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Home office redefines Kenyans' work life

15 July 2013, 17:19 Christine Lagat

Nairobi - The expansive balcony at Kevin Oduor's two bedroom flat is a haven of bliss, and ambience more so during weekends, when the young professional does not report to his work station in the central business district of Kenya's capital Nairobi.

Dressed casually, Oduor juggled between making phone calls and typing brief reports on his laptop. The 30 year-old financial consultant works in a mid-sized company, but has numerous side hustles to supplement the monthly salary.

Oduor has taken telecommuting to the next level. Besides weekends, he often retreats to the balcony during working days to clear a backlog of assignments from his employer and contractors.

He is among a growing army of young Kenyan professionals who have embraced careers that are both flexible and rewarding.

Previously considered an alien concept, telecommuting has gained traction in Kenya as professionals undertake the bulk of work in their homes to leverage career and social life balance.

"This balcony serves as a home office and has served me perfectly since I moved into this apartment three years ago. As a financial analyst, I offer consultancy services to start ups and established companies. My job has the flexibility that enables me to alternate between office in town and here," Oduor told Xinhua.

He has invested in a smart phone; wireless internet connection and a state of the art laptop to enable him connect with clients round the clock.

Oduor noted that the advent of modern technologies has transformed work life and many professionals have cheered this development that enables them perform tasks irrespective of the venue.

"Telecommuting is not just a fanciful concept hyped by tech- savvy young professionals, it has revolutionized work, enhanced productivity and strengthens work-life balance," Oduor said.

He added that investing in a home office has enabled him to secure lucrative contracts since there is ample space to work on them during the weekends.

Oduor reiterated that brick and mortar offices have lost glamour as technology enable people to work from homes and coffee houses.

In this Kenyan capital, Oduor is not alone. The last time Stella Kimanthi visited an office was three months ago when the 24 year old graphic designer secured a meeting with a client to negotiate a contract.

"It sounds unusual but to me and colleagues in graphic design or creative arts, an office is just like any other venue for convenience. What matters to us is software and ability to accomplish a task irrespective of location and venue," Kimanthi told Xinhua at a coffee house.

As an accomplished graphic designer, Kimanthi has won contracts from publishing companies and has been able to deliver finished work on time thanks to investments in a fully equipped home office.

"A graphic designer needs a good computer, internet connection and a printer to work efficiently. I have spared a single room in my house to do this work without the hassles of renting an office space that is often costly," said Kimanthi.

James Karuri, a career mentor, noted that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed all professionals.

"Who would have thought that telemedicine would gain foothold here in Kenya? It is possible for a Doctor to consult his patients through emails or Skype and prescribe the necessary treatment," Karuri said.

He added that cloud computing has ensured that a range of tasks like human resources management, auditing and network administration, can be performed at ease without reporting to the office.

"Telecommuting has offered a reprieve to employees who often grapple with agonizing traffic jams in the morning. With an internet connected mobile phone, an employee can communicate with the boss, read mails and reply to them over breakfast in the house, " Karuri told Xinhua.

- Xinhua

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