As the world adapts to the reality of living with a vicious pandemic, the City mourns the deaths of 29 employees who succumbed to the Coronavirus in the last nine months.
Some of these people were our neighbours and friends, while others were our companions. Although the recovery of about 2 318 staff members who contracted the Coronavirus since April 2020 is somewhat a relief, there are still concerns that the number of positive cases is on an upward surge.
Figures point to over 2 369 City employees who are currently battling the pandemic. Some of these positive cases were reported this week and this continues to impact negatively on staff morale and organisational performance.
Earlier this week, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize told the nation that the number of daily positive cases exceeded the 6 000 mark, slumping the country into a second wave of the pandemic.
When the lockdown started, a lot of staff began working from home. This led to a spike in stress. There was also a lot of anxiety and fear from frontline staff, with a burnout at the management level. Some employees experienced loneliness.
The City reportedly recorded high levels of depression between April and May 2020 as staff was under financial strain and spending money on immune boosters. However, the municipality has been able to mitigate these challenges.
Therapeutic e-training workshops have been held to deal with the health and loss of loved ones. The City has also developed a “work from home” guideline, and learnt that employees can function optimally anywhere, given adequate resources.
It’s been debated that the City should invest in home offices and redesign workspaces. A lot of staff members are experiencing anxiety because they work in open plans. HR needs to amend some of its policies to accommodate people with underlying conditions. Masks and sanitisers must be a basic staff right.
The organisation also needs to encourage staff, managers and elected officials to be compassionate, stigma and segregation-free. There’s also a need to find new strategies and mechanisms to regenerate the economy by creating an inclusive and sustainable environment for investment.
The municipality needs to cut the red tape to make it easier to do business in Johannesburg. It should also consider strategic partnerships with the private sector, civil society and other spheres of government to mitigate Covid-19 disruptions.
The City should collaborate with institutions of higher learning in encouraging students to study robotics, software development, data analytics, psychology, physical therapy and solar energy to acquire the required skills for the workplace of the future.
Rest in peace to all our departed colleagues, lest we forget your contribution towards making Johannesburg a world-class African City.
Written by Benji Seitlhamo, Assistant Director: International Relations and Networking