The Covid-19 crisis was unexpected but our move to start working from home was planned.
We held several meetings. We talked about the transition and picked the remote working tools we would need.
However, even with all the planning and tools, some things still went wrong.
As app developers in Kenya, we focused more on the technical side of our work.
In this article, we share some of the issues that have slowed our team members down.
1. New family dynamics
Yes, we knew and read about distractions from family members while working from home.
Distractions are a large part of current discussions on working from home.
However, the kind of dynamics we are talking about has nothing to do with kids crawling onto the workstation.
We are not even talking about the abrupt talks, calls, or unplanned meals but a new family setting.
Kids are at home, not on holiday, but with instruction of homeschooling. Hence, working parents have to spend part of their day as teachers.
Most of us rarely take our work home unless if we have unfinished projects.
Unfortunately, children do not understand the new dynamics of having working parents at home. The result is resentment.
Covid-19 has also come with safety measures including isolation. We cannot send them to play outside as much or bond without constantly asking them to wash their hands.
Parents are also acting as counsellors to assure the kids of their safety and health.
We have to interpret the constant news headlines, while still trying to maintain our office-like work schedule.
We have talked about the parents in our team. They have new family issues to deal with while still working.
However, a good number of staff members are single, which means that they live alone.
Work is a good distraction but it cannot replace normal interactions with the outside world.
Going out of the house means taking a risk to contact an infected person or surface.
We have enough communication tools even for video conferencing. However, we cannot chat online all day.
Virtual conversations and meetings are effective but lack so many aspects of face-to-face conversations.
While we do the best we can with the internet, we have to be honest about the loneliness that comes with remote working.
Loneliness has also led to this next challenge.
3. Prolonged working hours
If you cannot go out as usual, the next best thing for app developers in Kenya is to keep working.
Software development can keep you busy all day and night if you love it.
The upside of it is that you get many projects done within a short time.
The downside of it is the toll on your wellness. Rest is as important as physical exercises.
We often stop working because we have to leave the office. Now, there is nothing stopping us from working into the night.
The result has been distracted working hours for the team.
It is impossible to work all night and be effective the following day.
Consequently, we have had to adjust our virtual meetings to a time when everyone is available during the day.
Some team members are also discovering their preference to work at night, especially parents with young kids.
4. Internet connection issues
Are we saying that we ignored possible internet disconnections? No. We have quite a number of reliable internet providers in Kenya.
Part of our discussions before breaking from the office was a reliable internet connection for every staff member.
However, the demand for internet services has gone up with the coronavirus crisis.
Many people are working from home. Internet providers faced a sudden increase in demand for their services.
Consequently, it is now taking longer for service providers to solve connection issues.
In addition, the service providers have to think about the health and safety of their employees as well.
The number of staff members working per time has reduced.
Hence, even with the best internet connection, we have had downtimes for some members.
Developing mobile apps and websites requires fast internet throughout the day or working session.
You do not sit and plan to be anxious. However, anxiety is a reality that we are contending with every day.
We are not oblivious of the effects of the crisis on businesses. We care about our current and future clients.
Every update from the ministry of health leaves a question in our minds.
When will all this be over?
No one can predict with accuracy when we shall resume normal operations.
In addition, team members are also anxious about their health.
The risk of infection is real. Spending time in mandatory quarantine is the last thing one wants to think about at this time.
Yet, we have these questions in our minds as we take all the necessary precautions.
It is not just exploring remote working from home. We have a health crisis that can affect any of our team members at any time.
If you are working from home as we are, chances are that you have encountered some or even all of these challenges.
We are not even talking about the normal distractions and need to subscribe to working tools.
The extent to which the challenges affect the performance of the team depends on your response.
As app developers in Kenya, we have done the following to overcome these challenges:
i)Accountability: Our team members are accountable to each other concerning their health and wellness. Our online chats and calls are not limited to work-related issues. We talk about the loneliness, anxiety, and social distancing issues that have come with the transition to remote working.
ii)Taking small steps: We have come to appreciate that implementing such sudden change takes time. Staff members need to understand this and start making small changes every day to master a new working schedule. Working in the midst of distractions is not easy. The resentment from family members can also slow you down. Our approach has been making small but consistent changes in our workflow until we find a flow that works for everyone.
iii?Accurate information: Lack of information in a crisis always leads to anxiety. We stay updated on the current news but also on the best precautionary measures. Team members share accurate information about the crisis and steps to take in case of an infection.
Some of the challenges that come with remote working are unavoidable. Learn from our experience. If you intend to work from home, you will encounter one or several of these challenges. Create a plan with possible solutions that will ensure that any issues that arise do not affect your performance significantly.