• african professionals

Home Readiness for Work by Young African Professionals

The Work From Home phenomena has prompted employees to analyse how, “fit for work’ their households are. Employers are learning to take on a more holistic lens, when it comes to how they view employees. The varying state of homes across Africa has impacted performance as well as opportunities for work. Here is what I learnt after a deeper dive with young professionals in Zimbabwe.

Over the Covid-19 lockdown period, I launched a platform for young professionals called ‘Habits Of Success’; where relevant topics such as Networking, Black Tax, Personal Branding could be discussed within the African context. I recently hosted the ‘Habits Of Success – Working From Homewebinar discussion with young professionals in Zimbabwe, where some interesting elements of the remote working experience were discussed. Upon reflection I realised that a successful remote working experience requires certain essential elements to be in place on the Work (systems, infrastructure and management styles supporting WFH) and Home ( reliable internet connection, reliable power availability, physical space) front. Some of the elements unpacked in the webinar included:

Data and Electricity at Home

The lack of back-up electric power (generator or solar) in the event of load-shedding or power cuts is barrier to a seamless remote work experience. Power is not typically incorporated as a work benefit although has proven critical in Africa where availability is not obvious. Although some employers have been able to provide mobile data or Wi-Fi to enable WFH, other employers have not made that provision. Some employers have committed to extending WFH privileges to managerial staff only while junior staff is not supported. This barrier has inclined most workers to commute to work in search of data connectivity despite the Covid-19 risk associated.

“I have created an ‘Off Power’ work-to-do-list in order for me to remain productive should the electricity power supply be cut off”

The Physical Home-Work-Space

Most young professionals in Zimbabwe live with their families, which is a knock on effect from the decade long economic downturn. Very few employers have provided office furniture support to employees for WFH, thus they have had to make do with existing home furniture or work from the lounge, kitchen and bed. In a Forbes magazine article it was revealed, from a survey on remote workers, that 28% were working from their bedroom. I recently ran a poll on Twitter which revealed that 54% of young African professionals are working from their bedroom. The high propensity for the bedroom, I suspect, is attributed to the need for personal space during work hours when sharing your home.

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Stakeholder Management at Home and Work

The people you live with are key stakeholders for young African remote working professionals. For most, there is need to communicate boundaries with family to accommodate consistent and uninterrupted work. Management of domestic chores especially for women professionals such as cooking, cleaning etc, which are still an expectation regardless of the increased workload. It turns out remote working has been just as much a learning curve for employers, as it has been for employees. Young professionals are finding that the demands on them are much higher as a result of remote working, especially regarding availability beyond the 8-hour workday. The need for a more proactive communication style and establishment of boundaries on the employee side has become critical in managing supervisors with a tendency to micro-manage. Relationships with work colleagues are more challenging to maintain while working from home, as the tendency is to contact a colleague when you need a work related task completed. One has to be more intentional about connecting with colleagues.

Some Effective WFH Tips and Pointers

  1. Be Disciplined, Adjust and Deliver – create a space to work from in order to separate your work life from your personal life. Manage your time through creating a schedule where you create work and rest blocks.
  2. If you Can, Do it! – Invest in suitable office furniture for your workspace, as working from a couch for a long period can cause back problems. A power back-up solution such as solar or an inverter is a good investment.
  3. Flexibility comes with Responsibility – Set aside time to exercise and eat well. Be intentional about where you spend most of you time and avoid dragging tasks. Be compassionate and make an effort to check-in with your co-workers. Track your screen time and avoid over exposure to your phone and laptop.

Leaders of the future will have to concern themselves with employees “home affairs”. Ensuring that employees’ home setup promote quality engagement and performance. The absence of electricity in homes across Africa, may very well become employer business going forward, which may cause a seismic shift the entire Compensation and Benefits landscape. Businesses across Africa will have to become more results driven, as they operate in the new normal.