What work will look like in future

Tuesday March 17 2020

Working remotely in addition to flexible

Working remotely in addition to flexible working schedules are defining the new workplace. 

By Eronie Kamukama

Work is where the smartphone or laptop is and no one knows this better than Daniel Namanya. Lately, the academic administrator at the African Leadership University believes he can work from anywhere in the world, as long as he does not have a face-to-face meeting.
Over a half of employees globally, are working outside their main office headquarters for at least two and a half days a week as per the IWG global workplace survey.

This growth is not entirely attributed to worker demand but to business owners who now see it as a conduit for attracting and retaining top talent at companies given its ability to improve work-life balance, reduce hours on the daily commute and improve output.

Namanya says working remotely allows workers to do much more. But there is more to this trend of working.

“It puts a lot of responsibility on oneself to make sure you are holding yourself accountable and to perform without being managed or micro managed. The downside is if you are less innovative and self-driven, you will be bored soon and that might affect your work rate,” he says.

The office is traditionally where all administrative work has been done for centuries. It is where most of us spend much of our lifetime typing away, sending instructive emails, coordinating business on both mobile phones and landlines. This is changing with trends like remote working, gig economy, digital nomadism and flexible work hours and spaces.

Namanya says tying employees to the work station is a thing of the past much as it is still practised in many organisations.

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“Companies will soon not be able to pay for the services of some of the most skilled individuals. Allowing them to work on flexible schedule is the way to go. Besides, your company does not want to have ‘seat warmers’ just in the name of counting heads. Let them loose and demand work to be put in or they do not get the job,” he explains.

Mr Douglas Opio, executive director Federation of Uganda Employees could not agree more. He believes these work trends are leading more towards self-employment which is changing the nature of employment relationship.

“This implies contracts need to take these changing trends into account. There needs to be provision of social protection and maximising labour productivity,” he says.

What is changing?
The way we work, where we work from, how long we work, even the way we find our jobs are not the only things changing. Some say the trends are a huge departure from traditionally known services due to technological disruption, to new industries entirely.

“The merging of software engineering applications and work is emerging strongly as seen in companies like Safe Boda which employs over 13,000 people indirectly through gig work and over 150 staff directly. Also, this includes businesses like Jumia and the strong emergence of innovation hubs,” Mr Joseph Ajal, secretary general Human Resource Managers’ Association of Uganda says.

Banking services are now on the phone, over the internet and point of sale terminals as opposed to brick and mortar. Teaching is moving from classrooms to online applications.

Also, new job roles are emerging and they will require new skills. The 2018 World Economic Forum report on Sub-Saharan Africa indicates there are emerging skills including analytical thinking and innovation, creativity, originality and initiative, active learning and learning strategies, technology design and programming, complex problem solving, critical thinking and analysis, leadership and social influence, reasoning, emotional intelligence, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

“All jobs are at risk except for industries that power essential services like food and agriculture, transport, medical care and education but even these are being disrupted by speed of innovation like in meditech, speed to market, scalability of products and services for increased revenue and efficiency and effectiveness.

Even journalism is not spared. This interview has taken place purely on technology. The only key is in agility and adaptability to change and staying ahead of the disruption curve,” Mr Ajal explains.

Some of the people who have adapted to this new trend share their insights;

Daniel Namanya, Remote working: Academic administrator, African Leadership University

My work schedule is 8am to 5pm but the catch here is we have what we call hot seats. There is nothing like “this is my office and this is where I sit.

If I have a call to make across campus, then I might not need to be present but out of the comfort of my home or on the bus or in coffee shop, I can still make that call with all the other teams.

Peninah Nagasha, Gig work: Uber Driver
The project I was working on under an NGO (Non-governmental organisation ended so I opted for Uber since I had a car.
I was worried about security being a woman driving, and drunk people since I work day and night. We were making good money but with increase in competition, things have changed.
Prices were reduced so the only way to make money is work day and night. The target is high if you are to start earning.

It benefits us because we are surviving, though not so much. We are doing this job because there are no jobs in Uganda. If they were there, some of us would not be doing this or would do it as a side hustle.
To make it, one has to have targets and work towards achieving them. We are expected to be self-driven. No one asks you why you have not worked so if you sleep, finances sleep too.

Hannington Musoke, Flexible work hours: Federation of Africa University Sports
We do not work hours but assignments. We are supposed to work 8:00am - 5:00pm. I set monthly and weekly targets.

I choose whether to stay late and complete the tasks of the week in a few days, or stay them. We prefer not to keep an idle mind, so a person can leave when they feel they are not in the right mood to deliver but return any time when they want to. We agreed with my direct supervisor that effectiveness is better than me sitting at station for a whole day.

This freedom makes one work longer hours unknowingly because you are driven by ability. The best way to work is task based. I am more productive this way, though it requires a great deal of personal drive and discipline.

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