Business (un)Usual in a COVID-19 world

Business (un)Usual in a COVID-19 world

6016 4016 Brenda Akinyi

In the last couple of months, the world has been adjusting and trying to find ways of coping with the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. From business owners to employees within different industries, to students and children, we’ve all found ourselves living in uncertain and unfamiliar times.

We’re kickstarting the “Business (un)Usual” series as a way for us to learn from each other’s experiences and offer support to both individuals and teams as we navigate these tough times. Each week, we speak to business leaders in different industries to understand the impact the pandemic has had on their business operations, teams, and personal lives. We have asked them to share their tried and tested work from home &  productivity tips, as well as some moments of inspiration that they have drawn from this experience.

In our first edition, we feature  Grace Njuguna, HRBP at Dentsu Aegis Network, Claire Eboi – Nga’nga Head of People at Apollo Agriculture, and Benjamin Njenga CCO & Co-Founder at Apollo Agriculture, who share their tips on how they’re finding ways to thrive in the uncertainty.

What has been the biggest impact on your day-to-day life given the recent changes due to COVID-19?

Grace: In my daily personal and work-life, there’s been less human interaction with colleagues, candidates, family, and friends. This has also increased my screen and overall gadget time with online training, meetings, and phone calls – both business and social. I’m beginning to experience some strain with my eyes and I’m having to be intentional about scheduling screen time with a much higher level of awareness on how much time I spend in front of the computer.

Claire: Working from home has been the biggest shift for me. I started working for Apollo as a remote employee and had very little face-to-face interaction with my team. This has called for constant and frequent communication with the team and the need to set clear goals to focus on. I have seen that it is possible to be productive while working from home when you develop a routine and prioritize your tasks. I also enjoy the time I get to spend with my kids during lunch hour and the lack of commute to and from the office.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business or businesses you work with (positively or negatively)?

Benjamin: One of the biggest changes for us (and for companies around the world) was the transition to remote work, which was an entirely new experience for most of our team. As a result of the lockdown, in late March we transitioned our Nairobi-based team to remote work, including our ~150 person call center.  This coincided with planting season, our busiest time of year, and we had to adapt very quickly to ensure that we continued to serve customers before the rains came (which determines when customers plant and marks the end of customer enrollment). It was very humbling to see how quickly our teams made this shift.

An unexpected implication of our approach is that we have been able to adapt fairly quickly to the new realities of COVID-19. Our low-touch, automated processes allow us to finance customers with minimal human interaction, from enrollment to pick-up, which has enabled us to continue serving our farmers despite lockdown conditions and stay-at-home requirements. We increasingly recognize that our ability to provide information, financing, and goods to small scale farmers with a light-touch approach is particularly important right now, and we feel extremely fortunate to be able to continue meeting customers’ needs.

What’s one tip you have for working remotely or for people who have to work remotely here in Kenya?

Grace: Develop a routine, stick to your 8 or 9 hours of work as you would have in the office. Keep in constant communication with other people especially if you live alone. Do not neglect eating right, exercising, and getting some fresh air (albeit with your mask on). Say/wave hello (from a distance) to your neighbors at least once a week – most of them are really nice people and this way they also know you’re alive and in good health.

Do you think that this will signify a shift to more remote work in the long run? Why or why not?

Claire: Yes, moving forward, COVID-19 could represent a revolution in terms of work patterns. As long as it can be proven that it is possible to work remotely and be productive and engaged, companies may have no choice but to embrace remote work. Employees have gotten a chance to experience days without long commutes, the flexibility of being close to home when a family member is sick, etc. As a result, companies might find that their employees do not want to return to the office once the pandemic clears. Also, considering that the majority of the workforce will be in Generation Y and Generation Z cohorts, it will be imperative for employers to incorporate remote working as part of their policies. This will provide a competitive edge and ensure that we attract, retain, and engage talent.

What’s an inspiring or motivating story you’ve seen as a result of COVID-19?

Grace: There hasn’t been just one but many that have altogether begun to paint in my view a picture of how inherently good human beings are when faced with the worst that life can offer. People giving food, masks, and sanitizers to the needy. The government reducing taxes. Businesses reducing the cost of goods and services. Students creating ventilators. Medics putting their lives on the line to treat people. Nyashinski gave us a free concert. The list is endless. Showing love in action where it matters the most.

What motivates you? Where do you find sources of motivation?

Claire: Meeting my goals and ambitions is my first motivator. I am a very ambitious person and have certain goals I need to achieve. Every quarter, I set both professional and personal goals. I also have a vision board on my wall which I look at every morning when I wake up. My second motivator is my kids. They give me a reason to work hard and be the best version of myself.

Look out for the next piece in this series where we’ll continue featuring advice, insights, and tips from business leaders on how they stay adaptable and move with change.

At Shortlist, we’re working hard to make sure individuals and companies have the support they need at this critical time.  We offer help both to companies looking to hire and to those who are seeking outplacement services to support a team that you may be transitioning.  We also have great tools for professionals at any stage of their career development journey. You can learn more about these initiatives and sign up on our platform below ⇓