Google and Facebook have announced that they will allow employees to continue working from home for the remainder of 2020. Google had earlier announced that it will be working until June 1st, but the CEO Sundar Pichai has now said that most of its workers are likely to work from home until 2021.
Similarly, Facebook has said that most of its workforce will work from home till the end of the year because of the advisory information from health organisations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Remote Working, the new normal
This development comes after remote work became the new normal for businesses, following the lockdown imposed on countries around the world to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
Although lockdown is gradually being relaxed, Google and Facebook are not in a hurry to resume to offices as the companies are looking to protect their employees by continuing remote work till the end of the year, especially with the number of infections still climbing.
According to Pichai, only about 10% to 15% of its workers, whose work requires physically being in the office will be on-site in June. They will work with increased safety precautions and a “different” in-office experience. Facebook, however, gave workers who can work remotely freedom to do so till the end of the year.
Although the health and safety benefits of continuing to work remotely are immense, the possibility of Nigerian tech companies emulating the same safety measures as Google and Facebook may be difficult due to a number of issues.
Following the first few days of the adoption of remote work in Nigeria, many companies whose staff lacked experience working remotely struggled to find productive ways to get tasks done.
Although many workers are now getting used to the idea of working from home, many entrepreneurs are still stuck trying to determine if remote work is as productive as working physically.
Issues like time-lapse in communication either caused by distractions at home, unreliable power or bad internet connections have been known to delay completion of tasks. This along with CEOs not trusting workers to be professional enough to deliver quality jobs puts a huge doubt on the sustainability of the model.
Although there has been a growing trust of CEOs caused by the forced remote work instituted by the COVID-19 lockdown, a considerable number may still be looking to resume the old system that has been tested and trusted to work.
Loss of revenue
Following the disruption of business operations caused by COVID-19, many businesses lost revenue. As such, many businesses adapted and sorted out models to help them find new sources of revenue. Facebook and Google posted good Q1 revenue returns despite the pandemic.
However, if the business was unable to develop a profitable model, sacking and furloughing workers will become the only option as we have seen with Uber, Iroko, Andela and a number of organisations. Businesses that have lost revenue will likely be in a hurry to continue the old model that has worked for them.
Many tech companies in Nigeria don’t have the huge cash reserves that Google or Facebook have to make such a commitment that will require significant changes to the way they operate.
For some businesses, switching to remote work especially for the remainder of the year will require changing models that need huge cash reserves that they simply don’t have.
The forecasts on the impending economic situation in the country occasioned by the pandemic and the crash of crude oil price would be especially worrisome for businesses.
The probability of recession could considerably affect a company’s decision to try a new method of business operation.
However, with two of the largest tech companies in the world planning to work from home for the remainder of the year and the high probability that the pandemic may still be around till then, odds are that more companies will follow. They just might not be Nigerian.