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9 2 5? IT’S 2 0 1 8!

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Following which I am immediately composing this column, marking my diary and checking and responding to my emails. It’s not surprising that I am getting immediate replies – others are working at this ungodly hour too.  Should I blush that I am interacting with my clients while I am unwashed, hair ruffled and clad in nothing but scant clothing which improvise as pyjamas?  I find solace in the thought that what my clients can’t see won’t hurt or scar them from life and this is part of the reality of working from home.

I don’t think anything of working like this. When I first moved to Botswana to start my business I worked from my bedroom and would get up every morning and put on collar and tie to do my job – even if it meant that I would not leave the room that day or come face to face with a client. I wouldn’t have dared make a telephone call or send a telex or fax after hours thinking this was unprofessional.   At 5 o’clock I changed, figuratively and metaphorically, as the business day was effectively over. 

Today it’s all different.

My thought this morning is how companies cater and compensate for such out of hours work which we all do and of course the only way is by genuinely allowing a more flexible approach to work.  I strongly believe that people should have individual control over how, when and where they choose to do their work and that this makes for more inspired outputs.  I know a lot of managers still struggle with this paradigm and question how can you stop people taking it too far and is it really possible to produce your best work while on a camping chair in the delta?

The biggest plus factor for flexible working is that it inherently suits us as human beings. The old 9 to 5, pigeonholing of people just feels wrong because, well we’re not pigeons who all behave in the same way like those birds in their communal loft. While we are similar as homo sapiens we are uniquely different when it comes to circadian rhythms, or our 'body clock', which has a huge impact on our behaviour and productivity – and that explains why some people, like me, are quite happy to be hammering away on the key board at 5am while others rock up  9 still wiping the sleep from their eyes.  

When you are aware of your natural rhythm you can organise yourself so that you do your best and most productive work at the right time, not in the slot allocated to you by the job. How many times I have heard people say things like ‘I am useless before 10’ and I have thought ‘OMG we have just paid you for two hours of nothing’! Flexibility to work allows an organisation to get the best from their colleagues 100% of the time like starting that employee at 10!.

What about location?  Someone once told me that offices were generally designed with everyone in mind, which meant they worked for precisely no-one – by which he meant that no one would choose to have an office designed in the way they do, mainly grey, functional and to put it bluntly, dull. Fortunately, many companies now try to ensure creative and collaborative spaces, retaining the essence of what an office is meant to do, but putting a bit of 'fun' back into function. 

There may always be offices as there will always be a core of people that need that discipline of coming into an office to be able to produce their best work, same as there will always be a core of people that find working in public really distracting.  I kind of like both. Sometimes I am at a coffee shop, sometimes here in my improvised pyjamas as I write this article or in the board room – it all depends on what needs done and my mood.  Having flexibility with location allows me to choose what works for me for me to work.

The reason that we can work where it suits us is because infrastructure and hardware can support this style of working.  I know you can’t issue everyone with a laptop but that’s not the biggest barrier to really offering a 100% flexible work life.  That is the old bugbear, ‘Presenteeism' – physically putting in an appearance, even if it just for appearance’s sake.

Many managers still subscribe to the notion that if people aren’t ‘there’ how will they know if their staff are working? I say the same way that you would if they were in the office which is by measuring what they do and achieve. But, when you really don’t know what your employees do and achieve because you haven’t figured out how to measure it, then you will reset to default which is measuring their time…they came and they left – it’s the 9 to 5 box which you tick even when it is meaningless so to do.

Flexible working arrangements require trust and clear standards to truly be successful and whilst many organisations can happily deal with the latter, it is often the former that is missing. So, we don’t allow flexible time because we are scared that people could take advantage so psychologically we obsess on the 1% who might abuse it rather than the 99% who would embrace it. It's actually very easy to spot someone who is being a bit too flexible (read ‘lazy’) when it comes to their work as the output just won't be there, just as it is easy to spot the people who might be overdoing it and working too hard. This is the core role of management and it doesn’t disappear or get diluted just because a more fluid approach to work is adopted.

For me having flexibility improves my happiness and satisfaction and that of my staff – without a doubt. But its not just staff who benefit, customers do too.  The world has moved beyond 9-5 and services that fail to keep up, die.  Many of our customers are working more flexibly themselves, so we need to make sure we can be there for when they need us, not when we think it is convenient.  A flexible working approach means you can explore a greater range of opportunities in a greater range of time zones and a greater range of operating hours.  The harsh reality is that we have moved into a global workplace which operates 24-7 even if that sometimes means in the privacy of our own homes and in our scanties!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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