There is a simmering debate over work-from-home versus work-from-office arrangements in this new era; the impact the two setups are having on professional women, especially considering their traditional roles as mothers and wives.
Some telecommuters opine that the organisations they work for have normalised overworking employees hence are unfairly profiting from the ‘new normal.’
They report experiencing burnout as a result of supervisors micromanaging them – being overly monitored and asked to carry out tasks outside of working hours or taking on deceased colleagues’ workload, which impacts negatively on their personal or family life, therefore are yearning for the ‘pre-pandemic normal’.
Conversely, some women don’t fancy the idea of returning to the office at all. They say they’ve since realised that there’s absolutely nothing favourable about the traditional setup.
Interestingly, for those who’ve never enjoyed what they view as the luxury of working from home, the added stresses of not being given a choice to avoid or lessen exposure to the virus is unbearable, especially for those who aren’t necessarily essential services staffers.
Voice Woman spoke to a few of the professionals to weigh in on this discussion.
Olebogeng Molatlhegi – Director of Jaole Investments ( Pty) Ltd
Working from home or remotely for me is a challenge and again a blessing. My daily duties requires visiting clients across, therefore, I tend to have enough time to see clients at their convenience since some of them are also working from home therefore meeting them is not much of a challenge.
It was expensive to set up a mini office to work from home, which required Internet connection so that I am able to work virtually and send all the necessary documentation from home.
I also get to have meetings with my team, if they are connected, and sometimes they tend to switch their networks off with pretext that the network is poor; that’s the challenge I face although not so often.
Mosetsanagape Lorato – Operations Manager
Working from home has been quite liberating for me as I have the freedom to work smart and focus on more important tasks.
This has increased productivity and job flexibility as opposed to working from the office where there’s so many distractions from colleagues and office chatter.
The other advantage of virtual work is that there is no commute to work; some respite from the draining Gaborone traffic, which also means more money in the bank as I spend significantly less on fuel. The only con with virtual work is overworking.
Daily, unplanned virtual meetings are distractive as they change my daily plan. This can lead to burnout and increased work-related stress.
I would not want to go back to office work after Covid-19 vaccination as I have already adjusted so well to virtual work.
I would not want the risk of Covid-19 reinfections and the accompanying anxiety due to colleagues’ hospitalisations
Goabaone Mpedi – Mining Sector employee
Working hours are now longer; I get work related calls earlier than 8am and late into the night. Colleagues have a habit of calling at odd hours and expect me to assist because they know I have my laptop at home.
I have picked that while we work according to normal working times, some people attend to personal business during the day and start work late and when they need something from you, they expect you to also work.
Some meetings are set for at lunch hour or beyond end of business yet it never used to happen at the office.
I sometimes get work calls on weekends. I think one thing that employers don’t realise is that they are saving costs by having us at home as utilities bills have gone down therefore we shouldn’t be expected to work much longer hours and use electricity they don’t pay for.
There isn’t a balance cause work takes a lot of time, I’ve seen myself sitting next to hubby and we would be both on the laptops and hardly talking because we are trying to focus.
My children have complained about us always working.
Unfortunately my employers were already looking at digital transformation to consider working remotely pre-pandemic and now the project is at an advanced stage.
Thato Moahi – Videographer
I’m in a Technical Support Services division, which means my office has to always be on standby.
My office mate was also transferred to a different department so Audio Visual Unit was on standby.
I was okay being back at work as the lockdown was too long. Most of my colleagues were working in shifts every other week, so I really enjoyed the peace and quiet in the office; there were fewer phone calls and people coming into my office.
As a creative, a distraction can derail me from a brilliant idea in a second, that’s why I work best at night because my focus is usually heightened.
So, working from the office with less distractions means I’m more focused thus productive because the environment was conducive.
Advice from an HR Manager
Multiple organisations have adopted a hybrid model inter alia (staggered shift patterns) in order to circumvent the proliferation of infected persons.
Personnel have inadvertently had to make use of their homes and privates spaces in order to complete pressing assignments and projects that more often than not, require a high level of collaboration.
Although some individuals may be revelling in the new norm of working from home, this mode of operating does present challenges such as fatigue and will need to be managed in order to maintain a productive workforce.
It goes without saying that something that cannot be measured or left unnoticed cannot be managed.
For that reason, it is important for employers and employees to make a concerted effort in establishing a manner in which common issues of job satisfaction, workload and psychological health can be addressed in a healthy and unobtrusive manner.
Employee Wellness Managers, qualified Psychologists and professionals with a similar background have experience in utilising validated psychological instruments and may be considered an official agent of change.
Some organisations, however, may not be in a position to invest in these tools and will therefore need to consider other agents of change to deploy.
One element may be a more robust Employee Value Proposition/Incentives in order to maintain employee satisfaction.
This may be in the form job rotation, more effective delegation, increasing employee autonomy and establishing clear boundaries.