EOH's Malisha Awunor on how to help employees acclimate to remote working

Malisha says employees have adjusted to remote working far better than was expected.

EOH HR director Malisha Awunor observed that one of the biggest challenges experienced by employees in the initial phase of the national lockdown was around the lack of childcare, further complicated by home-schooling and additional household chores.

"We tried to ease the stress of this challenge for our employees through our change management company, from within the EOH group, which began REO TV. This involved running activities for children and parents via Zoom," explains Malisha, In the time since lockdown began, Malisha and her team have been able to put together a remote working playbook in which there are mandatory AFK (Away from keyboard) periods - a standard practice whereby employees can set one hour every day in their calendar during which they will not be available.

Malisha says employees had embraced remote working and she is pleased with their willingness to adapt to support the business. 

EOH was among the first companies to announce salary cuts in the wake of the Covid-19 and the impact of the national lockdown. However, the company has been very progressive in how it has responded to the new world of remote working, ensuring employees stay engaged and able to continue to service clients.  

"The biggest challenge with this new world of work is that it has become more difficult to set boundaries and unplug, and we are fortunate to have our CEO, Stephen Van Coller, who believes that people should be allowed to be more flexible with their working hours in order to accommodate the demands of their home life, while still delivering their necessary outputs," says Malisha. 

Stephen also hosts weekly  'Watercooler' sessions, which are informal chats about the business, Covid-19 and information which empowers and informs EOH employees. These have been introduced to make up for the social engagement that employees used to have with or another in an office environment. People can suggest topics for discussion ahead of time, those who are interested in a discussion about the latest research around Covid-19, for example, can join in. There is also a sales component to the Watercooler sessions whereby teams can present their latest product and service solution, as well as client projects that are underway in the organisation. 

"We also have 'Wellness Wednesday', a weekly session in which experts host webinar-style presentations about wellness issues, helping our people to stay informed about everything from the stigma around Covid-19 to the challenges around maintaining a work-life balance. The sessions have also included guidance on how to manage change and how to manage finances," she says. 

EOH has run several surveys since the beginning of the lockdown and the feedback from these has led to a shift in our performance management processes to one where we monitor primarily output rather than anything else. 

"We also received feedback around occupational health and safety issues with some employees reporting back pain, for example, due to not having the right furniture working at home. To address this we started letting employees collect furniture from the office so that they have the right chairs, screens to enable a better work-from-home experience." 

Malisha says EOH recently held its first People and Culture Imbizo, which was virtually attended by 1,700 employees and saw the company launch an entirely new Employee Value Proposition, a restructured performance management process, and wellness initiatives that were more in line with the new world of remote working.

"Another thing we launched is an initiative called ‘Rise Up’, which is a re-skilling and upskilling programme through which every employee at every level in the organisation can learn new skills like coding or website design. We believe that skill agility will help minimise job losses," concludes Malisha.