Working from home in Nigeria

When Nigeria entered the lockdown stage in late March, there was a lot of trepidation and nervousness running through the country.

These fears of the unknown, and the invisible virus that spreads and kills quickly and how it would disrupt millions of citizens daily lives. Also, how would Nigerians who are born hustlers, earn their daily bread if they could not go to work.

The government did not plan their lockdown phasing very well and was ill equipped to handle the demands and needs from the suffering masses.

The vast majority of Nigerians work in subsistence agriculture, street/market trading or other service related activities such as taxi drivers and restaurant purveyors, and these workers were the hardest hit by the lockdown.

The growing class of white collar or corporate employees in Nigeria also had an uneasy feeling when the lock-down started when thousands were laid off, or had their wages slashed. For those that managed to keep their employment, they were faced with an interesting dilemma – to work from home.

“Now I don’t have the long commute, and I can sleep a bit later and spend more time with my family, but I still get other struggles o!” – Emanuel E.

Employers all over the world have made a swift shift towards having the bulk of their workforce to work from home if able. In fact, after several months of doing so, some major tech companies have even stated that they will work from home – indefinitely.

This has given the rise to many ancillary businesses that have seen explosive growth, such as Zoom conference software, Skype and also office supply companies that sell items such as printers and desks have also seen impressive growth.

In Nigeria, there has also been a slight shift to working from home for those that are able. Large corps such as accounting firms, tech companies and law offices to name a few, have allowed their employees to work from home to see if they can still be productive and effective.

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

The typical work day in Lagos begins about 4 am, when workers rise before the sun, to take their bath, eat their breakfast and prepare to enter the gauntlet that is the daunting Lagos commute. What should be a 30 minute drive to work, usually ends up taking two hours or so – chei!

So, to be relieved of the arduous daily commute, many workers embraced this opportunity and took full advantage of it.

Commuting in Lagos

We spoke to Emanuel E. an employee of a top international accounting firm in Lagos and he explained to us the pros and cons of working from home.

“Before Covid, I would have to wake very early, help get our kids ready and then drive to VI (Victoria Island) to be to work by 8 am, this would require me to wake up by 4 or 430 am in order to make it to my seat in time. It was so stressful everyday, struggling to get to work and by the time I get home it was after 7 pm or later!”

“Now I don’t have the long commute, and I can sleep a bit later and spend more time with my family, but I still get other struggles o!” .. laughed Emanuel. “When at home, light is not consistent, and that makes it difficult to stay online and attend virtual meetings.

So I have to spend more money to make sure I have fuel for the generator so I can stay online, I also have to ensure my internet service is up to date and paid up…”

“I also have more distractions at home, with my wife and kids being at the house, they are constantly interrupting me and making noise… its not easy.”

Work from home set up

Asked if he would like to work from home indefinitely, Emanuel gave an interesting response – “No. I would not. I prefer the office better, there are more resources, and more interactions with my colleagues and I get energized and creative when i am at my job.”

So as you can see, there are both pros and cons from working from home, and I bet if we ask five people half would welcome working from home and the other half would rush to go back to the office.

So as we get on with our new normal, we can predict that there will be a segment that will continue to work from home, while the rest go back to the traditional workplace – what do you think? Is it better working from home or do you like being in the office?

Posted by

Journalist based in the United States and Nigeria, focusing on Real Estate Development and the stories emerging in and around the built environment.

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