It’s one thing to struggle as a new company in a large market, it’s a different gameplay when you are hit with a global pandemic as soon as the company kicks-off.
As a recruit with little work experience, my first assignment involved working with each department to understand their roles and processes, a deliberate decision taken by management to ensure maximum learning experience in the first few months before settling into my primary role as Admin/Human Resources officer.
Working with the editorial department involved interacting with different reporters with varying expertise ranging from investigations to climate and cybersecurity; it also included fieldwork participation, collating data and statistics through questionnaires and interviews, and understanding the essence of storytelling.
Moving to the IT department, I understood the basics of infographics, image editing, data mining, cleaning etc., and had the opportunity to attend the Dataphyte #OpenDataDay training.
Barely one month into the online news platform’s official launch, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was announced, derailing our plans and prospects, making us ill-equipped and unprepared for such an extreme and life-altering historical occurrence.
With the lockdown, remote work was imperative, which from an employee’s perspective sounded like a semi-holiday; no nine to five, reduced workload, no transportation costs, etc. However, remote work during a global pandemic for a media company meant so much more. From an employer’s perspective, it involved drawing up a systematic plan to smoothly transition all employees into a work-from-home mode while ensuring productivity.
It was a hands-on approach a week into the lockdown. Each department worked tirelessly towards creating synergy within, to pull resources, information, churn out stories, and content for the company’s small but growing audience without having the luxury of fully settling into roles and responsibilities, and attending training and orientation to familiarise employees with the company’s expectations and mission.
It also meant managing diverse individuals from the comfort of your home and theirs, making coordination quite tricky and giving rise to fluctuation in productivity.
A new phenomenon that has never been experienced before on such a large scale, the lockdown shed light on components that employers and HR needed to be cognizant of, that is; mental, emotional, and physical well-being often overlooked or downplayed. Three weeks into the lockdown, there was a crippling sense of despondency, as most individuals were not used to being cooked up at home for a prolonged period, giving rise to tension, anxiety, and emotional strain, most especially for individuals living alone, thus making it imperative for the company to take an empathetic approach towards employees.
Once we were back at the office after the lockdown, management created brief and one-on-one sessions between the CEO and employees to establish a harmonious relationship. Being back at the office, yielded better results and allowed for training that could not be held during the lockdown period.
One year into the company’s official launch, remarkable milestones have been achieved regardless of the pandemic, and the lack of preparedness for its impact. However, there is a lot that can be done as we continue to manoeuvre through the waves of the pandemic.
Health and safety
COVID-19 brought a lot of attention to hygiene. It exposed us to our lackadaisical attitude with regards to personal hygiene and safety, from something as simple as washing your hands throughout the day, how we cough or sneeze, to the flouting of COVID restriction protocols.
The alarming death rates across the globe and the virus’ side effects also set in motion a worldwide conversation on staying safe to prevent infection. At the same time, the medical world worked tirelessly for a vaccine.
This also made the company aware of its responsibility to keep its employees as safe as possible within the office environment by ensuring the use of face masks at all times, social distancing, and provision of hand sanitiser stations around the office.
One of the pandemic’s new effects was remote work for all employees across many sectors. Some companies were able to adapt quickly to remote-working requirements, so much so that there has been increased chatter of a possible surge in remote work in the future. However, it is still doubtful whether daily remote work is as effective and guarantees productivity as working from an office.
Regardless of remote work being an appealing option instead of office space, the transition may take years.
One of the biggest hits the company took was in terms of communication gaps, making it difficult to find ways of addressing issues that arise between employees. This led to understanding how miscommunication and lack of communication can be detrimental to the company and its employees. It has also caused the company to take a more practical and considerate approach to solve issues of miscommunication, consistently have clear discussions and conversations with employees and employers, and harness the power of incentives to boost morale.
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