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EMELDA Musonda.

Labour Day: Time to reflect on work culture

TODAY, Zambian employees, employers and other stakeholders join hands in celebrating the Labour Day under the theme “Enhancing productivity and alleviating poverty through decent work”.
Labour Day is an annual event, held to honour deserving employees for their achievements and contributions to the various industries they belong.
Ordinarily, labour celebrations and the accompanying awards should encourage more employees to be more productive.
Sadly, the general work culture of many Zambians leaves much to be desired.
While it is acknowledged that there are dedicated employees who use their time at work productively, there are also many Zambians who will report for work and knock off without anything tangible they can point to as the day’s work.
On many occasions there have been lamentations and warnings against the civil servants on their bad work ethic.
Civil servants have been known for reporting late for work, taking longer lunch breaks and knocking off before time.
For others the workplace is a social place where they move from office to office to chat.
With the advent of technology, some employees appear to be consumed in work when in fact they are busy interacting and chatting with friends through Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms at the expense of productivity.
Others report for work under the influence of alcohol, rendering themselves unproductive.
With the modernisation of offices through the provision of television sets, some employees spend more time watching soaps on Telemundo and Zee World, among other programmes of entertainment nature.
Southern Province Minister Edify Hamukale is on record to have warned civil servants in the habit of using their time at work to watch entertainment programmes at the expense of productivity.
While the bad work ethic seems rife in government institutions and parastatals, the truth is that it is also prevalent in private institutions and businesses and at all levels.
For instance, even at maid level, some employers have complained of their employees spending time watching television or chatting with neighbours at the expense of work.
Besides being unproductive, it is common to find employees stealing from their employers.
This attitude is one of the reasons why some Zambian businesses have struggled to make it.
Many companies pay people for not doing anything at all, but merely reporting for work.
Needless to say, bad work ethic could be the reason our country has taken long to transition to a developed one.
Fifty-four years after Independence, the country is still grappling with high poverty levels, inadequate health, education and other basic infrastructure.
This is not to demean the progress made so far, especially in the area of infrastructure, but the truth is that if every Zambian was patriotic and productive, this country would have achieved much more.
We admire countries like China for the supersonic development. But the development that China and other developed countries have today is as a result of hard-working citizens.
Many times the Chinese have been accused of mistreating Zambians. While some cases could be true, it should also be noted that they come from a culture of hard work and sacrifice. The Chinese, for instance, would work through the night to ensure a project is completed on time. On the other hand, Zambians down tools even before knock-off time. This is besides idling and taking unnecessary long breaks in between.
It is however hoped that this Labour Day will not only be a time of celebrations for those being awarded but an opportunity for all employees to reflect on their contributions to their various institutions and the country as a whole.
Employees at whatever level should take time to search their consciences and determine if they have been serving their institutions with integrity and productivity.
It is important that employees account for the time they spend at the office and using company facilities.
It is daylight robbery for an employee to be paid for the work they did not do. Besides their supervisor, it is the duty of every employee to ensure that they earn their salary by delivering according to expectations.
As the theme stipulates, it is time to enhance productivity and alleviate poverty through decent work.
However, it is only through high productivity that companies will grow and subsequently provide more and quality jobs.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.