April 20, 2020

Embracing the New Virtual Workplace During Uncertain Times

To date (20 April 2020), 210 countries and territories have reported a total of 2,407,439 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that originated from Wuhan, China, and a death toll of 165,073. Kenya has had 270 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.

The immediate health concerns being faced have been compounded by the global economic effect of COVID-19. Quarantine, travel bans and restrictions, closed regional and national borders, curfews and lockdowns have had a severe impact on many industries.

Following the advice and guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation, the Kenyan government has asked institutions, businesses and companies to allow learners and employees to work from home, "with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services". To a large extent, the businesses that have, until now, survived the shock have been the ones that have been able to maintain their operations in the virtual space.

What is a virtual workspace?

virtual workplace is not located in any one physical space. It is usually in a network of several workplaces technologically connected through the Internet without regard to geographic boundaries. This means that, with access to the right connectivity, employees can interact in a Collaborative Working Environment regardless of their physical location. Essentially, a virtual workplace integrates hardware, people, and online processes.

The challenge for SMEs – adapting to the ‘new normal’

Thanks to increasingly affordable connectivity and continuous innovations in software technology, transitioning to a remote work environment has never been easier. SMEs that are able to move their operations into the virtual realm have a number of important things to consider before investing this new way of working.

The first step is to set and communicate your virtual office structure. Generally, employees expect to be paid based on the number of hours they work. A virtual office, however, requires both leaders and employees to look at job duties from a new, outcomes-based perspective. The focus of business should shift toward quality and quantity over time. When setting expectations for a virtual company, it’s important that all employees understand these expectations.

It’s also a good idea to consider how the change will impact how your business is run. Do you have the right communication strategies in place to make remote work possible? Are you prepared to invest in the tools a virtual office needs to succeed?

Online tools

Taking advantage of the available technology is a vital part of maintaining an effective virtual office.

  • Stay connected: It’s key that a remote team stays in contact. Tools like Microsoft Office Teams, Zoom, Skype for Business, BlueJeans and others make team communications attainable. When choosing what to use, think about your needs. Do you need video chat? Text chat?
  • Project management: Tools like Dropbox, WeTransfer and Smartsheets make managing projects of all kinds easier, especially for virtual teams. Project management tools will keep your team connected and organised.
  • Project-specific tools: What does your team need to succeed? Adobe Suite? CRM? Cloud-based graphic design tools? Industry-specific software? It’s crucial that you identify the required project-specific tools before you move your operations to the virtual space.

Getting connected

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, SEACOM is committed to helping local businesses navigate the unchartered territory that lies ahead. As an essential services provider, SEACOM has the capability to support and help businesses keep their operations going during this difficult time and continues to operate on a 24/7, 365-day cycle.

SEACOM leverages cloud technology to equip small to medium enterprises with cost-effective, simple-to-integrate business tools that rapidly extend their reach. SMEs can take their business to the next level with flexible, scalable and ultra-fast connectivity and cloud solutions, supported by standard-setting Service Level Agreements for extra peace of mind.

The full weight of the pandemic on East Africa's largest economy is yet to be felt, however one thing is clear – the ability of SMEs to weather the current storm is going to be largely dependent on whether or not they have access to affordable and reliable Internet connectivity.