By Rebecca Miano
In January of 2021, schools re-opened in Kenya signaling a rather opportune time for the workforce to physically resume work after months of self-isolation, to curb the spread of the COVID-19. With the resumption of the school calendar and resurgence of business, given the prospect of COVID-19 restrictions persisting well into 2021, it was time for our team to resume normal business after working in a shift system for months.
KenGen Cares: An Employee-First Culture
I am proud of all that the KenGen leadership has done to support and show our people that we care about their well-being and security in the wake of the pandemic. We have been actively preparing to physically return to work for months, while keeping in mind our foremost priority — the safety of all employees. We are ready to meet set strategic annual benchmarks, while maintaining a safe work environment, and leading Kenya’s economic recovery following a challenging year.
According to research produced by the World Bank, the situation with the pandemic has put decades of hard-won gains into jeopardy. The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has been doubling their efforts to try to maintain progress and has provided additional resources to help overcome the effects of COVID-19 related pressures.
To establish protocols for a safe return-to-work strategy, KenGen together with Power Africa conducted a broad-reaching survey with 1,500 employees. This gave staff a platform to voice their concerns and submit suggestions. In addition, we conducted (socially distanced) focus group discussions with Pink Energy (the women-in-KenGen workforce program), Y-Gen (our next-generation leadership program) as well as the Electrical Trade and Allied Workers’ Union. We also solicited feedback from family members of KenGen employees and our clinicians.
Following this comprehensive fact-finding mission, we have been able to create protocols that address the needs of our employees and our business. I am certain that the methodology and execution of these protocols will also guide other utilities, to ensure a safe working environment. The framework will also allow for employees to take on their daily tasks and projects confidently to deliver on our mandate. The onus is on us to do what we can within our capabilities, to win the battle against COVID-19.
Psychologically Prepare for Your Return
Organizational psychologist and professor at the University of London, Dr Jo Yarker, explains some steps to take to mentally prepare yourself for your return to work after isolation:
- Talk and connect: get in touch with your colleagues and line managers.
- Plan and prepare: think about what will happen on your first day back.
- Have a conversation: speak to your line manager and identify priorities and raise concerns.
- One step at a time: do not expect things to be ‘normal’ immediately.
- Monitor and review: check in with yourself, make sure you are coping.
- Be kind: to yourself and others as we all find out way.
Partnership with Power Africa
Power Africa’s rapid diagnostic survey has been instrumental in understanding the mental, physical, and emotional needs of our employees as well as where we can have the most positive impact on the resumption of their responsibilities. The resulting business resumption framework addresses all our employees and has been clearly communicated.
Supporting Employees: Health First
Trust is vital to our daily existence. Our commitment is to provide a safe working environment for our employees and to play our role in curbing the spread of the virus. Consequently, any employee who suspects that they may have come into contact with an infected person, takes it upon themselves to sign and implement a self-isolation quarantine pledge.
Post COVID-19 Recovery: Stigma Reduction
The results of the survey on the return-to-work strategy indicated that there was a pervasive fear of being stigmatized following infection and recovery from COVID-19. Dr. Brice Bicaba, national COVID-19 response coordinator for the World Health Organization, acknowledges that stigma is a ‘side-effect’ of the virus, whether a positive test has been received or not — often due to a lack of access to information. KenGen is invested in providing necessary resources towards stigma reduction to ensure a smooth resumption of duties.
Counseling: A Safe Work Environment
Pink Power Initiative has served to teach us that creating a safe environment enhances the performance of all our employees. Lessons from previous testing and our counseling program will go a long way to ensure that those who have recovered from COVID-19 receive the psychological support they need. Additionally, we have activated a peer-support system, a proven effective strategy for assisting our employees and creating a caring work environment.
Healthcare and Prevention: Caring for our Employees
KenGen is leveraging its clinicians and existing technology to ensure that its employees are able to adequately care for themselves and their families at home when necessary. In order to prevent infection, we have embraced all health guidelines from the Ministry of Health. Our offices are well ventilated, we practice social distancing, use of masks is compulsory with handwashing stations within reach of all employees.
2021 and Beyond
We have established protocols that will guide us safely and productively. I am proud of the efforts of KenGen leaders at every level as we navigate this crisis.
I have always believed that great leaders show their true mettle during times of turbulence. The experience they accrue during the good times becomes their guiding compass in difficult times, such as the one in which we now find ourselves. I am optimistic about the future and confident that we will emerge victorious.
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