee date.
“I hope this pandemic is brought under control so that we can all go back to our usual lives.”