How Small Businesses Can Survive Load-shedding

Load-shedding in Africa

Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) recently implemented a staggered eight-hour daily load-shedding scheme for residential neighbourhoods in Lusaka, beginning on April 1. This fresh trial timetable has elicited varied responses, as some residents favour the previous continuous eight-hour schedule, while certain business owners find merit in the new arrangement. Load-shedding is a reality that many Zambians face on a daily basis, disrupting work schedules and productivity, particularly for small businesses. In this article, we explore how small businesses can survive load-shedding. 

Load shedding throws a wrench into productivity at both homes and workplaces across Zambia and in many other African countries.  Evenings, typically dedicated to catching up on work emails or household chores, become frustrating exercises in waiting for the lights to return. Students struggle to complete online assignments or study for exams under flickering candles or phone flashlights. Businesses face disruptions to computer and mechanical operations, critical meetings, and deadlines. The constant uncertainty surrounding power cuts makes it difficult to plan effectively, leading to a domino effect of delays and missed opportunities.

Zambia isn’t alone in its battle against load shedding.  Several other African countries grapple with similar challenges due to factors like lack of investment in the power generation sector, ageing infrastructure, limited power generation capacity, and dependence on unpredictable resources like hydropower.  

South Africa, for instance, has implemented a well-publicised system of scheduled blackouts to manage its ongoing energy crisis. Similarly, countries like Nigeria and Ghana experience frequent power outages that disrupt daily life and economic activity.  While the specifics may differ, the impact of load shedding on productivity remains a shared concern across the continent.

Wherever on the continent you are, we are sure that with some strategic planning and innovative solutions, it’s possible to mitigate the impact of power outages on your work. Here are five practical tips on how small businesses can survive load-shedding and maintain productivity:

1. Plan Like a Pro

Schedule Strategically

Map out your workday around the load-shedding schedule. Tackle power-hungry tasks like computer work and meetings when the lights are on. Reserve low-power activities like brainstorming, organising, or phone calls for when there is no power. You can also outsource some tasks such as printing services in case your business requires a lot of such activities.
Maximise with Meetings and Planning Sessions

If the power cuts hit early in the mornings, schedule in-person meetings or team huddles that don’t require electricity. This maximises your use of precious power hours. Meetings and team assignments can still be done even without power.

2. Invest in Power Independence

How small businesses can survive load-shedding using solar panels.

Go Solar
Depending on your type of business, consider solar solutions like phone chargers or even small solar panels to run essential equipment during outages. Every little bit of independent power helps!

Charge Up for Later

You can also invest in inverters and rechargeable batteries. During power hours, charge your batteries to power laptops, lights, or phone chargers when the darkness descends.

3. Deep work When the Lights Shine

Maximise Power Time

When there is power, utilise the golden opportunity for focused, uninterrupted work. Tackle those complex tasks that require your full concentration. This “deep work” approach helps you make the most of limited power windows and catch up on lost productivity. Depending on the size of your small business or teams, you can put a policy in place to have everyone off their phones and deep in their work when there is power. Modern devices have a ‘do not disturb’ function that allows only essentials to pop up on the screen. This allows people to dive deep into their work.

4. Shift Your Location

Co-working spaces as a way small businesses can survive load-shedding

5. Embrace Flexibility

Shift Your Hours

If your work heavily relies on electricity, consider flexible work arrangements. During load-shedding periods, team members can adjust their schedules and work together when the power is on, even if it means late nights.

Here is a bonus tip; embrace the downtime!  Load-shedding can be an opportunity to take a mental break, catch up on some reading, or tackle personal errands.

Remember, small businesses have an advantage that behemoth companies don’t- flexibility. Business owners have to do everything in their power to explore how small businesses can survive load-shedding. By planning, investing in solutions, and working together, we can overcome load-shedding and keep the wheels of productivity turning, even in the dark.

Alexander Zulu

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