The dynamics of working from home

As lockdowns have become an essential component of saving humanity thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home arrangement is likely to be around much longer. As it stretches on, numerous questions have been posed about it- the most common being “is working from home working?”

“Working from home is a mission impossible for me,” says Phemelo Maribeng.

Maribeng is a seasoned lifestyle journalist with one of the leading local news titles Botswana Guardian. She is also a mother of two. Her day is scheduled such that news gathering and interviews are done during the day as that is when sources are available. She then does story compilation and typing through her phone in between caring for children. But the most optimal time is at night when her two toddlers are asleep. Alternatively, putting them to sleep during the day aids her catch up with work.

“It is taxing. Writing demands one to be in the right frame of mind.” “The distractions are too much,” she adds.

It usually takes her an hour or two to complete an article while working from the office. At home, “several hours” are traded for just one article.

Her nanny is a stay out. As such, she does not work most of the times when Maribeng is home like now- during lockdown. Her husband (who is in the armed forces- serving as a frontliner in the war against an invisible enemy), has been supportive throughout this chapter- but he spends limited time at home.

“When daddy is around, he really helps,” she says.

However, she says it is not altogether gloomy as she gets to spend time with her kids.

Maribeng mirrors thousands of women in Botswana scrambling to balance work and household obligations. She is also one of the million others the world over- jostling childcare and working from home.

This has heightened calls for companies to be more family friendly and supportive towards the transition to work from home.

According to Claire Hastwell of Great Place to Work Us,  working parents could be helped by  ensuring they are able to get equipment they need to build home offices, and by streaming services, books, toys, or other supplies to keep their children occupied and entertained”.

Working from home is not all nightmarish for all. In certain quarters and depending on the nature of work, it is quite enjoyable and yielding fruits.

Business support executive at Mascom Wireless, Kebadile Wasenda has been at her most productive since the telecommunications company entrenched working from home in its system, after the nationwide lockdown. Basically, she has not experienced much differences between the two set ups save for having meals readily available at home as compared to leaving the office to buy food.

“Our systems are tailored in such a way that working from home is made easy,” she says.

“I have realized that working from home has somewhat increased my productivity since there are no distractions. The moment I sit down to work at 8 am I leave the workstation at 5pm after accomplishing the day’s work” says Wasenda.

As she does not have children yet, GP Online wanted to understand how she cares for her physical being as she risks overworking.

“I do take into consideration my physical health such that I work out in the evenings, I also stretch in between work to avoid straining my body” she adds.

Leading business executive with over 20 years in the areas of human resource management and strategic management inter alia, Matlhogonolo Mponang says working from home during the pandemic is a wakeup call that the world of work is evolving and employees ought to be viewed as whole beings.

“It is fast awakening businesses that had no practical reference to flexible working that it can be done. It is further validating this truism to those that have been doing it all along” she says.

The pandemic, she says- has forced those that have ostensibly refused to view the world as a whole to do so. Working parents like Maribeng ought to be seen in their wholesomeness- as both employees, content generators and parents.

“There is a huge opportunity for companies to cut on overhead costs while reaping the benefits of being output based- rather than presenteeism based and to allow workers to curate their lives around their regular lives- whilst showing up at work as more complete beings.”