Feature: Kenyan workers starting to return to offices as COVID-19 cases fall


By UnreguserYang Zhen
  • World
  • Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020

NAIROBI, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- At the onset of COVID-19 in Kenya in March, Beatrice Nekesa, a banker in the capital Nairobi, was asked by her employer to work from home.

Working in the asset financing department of the institution, Nekesa was handed a laptop and asked to do her duties from home.

"I would occasionally go to the office but I did most of my job at home," she said on Sunday, noting the arrangement worked well because few people were also taking loans.

On Sept. 7, however, Nekesa and several other workers of the institution were asked to return to the office.

She is among tens of workers in the east African nation who embraced "work at home" measure, but are now trooping back to the office as COVID-19 cases in the east Africa nation fall and business picks up.

Banks, media houses, government ministries, telecoms and insurance firms are some of the institutions in the east African nation, which are recalling their workers as the country flattens the COVID-19 curve.

For some of the institutions, workers have for the last months been exclusively working from home, for others, the employees were working in shifts.

As one group worked from home, another was in the office in a bid to congest the office space to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.

The declining COVID-19 cases in the east African nation and high recoveries amid the resumption of most economic activities has given firms a signal that it is time to recall workers.

Kenya on Monday recorded 48 cases, which pushed the total COVID-19 tally to 36,205 as recoveries hit 23,243. The Monday infection cases are the lowest in many months.

The east African nation has been registering an average of 100 cases a day in the last three weeks from a high of 800 in July.

President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that the country is flattening the COVID-19 curve, giving citizens hope that various restrictions that include the curfew may be lifted soon.

However, the workers returning to offices are among the lucky ones.

Up to a million Kenyans lost their jobs or were put in indefinite unpaid leave as companies struggled to stay afloat in the last six months.

Before recalling the workers, a majority of companies have remodeled their offices to adhere to social distancing rules.

"We have come back to a new environment where social distancing has been enforced and plastic shields placed on every desk to curb the spread of COVID-19 spread. We also wear masks and sanitize regularly," said Victoria Selima, a government auditor.

Insurance agent Bernard Mutiso, who returned to office at the start of September, noted that working from the office would boost his work and targets.

"I can now easily reach potential clients in the city center unlike when I was working from home where organizing meetings was harder," he said.

Jacqueline Mugo, executive director of the Federation of Kenya Employers in a recent communication of employers, noted that all companies must have guidelines in managing safety and health at work as COVID-19 is also an occupational disease.

"Employers are encouraged to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment by providing protective gear and putting in place safety measures," she writes.

Ernest Manuyo of Pioneer Institute in Nairobi noted that the return of most workers to their workplaces shows that the office is still the most preferable place to work.

He added that coming in the third quarter, it is an improvement to business activities and is likely to boost the east African nation's economic growth.

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