Organisations and workers across Nigeria have had to embrace working from home for the best part of the last 7 weeks in a bid to keep being productive during the COVID-19 lockdown. One might be forgiven to think remote work was finally here to stay, even post-COVID.
However, when the lockdown was relaxed in Lagos and Abuja, people quickly put aside the option of remote work and returned to their offices and places of work.
And it isn’t even post-covid19 yet. The pandemic is still with us and likely to get worse with the excessive commuting and congestion that is an integral part of the hustle in the major cities like Lagos, Abuja, Portharcourt and Kano.
So why are Nigerians so quick to return to their offices or places of work even though the pandemic is still out there? Does remote work suck or are people just not ready for it?
The nature of the hustle
For Ijeoma Amagwula, Creative Director of IjeWorks, it is more of a need to keep the level of hustle and bustle that people are familiar with.
“It’s more like a mental disposition of the people who feel the city is dead if things and people are not moving,” she says.
According to her, it becomes more understandable if you realise that people actually derive a lot of energy and vibe from Lagos’ busyness.
Mental connection to the workplace…
There is also a psychological reason for it as Daniel Okpaise explains the mental connection to the workplace. According to him, that connection is further fostered by the presence of basic amenities like electricity, and free internet.
At home, you most likely have to cater for your data, power supply, and all that can make working from home strenuous. In the workspace people get the mental vibe that that is the place to get work done while the home is more of a laidback environmentDaniel Okpaise
People are used to leaving their houses for work and back to the house again. An abrupt end to that normal puts some people in a situation that is foreign to them. Even though what many people do at work can be done from home, they find it more convenient to ease into the familiarity and structure of the workplace than creating a new structure for work at home.
Another important reason might be that most people who commute daily work in the informal sector where physical presence and interactions are needed to drive transactions. Bus drivers, traders, construction workers, and others who make a living from their daily hustle have to commute daily.
While necessary resources like data remain one of the major reasons why people prefer working from their workspaces, Iyanu Gabriel is of the opinion that the habit is one driven by employers.
Considering what organisations spend on office space, particularly in cities like Lagos, reverting to remote work seems like a waste of money, and hence the staff is compelled to utilize the space. Still, Gabriel thinks companies can do without all of it.
Companies can cut down on overhead and operational cost and spread the saved monies across team development and acquisition/maintenance of mobile internet service. They can come to an understanding with internet service providers and other telcos to provide cheaper internet services for staffIyanu Gabriel
“Employers are responsible for providing employees with the necessary resources to get the job done,” he says. “My take-home (salary) is compensation for my productive work hours, not capital to be recouped back into the business.”
The lack of resources needed to get the job done is why some prefer to go to the physical workspace, even though they lose several hours in traffic daily in the process.
The social need for physical interaction with other people, especially fellow employees is something that is not quite captured completely by virtual alternatives like Slack and other messaging platforms. In some businesses in the formal sector, quality is better controlled when the staff is together.
Availability of technology plays a key role in determining if people work better at home or at work. In situations where the staff needs a computer or other hardware that is available only in the office, then the only recourse of action is to get to the office.
Whether it is social, financial, or infrastructure needs, people have various reasons why they either work from home or go to the workspace.
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