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NOW THAT WE ARE BACK IN THE OFFICE... Operating Guidelines

Posted on 11 May, 2020 at 14:20

By Kudakwashe Ngoma

The pronouncement of the relaxation of measures and restrictions on movement of all people, which was made in Zimbabwe on 2nd of May 2020, came as a welcome development for most people, tired of the inertia that came along with 5 weeks of staying indoors. For some however, it was well needed vacation cut short, there are always two sides to a coin! From the 4th of May a significant majority of the staff in the NPO sector were reporting for duty at their workplaces, albeit the ambience was most likely no longer the same old one. But, what does this level 2 mean to NPOs? What is expected of organisations and their staff? Now that we are back, what is the way forward? We shall look briefly at some operational issues to deal with.

1.      Continue High Standards of Hygiene.

This point is as critical as they come, and never be overemphasised, and that’s why it should be top of any discussion. What has been relaxed by the government of Zimbabwe are only local travel restrictions, but that does not mean in any way that the spread of the Coronavirus has been relaxed also. Organisations should continually monitor both international and national guidelines for changes in recommendations and best practice. In addition to best practices, organisations  should consider a re-occupy plan that includes a detailed response plan describing the actions to be taken if someone becomes ill with symptoms consistent with nCov19 while at work.


Depending on the size of the organisation, management should also consider establishing a team of professionals to monitor the general welfare of others and implement new nCov19 transmission risk mitigation strategies as they become available. There are several aspects that also need to be considered as we re-open our offices and workspaces to ensure both employee safety and comfort when returning to work during such a stressful time. The general office space configuration need to reviewed. You may reconfigure workstations so that employees do not face each other or install high partitions if facing each other cannot be avoided.  Consider eliminating reception seating areas, request all guests to call in advance and also temporarily remove places with high contact frequencies like watercoolers or coffeemakers.


Employees are still encouraged to use virtual meeting tools, including phone and video teleconferencing in lieu of in-person meetings whenever possible. If in-person meetings are that essential, then the number needs to be limited to minimum possible, less than 10 even for bigger rooms like conference rooms. Disinfecting all these offices and workspaces should be made a daily habit if possible. It is also important to ensure that the rooms are well ventilated and there is adequate flow of fresh air. Provision of employees’ PPE should come as second nature for all employers. The workforce needs to be adequately protected with all coverings depending with their line of work.


2.      Engage with All Stakeholders.

Clear communication will have to start with your staff, as they are the most important stakeholder. The organisation needs to adopt a communication policy that emphasizes transparency, relating information on what is being done to mitigate the spread of Covid19 (for instance, routine disinfecting), and to establish formal and informal routes of communication for employees to express their concerns, questions, comments and any feedback. This will help the employees feel safer and more comfortable coming to work, and the feedback help the organisation improve its measures. Management may also consider flexible work schedules or work from home options for staff to help during the transition, until normalcy is restored.


Management will then have to engage with all players in their supply chain, updating them of the conditions of operations and if there are due obligations then negotiate for the most favourable terms. Donors are the third group of stakeholders that will need liaising with, and again negotiate with them for restructuring the programmes work plans, repurposing funds already held and even ask for more funding. The last but also very important group will be the organisations’ core beneficiaries. If the organisation is coming up with initiatives to assist its beneficiaries during this difficult time, there will be need for engagement with them and hear what they need most and how best you can chip in with assistance. Even if the organisation has no capacity to help financially, there is still need to touch base with the beneficiaries, and even give them information at least.


3.      Staff Training

This may come as a cliché but ignorance will never be an excuse, and during our fight against nCov19, organisations need to pursue every avenue possible to conscientize the nation. Management should notify employees of new workplace policies and changes. There are several organisations offering such orientation trainings in case such know-how cannot be sourced internally. Staff will also need to be trained on new or modified working schedules, how they can stay up to date on new scheduling requirements and any other familiarities they would need in their line of work. All staff would need to receive, at minimum, awareness training on cleaning and disinfection products used in the workplace, how to evaluate their health constantly in line with the symptoms of the pandemic and also how to properly wear protective gear beyond a face mask.


4.      Audit and Review Internal Controls.

The internal audit function and finance teams have an opportunity to quickly evaluate and review the internal controls they had put in place to allow staff to work remotely, examining how effective they had been and what will need to be improved in the future. The pandemic is still around and if new infections cases rises continually, the powers that be may see it fit to announce another total lockdown, hence it is imperative to capitalise on this opportunity and improve the controls.


5.      Call us at KFM Consultants

If your organisation did not manage to get in touch with our office before the lockdown for Disaster Response Strategy Session, this is your chance again to get assistance on how your organisation can adequately respond to the pandemic and its kind. This wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last, but preparation is everything. We are a phone call away.

Contact Caroline on +263 24 2306315 or 0717 529 827 and email caroline@kfm.co.zw

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