The Corona virus pandemic has forced several nations around the globe, including Uganda, to consider the option of working from home. But how should this essential step be handled by employers during disasters as they tackle such a raging pain in the foot?
Dr Sarah Nabakka of KCCA, says employers are ultimately in charge of their workers’ safety.
“As the employer, you should ensure that you equip them with knowledge, and protective wear for their immediate safety,” she advises.
Dennis Ojambo, a health safety and environmental engineer at Osheq & Business solutions, agrees that disasters and emergencies can have devastating impacts on an organisation, but with advanced planning, organisations can be able to withstand them and thrive.
He adds that using the process approach, and in consultation with relevant stakeholders, organisations should follow steps for initial risk assessment. These include identifying the sources of danger or hazards; identifying the people and property that might be affected, evaluating the risk, and deciding on mitigation measures or precautions; recording the significant findings, implement mitigation measures and testing the mitigation measures regularly.
After establishing that there is a problem, Ojambo says the need to raise awareness to the staff and other stakeholders about the danger or hazard is paramount.
He, however, cautions that this should be done without causing fear. “It’s important to prove that you’re in control of the situation, to boost the workers confidence,” he says.
He advises that the employers should share accurate information about the disaster.
To be sure, this can be achieved by consulting the appropriate government bodies, responsible for handling emergencies.
Sending workers home
Ojambo says given a scenario where they have to work from home, more steps need to be taken.
“For the employees to be able to work from home, employers need to provide necessary resources like computers, modems, training etc,” he notes.
And Dr Nabakka echoes that when the calamity keeps persisting, then there is strong reason for employees to work from home.
She, however, says this should not be the case for the entire organisation as it depends on what type of role each respective employee performs.
“Some people can work online at home but for cases of those who are needed to make interface (such as the health workers), then they have to be around to do emergency work,” she states.
Ojambo concurs with this saying that for example, most of the manufacturing processes require physical presence of operators; and therefore, it is practically impossible to let everyone go.
For those whose jobs require them to operate from work stations, Dr Nabakka suggests that employers ought to review those worker’s remunerations. “As the employer, you need to advocate for their risk allowances. And in fact for us (at KCCA), that’s what we normally do,” She advises.
Some employers are undeniably unsure of the productivity of some employees in such a situation. This is because after employees take permission to go work from home, what happens to the lazy ones?
Ojambo advises that “Seek employees consent and set applicable guidelines for working from home, together with them”.
He suggests that conducting regular online meetings or telephone conversations to receive feedback from employees is important, as well as sharing emergency contact information with them.
“While working from home, employees need to notify whoever they stay with for support. This can be a request to let them concentrate without interruption, or minimising of external noises,” he notes.
And lastly, if the situation returns to normal, Dr Nabakka says employees can then be allowed to return to their stations.
“The workers can be allowed to return when the conditions are free and there’s no sign of further threat,” she says.