A few years ago, if someone told you they were working, you would not need to ask the follow up question of where they were. It was automatic that work meant office. These days, however, work has changed and anyplace, any time can be turned into an individual’s workplace and time.
After Fred Katabalwa graduated with honours in Graphics Designing in 2010, he tried looking for a job to no avail. He then decided to invest in a computer and started asking people for work he could do from home.
Getting the first client was hard but he dedicated his efforts to giving his client the best possible product and from this he got more reference which helped grow his clientele. Currently, Katabalwa has a number of clients ranging from individuals to SME’s (Small and medium-sized enterprises,) that he does work for including embroidery, branding, engraving, sublimation and printing.
The enterprising graphics designer still works from home. Katabalwa is among the growing number of people that do not confine their work to a particular space but rather work from anywhere including, cafes, restaurants or home.
From a work perspective, a number of people claim to have become more productive because of not having to commute to the office and wasting time in traffic and other office rituals. They are able to get more done without distractions. The biggest benefit, however, seems to be the freedom that comes with it. Being able to make income from anywhere in the world is empowering and motivating. One chooses to work when they feel they will be most productive, which means they can have a long lunch or take the morning off.
Of course this is also the biggest downside as it is very easy to get into a cycle of doing very little work. Moses Ssesanga, the head of human resources at Nation Media Group (Uganda) admits that indeed it is a trending phenomenon, which he attributes to the changing times.
“People are shifting from having their offices in busy centres, and opting for residential areas. And yet even still, those are not necessarily offices in the traditional sense. The fact that nowadays many people are paid in proportion to what they do, there is hardly no rigidity as to having all your employees work from one enclosed space. This is good since the employer does not have to worry about tracking the performance and progress of a worker,” he says.
While people do not need to be in a physical space to work, they still need to adhere to communication and feedback.
“Working remotely is not bad, however you will be in a position where some team members are bound to behave like fake Facebook friends, not giving you who they truly are. Thus, physical interface of people working together, has extra underlying benefits,” he notes.
Martini Martin, the CEO of Snow Paints Uganda, says some individuals find it uncomfortable sometimes, to sit in an office because of the inconveniences that come with it.
“Someone by nature may be distracted by the too many people walking in and out, and somehow, they want to run away and work separately elsewhere,” he says.
Pros and cons
Because working outside of office has its pros and cons Ruth Nabembezi, the CEO of Ask without Shame, an NGO, attests that due to digitisation, the trend will not be reversed but might evolve even more.
“I am not rigid with my employees working from within or outside of office, but I will be looking to ascertain a few points. Firstly why do they want to work from outside? Secondly, is it realistic? And thirdly how they deliver,” she relates.
And although all Nabembezi’s employees do not work from outside office, she says that allowing an employee work from home depends on certain circumstances.
“Some employees are interesting. They will say that they are working from home, yet actually they are doing their own things. You may be sick; that it is understandable. But some people misuse that yet monitoring and evaluation at that point becomes a bit tricky,” she notes.
Ssesanga believes good interrelations between employer and employee can help navigate the challenge of dishonesty. And he strongly thinks that proper communication with employees can help build a self-motivated team.