The public transport problems being experienced in Kenya are likely to cost the economy billions of shillings, as most employees remain at home as the strike continues. Yet there are ways of getting your job done without physically reporting to the office.
What many businesses in Kenya need to understand is that work and workstations are not Siamese twins. One can do without another. You can be at work but not at your workstation.
Government efforts to expand access to broadband are actually changing lives. A large percentage of employees in the office simply get to the office and sit behind the computer, an activity companies do not realise is not restricted to location or geographical space.
In an age when everyone is busy talking about getting connected to the cloud, companies continue to rely on on-site machines that simply mean more expenses when it comes to software licenses.
According to a poll byReuters, approximately one in five workers worldwide, especially employees in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, telecommute each week and nearly 10 percent work from home every day. In the United States, over 100,000 federal employees are telecommuters, with about 15,000 of them tele-working three to four days a week.
Distrust between employees and employers, even in the developed world, has hampered efforts to transform the working environment. In the United States, statistics show that out of about 50 million employees who can easily telecommute only about 2.5 million have opened up to the idea of working from home.
Statistics on how many Kenyan government employees actually telecommute to work are not available, but the number is unlikely to be significant. The government has been slow in the adoption of cloud services.
But why the low adoption of an idea that is both cost effective as well as efficient?
According to Klaus Kneale, telecommuting is bad for the environment. He says people who telecommute end up using as much fuel as those in the office, and that there is a tendency for teleworkers to fix lunch dates and run other errands that they could not have done in the office.
“The commute between home and work accounts for only 20% of all car travel, and telecommuters often drive into work a couple of times a week anyway,” he says. “Plus, there are those extra trips to have lunch with friends, run errands or just get out of the house. It often comes down to cabin fever.”
Jack Aiello, a professor with Rutgers University, says telecommuting is not for everyone.
“Some people just can’t [telecommute]; they get too lonely,” he says.
Yet according to research by Sun Computer Systems, which has over 19,000 employees telecommuting, employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles.Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time. Commuting was more than 98 percent of each employee’s carbon footprint, compared to less than 1.7 percent of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.
And with public service vehicles striking at least once every couple of years the time has come for companies to rethink the whole idea of an office, moving it from between four walls to a virtual environment of experience and skills that can be used to generate money, no matter where employees are geographically.