Business continuity: What are possibilities?

Wednesday April 1 2020

An empty office in Kampala. Companies have

An empty office in Kampala. Companies have adapted to working from home to reduce congestion in work spaces to limit the spread of Covid19 crisis. MONITOR PHOTO 

By Justus Lyatuu

The coronavirus is testing business models in ways many might have never imagined.
Timothy Okurut, a human resource manager had to shift from reporting to an office to working from home.
He says this is in line with what has come to be known as “social distancing” and “coronavirus emergency.”
Okurut’s new working environment follows President Museveni’s directive asking people to work from home. The President also banned the use of public transport including commuter motorcycles (Boda boda).
The ban on public transport caught companies unaware. Business owners had to come to the reality that their employees would not be at work.
As the 14-day ban on public transport took effect, it was a catch 22 for business owners who struggled to save their businesses from a total shutdown. Companies had to quickly adapt to working from home to reduce congestion in work spaces over the Covid-19 crisis.

“Abiding by the President’s directive, the company up with the staff we think “critical” and remain at office and those who could work from home; I fell in that category of those that could work from home,” he said.
The new phenomenon of working remotely saw several companies shift from recommending that their employees work from home to issuing mandatory policies in the wake of rising cases of Covid-19.
But what are the real possibilities that a company could effectively stay afloat and efficient during these hard times?
Business experts Prosper Magazine talked to say business continuity at this time is possible for some companies while it would be difficult for others but the whole ‘working from home’ idea is achievable.

Mr Michael Niyitegeka, an IT expert at Clarke University, says all businesses need a business continuity plan and structure.
He explains that employees should know what structures they will be working with, how they will be evaluated and rewarded. He also argues that this is the time to test employees’ integrity.
“This concept is not something to rush for, questions must be asked. What are the targets how will the evaluation be done and what environment are employees going to work in among others,” he says.
Mr Niyitegeka believes that if the questions above are answered, then most companies can continue in business while employees are at home.

Mr Charles Ocici, the executive director at Enterprise Uganda, admits that working at home is totally a new culture in Uganda. But if well-planned and executed, it is the only way companies can stay in business during this time.
“Conventional ways of operations have been impacted by the Covid19 outbreak. The value of digital channels, products and operations becomes unavoidable,” he says.
For Ocici, rule number one is making the targets clear and making employees own up responsibilities of the targets set taking in mind that there will be minimal supervision.
“The customer remains the same; they will not want to know whether you are at home, their needs must always be met,” he says.
Ocici added: “Team work and coordination in different areas is vital or else customers will not be served.”

He also explains; “Respond to email, calls as they come in, for the supervisors, leadership, authorisation, guidance should be available instantly.”
But which business can allow employees work at home and stay effective? Ocici says the biggest beneficiaries would be non-service businesses.
Some industries such as those in manufacturing, security, construction, retail are naturally less suited for working at home. However, others can.
“If you are selling grocery, stationery, clothing this will be very effective, people can order as you deliver. But for services like hospitals, pharmacies, it is a bit hard but you can only deal with essential stuff,” he says.
Mr Niyitegeka adds; “In newsrooms, the paper can continue with some of you at home, what will be needed is the infrastructure that is internet, data, airtime and portal where you put your stories.”

What is needed?
Mr Niyitegeka explains that this is the time to embrace technology if the company is to continue operating.
“By technology I mean the computers, laptops, internet, interconnections and other channels of communication, the companies must be ready to invest in that; if right resources are availed things can go well,” he said.
Niyitegeka adds; “For instance, many of us are using Gmail but don’t know that it has a lot of applications for Small and Medium Businesses and corporate companies; Google Suite can enable business continuity at this time.”
In addition to technology, Mr Ocici says time management and social media discipline will be very important.

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“The team must learn time management. There is a lot of information trending on social media about Covid-19, this can be destructive and time consuming, when one decides to work at home, some discipline must be observed.”
Ocici believes that at office, some companies have the ability to control and monitor social media something which might be hard when one is at home.
“Additionally, let people at home that from 8am-1pm is working time, sometimes you need to dress like any other working day, let that room or balcony be known as the office.”

Mr Ocici also says employees should understand that their pay will come even if they are working at home.
Mr Niyitegeka says for this to succeed, businesses need cheaper Internet and other essentials.
“The whole transformation can be expensive. Unfortunately, policy makers are asking people to work from home. But we are still paying taxes on calls and Internet. Government should cushion companies,” he said.
Guidelines must be followed.

Tech is your ally
Mr Niyitegeka explained that this is the time to embrace technology if the company is to continue operating.
“By technology I mean the computers, laptops, internet, interconnections and other channels of communication, the companies must be ready to invest in that; if right resources are availed things can go well,” he said.
Niyitegeka added; “For instance, many of us are using Google mail (Gmail) but we don’t know that that it has a lot of applications for Small and Medium Businesses and corporate companies; Google Suit can enable business continuity at this time.”

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