Working from home as part of measures to reduce the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) could pose challenges for Zimbabwean workers, whose economy is still lagging behind in technological developments, stakeholders have said.
With COVID-19 continuing to spread and claim lives across the globe, employees in some countries, where curfews have not been imposed, are now working from home as part of preventive measures.
Announcing sweeping measures and bans to halt the spread of COVID-19 which recorded its first death in Zimbabwe Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said where possible, employers were encouraged to reduce human concentrations at workplaces.
He said non-essential staff or essential staff whose services could be rendered from home should be allowed to work away from their work stations.
Secretary-general for the Apex Council – the umbrella body for civil servants – David Dzatsunga, said they were lobbying the government to allow non-critical staff in the civil service to work from their homes.
He said that should be done until cases of COVID-19 decline globally.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Peter Mutasa said looking at the state of the economy where residential areas go for hours without electricity, working from home could be almost impossible for many.
“In Zimbabwe save for highly automated companies like telecoms, banking, insurance, retail etc. the majority of businesses are not geared for this,” Mutasa told CITE.
“Again with persistent load shedding and intermittent water supply and network challenges some locations are not suitable. For call centre jobs, some suburbs generate lots of noise and that may curtail seamless service delivery.”
Mutasa however said it was high time Zimbabwe embraced the technological era for the benefit of the economy.
“However, the fourth industrial revolution is already around the corner and we are not going to be spared,” said Mutasa.
“We therefore have no choice but to embrace this. Our role as trade unions is to ensure fair labour standards and practices in these new form of work.”
Economist, with the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), Prosper Chitambara, said teleworking was a non-starter for the country.
“It is difficult to work from home, looking at the issues of energy, power cuts and internet,” said Chitambara.
“This makes teleworking a challenge for many workers.”
He added that the Zimbabwean economy had become highly informal meaning there are now few workers who are formally employed.
“There are now more informal workers than the formal and if these are to work from home it means they will just die of hunger,” said Chitambara.
Few non-governmental organisations, have however allowed their employees to work from home as the fight against COVID-19 continues.