This wasn’t an obvious choice. In many ways, it would have been an easier option to send our staff home and tell suppliers and customers, “see you on the other side!”. To understand why we didn’t, and why, now that the initial panic has subsided, we believe it was the right choice.
When the first case of COVID-19 was announced, many companies immediately issued “work from home” orders to their staff. This led to offices throughout the country effectively being left empty. Or close to empty. At Nairobi Garage, we are definitely quiet, but we have a number of members who aren’t able to work from home or close up shop.
For those teams where it was not practical to stay home, we decided to remain open to ensure the continuity of their business.
Akili Kidz – Kenya’s first free-to-air children’s edutainment channel – had been working hard since the beginning of the year to make their launch date, set for the 1st of April. Akili could not postpone their launch date and their team needed a super stable internet connection.
Working from home wasn’t possible if the team were to make their launch on time. The channel is now up and running, providing much needed educational content for kids during this time.
Pharo Foundation is an organisation that manages agricultural, education and hospital programmes in Eastern Africa. They could not shut down operations due to COVID. Many people depend on the programmes that Pharo Foundation is funding. Now more than ever, access to clean water, support of agriculture production and healthcare, is vital for those living in rural areas. In that respects, their work is an essential service.
We also host a number of SMEs and independent consultants. Without external funding, many entrepreneurs work month-to-month to pay salaries and school fees. Where working from home means a drop in productivity, it can be devastating to a young business to simply allow work to dry up. Working from the office ensures people are productive and focused on what needs to be done to bring in money.
For our members who are able to work from home, many still needed us to keep the community going.
Offering webinars to attend and host, promoting offers on their services. We continue to connect members to business opportunities – which is needed now more than ever. These introductions, interactions and opportunities are organised by our hard-working Community Managers.
The coronavirus containment measures have brought economic hardship. More than many of us reading this will probably have to face. The country’s economy will take time to recover. But recover, we must.
We see day in and day out how hard doing business is, and how hard everyone has to work to create employment, growth and taxes for the country to develop. But we believe that the only way Kenya will be a prosperous country is if the private sector keeps working.
Good businesses need to survive through this to keep the economy going. Nairobi Garage wants to be part of the solution by continuing to support members, continuing to support our suppliers (including our landlords!) and our team. We will continue to be part of building a better Kenya, for as long as we can.
Nairobi Garage is more than a coworking space. We are a conduit for startups, SMEs, innovators, conscious corporates – a place for business to be accelerated, trust to be built, and ideas to flow. We don’t believe they need for companies doing good work and creating jobs is receding. So neither will we.
We also have a very important and direct obligation to all our employees and the families they support. So letting go of any part of our NG family is not something we’re prepared to do.
Practically speaking, we needed to be sure that staying open and keeping people safe from the virus spread was manageable. We carried out a risk assessment of the situation and took early, necessary precautions to ensure the health and safety of both members and staff.
What did this include? Early on we ensured that any staff members who don’t need to come to the spaces we’re able to work from home or take leave.
Cleaners and front desk personnel, who are critical to keeping our spaces safe, were asked to continue to report to work – if they felt ok to do so. We have two team members who are pregnant, another who has asthma, so they aren’t coming to the office at all during this time.
Initially, we were working with SWVL – a member company and a great team to collaborate with during this time – to provide shuttles for our team members coming from the same areas. However, as the government restrictions increased, that became harder to do. So for now, those who are working in the spaces are all provided with Ubers to and from the office.
All visitors to the spaces were initially restricted – as well as those who had recently travelled. We are relaxing upon visitors, based on the fact that borders have been closed long enough now to remove that risk factor.
Temperatures are taken at the front desk as well as masks provided to any member who doesn’t have one (though everyone does, given the directive issued by the MoH to not leave home without one).
We also consistently sanitise the desks, handles, and surfaces through the day – which has meant the constant smell of sanitizer hangs in the air – which we’re starting to enjoy!
Our spaces are luckily pretty large and spacious, with lots of spaces for isolated work – such as our meeting rooms and Skype (or Zoom) pods. So keeping socially distant from other members is pretty easy. We also have huge amounts of outdoor spaces, meaning meetings and lunches – where perhaps people might want to be social, can still happen in a comfortable setting.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has brought unprecedented times where the outcomes are unpredictable.
We want everyone to stay safe and follow the guidelines and measures recommended by our government to reduce the spread of corona. We do not have all the answers, we do not know how long it will take to get through this.
However, at Nairobi Garage, it is in service of others that we find ourselves. Our “new normal” is to serve the businesses, startups, corporates that we have the honour and pleasure of hosting, in the best way we know. As we look to the future for better times, we will also continue to do all it takes to maintain the comfort and safety of our members as well as our team.