About eight in 10 Kenyans believe that working from home is ineffective, a survey conducted by Consumer Insight Africa has revealed, even as employers increasingly ask their staff to work from home in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has drastically changed the way business is conducted.
The poll released Thursday shows that 81 percent of Kenyan workers interviewed are of the view that working from home is unproductive.
Only a meagre two percent felt productive working from home while three per cent of the 1,083 respondents said their productivity had remained the same. The survey was conducted between March 28 and 31.
This looks set to hurt the overall productivity of companies at a time when over 50 percent of staff in many firms are working from home to reduce the probability of spreading the virus which has infected 184 people and killed seven in Kenya. Another 13 have been reported as having fully recovered.
The findings also upend the ongoing thinking that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, but also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles.
It is viewed as a win-win situation that both workers and employers welcome on account of its flexibility and for its potential to improve work-life balance for employees.
“For 81 percent of office goers, working at home was ineffective with a skew to females and those in business,” says the Consumer Insights Africa poll released on Thursday.
About 85 percent of the female workers said they were unproductive while working remotely compared to males at 80 percent.
Self-employed workers offered a worse verdict on working from home with 85 percent saying they were unproductive compared 79 percent for those in employment.
Kenya has suspended international passenger travel, closed schools indefinitely, closed bars and golf clubs and imposed a daily dusk-to-dawn curfew as well as banning public gatherings to curb the spread of the virus that has infected 1.5 million people globally, killing close to 90,000. Another 34,000 have recovered.
On Monday, the government also barred movement into and out of the four counties most affected by the virus, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi. Restrictions for Nairobi started on Monday and in the coastal counties on Wednesday evening.
Restriction on movements
Tougher restriction on movements look set to hurt Kenya’s economic output, which analysts led by management consultants McKinsey & Company expect will shrink by five percent in what will represent a $10 billion (Sh1 trillion) loss if the coronavirus pandemic is not contained.
Sectors such as tourism and horticulture, the two leading sources of foreign exchange, have already been hit hard by the ban on international travel. The outbreak has also disrupted supply chains and local production.
Kenya’s economic growth is expected to slow down to three percent or less this year from an earlier forecast of 6.1 percent due to the economic shocks of the novel coronavirus, according to Treasury estimates. This is expected to lead to job cuts as well as under-employment.
Consumer Insight Africa says 21 percent of those polled have seen their incomes drop to zero since Kenya announced its first case of coronavirus on March 13. Another 61 percent have seen their income drop while 17 percent of those interview said their pay has remained unchanged. Only one percent of those polled have seen their income rise, reflecting the impact of the virus on workers’ pay.
A reduction in incomes invariably leads to depressed consumer spending and ultimately hits firms’ sales, not to mention a reduction in income tax collections.
Kenya announced tax cuts on March 25 including on corporation, personal income and sales levy for small and mid-sized traders, to protect the economy against the coronavirus
The tax changes, to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday, are geared at lowering the cost of basic goods while providing workers with additional income for spending to boost consumption.
Of the respondents who said their productivity had dropped as a result of working from home, 41 percent said they were spending more time watching pay TV and movies. Another 34 percent increased their spending on entertainment. On age distribution, more young employees said they were working remotely compared to their older counterparts. Some 86 percent of workers under 25 years said they were on out-of-office duty while 77 percent of those aged above 35 said they were working from home.
A lower productivity is a double loss to companies that have invested in tools like laptops and internet data to ease remote working.
As people disperse to their homes to work and study because of the coronavirus pandemic, taking their laptops and company data with them, cyber security experts say hackers will follow, seeking to take advantage and infiltrate corporations.
Many workers are moving their employers’ data from professionally-managed corporate networks to home Wi-Fi setups protected with basic passwords.
Some organisations are loosening restrictions to allow employers to access work-critical information from their home offices, heightening the risk of information being leaked or data being compromised.
Working from home might expose employees to lower-tech threats too, including theft or loss of electronic equipment or plain human error by employees adjusting to a new environment and way of working.