Work From Home without setting measurable targets for performance evaluation of employees is an authorised vacation to employees and a loss to an organisation. Unfortunately this is the case in many organisations today particularly in developing Africa. As we wriggle out of the Covid 19 pandemic, many organisations are at stretching point and a post-pandemic survival will most likely be a mirage. It is therefore not surprising that several private organisations are unable to continue to pay salaries and are shutting down.
While it is understandable that not all businesses can be operated from home, several others have left the task of working from home to the employees without proper job descriptions, setting of measurable targets and evaluation of performance. In many cases employees were simply sent home to work without supervision or any form of monitoring put in place.
The worst hit industry today is the public sector. For over three months middle level and field workers of most Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in my country, Nigeria have been asked to stay away from the office and work from home. The question here is what exactly are they expected to do from home? Let me mention that while they supposedly work from home, their salaries are still promptly paid from the states’ portion of the Federal Allocation meant for the entire residents of each states.
Let’s look at a typical scenario; while the teachers employed in the private schools are engaging their students via e-learning, most children in public schools have been home in the last three months without any contact with their teachers or from their schools. These children will still have to compete with the other children from private schools. So I ask what is the job of the teachers of these public schools who were sent to work from home?
When we compare the above scenario with the developed countries that have continued with their school curriculum in spite of the lockdown, we will realise how easy for the developing nations such as ours to plunge back into darkness and backwardness particularly in the educational sector. This thought must be considered on the concept of globalisation and the fact that no nation waits for another to catch up with her.
Work From Home if properly structured or planned is supposed to be a win-win situation for both the employees and the employer. For the employers, it reduces operational cost such as cost of gas, electricity, facility and other maintenance expenses. It allows flexibility of work hours. Employers can also hire expert irrespective of their location. They also will not have to contend with such challenges as sick leave and other related excuses.
The employees working remotely on the other hand see more positive effects on their daily work, are more engaged, and have a stronger sense of well-being than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility do.
Working from home is not about to disappear with Covid 19. As it has been said that dealing with the coronavirus is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Believe it or not, it is going to be the new norm and organisations must wise up to maximise its advantage or else risk the threat of shutting down. The government at all levels must also wake up to restructure her activities to identify areas that must be digitalised otherwise she will have to continue to pay salaries to unengaged staff. This is not the time to play politics with digital transformation in government.
Agencies of government must begin to replace physical meetings of people with virtual meetings that will be more productive and reduce the risk of the spread amidst government workers.
In the most competitive organisations, IT departments that once supported operations have already made the leap to leading them. The landscape in proactive organisations is being reshaped by transformation offices, that are helping organisations combine technical know-how with “soft” capabilities to maximise output. There is no doubt that any private business that will be post-covid 19 relevant will have to migrate with the world to the new norm of technology.
The post-covid future is certainly not what it used to be and the earlier we get things right the better and faster we will be able to adapt. Otherwise our educational sector and all sectors of the economy for that matter will not be able to compete with the world.
For Work From Home to be effective therefore, organisations must design new templates of performance evaluation. Top management must develop a work from home policy that is unambiguous of employee’s responsibilities and sanctions for poor performance. Employers must learn to turn their qualitative requirement to deliverables that are smart and measurable. Where deliverables are not measurable, then employees may not be held responsible for being on vacation.