How to ensure a smooth Work from Home
modality for your team during COVID-19
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Afghanistan by surprise. While we hear a lot about the difficulties and adjustments made by the medical community, what we don’t hear so much of are the difficulties and adjustments made by the Afghan labor market, and particularly the private sector. Like many Afghan firms, due to electricity and internet issues, as well as logistical issues such as lack of adequate space, prior to COVID-19, ACE’s working modality has always been in person, office-based work. But, like many Afghan firms, when COVID-19 hit, our team was forced to adopt a work from home modality immediately-without any practice, pilot, or transition period. We faced the choice to either making work from home work for us, or to close our office for some time. Were we nervous? Yes. Did we think it probably wouldn’t work? Definitely. But sometimes being forced to try new things is what drives innovation and positive change.
And guess what? After almost a month of fully implementing a work from home modality for our staff, we can proudly say that it has been a raving success! Of course, we face many issues, some of which we highlight in the below tips, but our team has been able to overcome almost all of them and successfully adapt to a new working environment. We are by no means work from home experts, but we do have some firsthand experience and lessons learned about rolling out a full work from home modality for 80+ staff in Kabul and regional hubs across Afghanistan-which is why we are writing this article. Below, we present some of key lessons learned from and recommendations for Afghan firms to have a successful experience rolling out a work from home modality in the current COVID-19 context.
For more targeted support during your business’ transition to a work from home modality, including online trainings, team management during work from home, and work from home strategy and implementation plan design, contact our HR Solutions team today at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the meantime, we hope you benefit from the below tips and guidelines as much as we have.
- Schedule regular (weekly, bi-weekly) catch-up calls with your team. It helps to keep continuity and connection. This can also help to ensure your team’s equipment (internet, computer, phone, etc.) required to work from home is functioning properly. It can also be a good tool to get updates about the spread of COVID-19 in more remote areas (if you have provincial teams) where there is not much news coverage, hear your team’s current and possible future challenges, plan the week’s activities and assign roles, review your team’s performance from the past week, and provide consultations and solutions for your team.
- Update your team’s working schedule weekly based on ground realities (challenges encountered by team members, government measures in response to COVID-19 – including lockdowns or other movement restrictions), and the COVID-19 situation in your team’s area on a weekly basis. This will ensure the quality of performance and at the same time permit you to fluidly from full office work to semi-work from home to full work from home based on ground realities.
- Train your employees or provide tips and guidance on working from home. In the Afghan context there is limited knowledge about and experience of working from home and many times it is misunderstood as a holiday or non-official working day. By properly preparing your staff, your staff will be better able to organize themselves to work from home effectively.
- Try to create the same platforms for social interaction that you used to have in person at the office. Options can be Skype chat groups, Whatsapp Groups, Google hangout groups, etc. This will help to keep the connection between the team and will help to check your employees’ attendance and availability.
- Send regular encouragement to your team, either through e-mail, Whatsapp, SMS, Skype chat, etc. Also, encourage all team members to send them to each other. These can be positive messages, work from home tips, funny jokes, inspiring photos, etc. This will help to keep the team spirit high while separated from each other.
- Clearly communicate expectations to your team, and especially line staff, during Work from Home. Don’t expect 100% quality from WFH as you did from work from the office. Be flexible to the variation of progress and quality at times.
- Regarding frequent electricity and internet issues in Afghan homes:
- Be flexible with your team. Suggest to them:
- working at flexible hours (i.e. if there is no electricity in the morning, but it comes back in the evening, allow them to do their work in the evening and take a break in the morning),
- doing whatever work they can (like brainstorming for a new project, or making a list of tasks) using non-electronic resources, like a pen and paper
- Support your team by providing the following resources for them, on an as-needed basis:
- increased cell phone data plans that they can use for internet connection
- external chargers for their smartphones
- additional laptop batteries
- Distractions at home are unavoidable. Instruct team members to prevent them as much as possible (i.e. by separating themselves in another room, wearing headphones and listening to music, clarifying which family members will take care of children, etc.) but if distractions arrive even after preventative measures, don’t stress over them. Take a small break from work and deal with them fully. This will be more productive than trying to continue to work and only giving half your attention to your work and half to the distraction.
- Encourage team members to stay mentally and physically active in their homes.
- Encourage team members to stay connected to family and friends they are not able to see physically during this time through phone calls, video calls, and messaging during their free time. This will drastically improve their mental state of health during Work from Home.
For more Work from Home tips and advice, check out “The Beauty of Working from Home” photo exhibition by ACE’s co-working division, DAFTAR. The exhibition will run on DAFTAR’s Facebook and Instagram page throughout the period of Work from Home during the Kabul COVID-19 related lockdowns.