Covid-19 has permanently shifted working patterns all over the world, as companies, businesses and schools have been forced to embrace remote work. In Nigeria, this is a novel approach to work as we know it.
While social distancing and public gathering policies effectively resulted in lockdowns, companies nationwide have had to adopt remote work to keep their businesses running and servicing an ever-demanding customer base. This has caused an unprecedented shift in Nigerian work culture.
But while there are obvious benefits to working from home, including nurturing better work-life balance and easing the toll of long hours in Lagos traffic on the working demographic, there are also some significant real-world pitfalls to its success or long-term adoption.
Considering that power supply and internet access for work-from-home employees bear the torch in prevalent infrastructural issues, Nigerian companies would also have to revise cast-in-stone work and organizational culture to embrace remote work. Meanwhile, remote work has become familiar among digital entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, most of whom have built careers from working remotely for foreign companies.
But ultimately, startups and businesses have been forced to test-run remote work on a full-time basis amid the coronavirus outbreak even though Nigeria’s infrastructural shortcomings pose looming threats to productivity.
On the other hand, some systems are already creaking at the edges. Corporate networks, unused to having a majority of their connections coming in over virtual private networks (VPNs), are experiencing hitches, while internet service providers have come under pressure to lift bandwidth caps so that remote workers do not get cut off from their employers halfway through the month.
Although working remotely is now widely seen as a temporary measure, it’s more likely to become the norm. Not only do employees have to learn how to work from home and remain efficient, but managers also have to learn how to effectively lead and manage remote workers. Working from home does not equate to not working, but it does cause people to work differently.
Like any crisis there are opportunities and new ways of doing things that will emerge, as the coronavirus outbreak has accelerated changes in work, long already in play. Collaboration has relied more on video and if most of the workforce can work from home without productivity loss, it’s going to be hard to justify commercial real estate costs.
Simply put, the pandemic has come to show us a better way to work. How Nigerian enterprises navigate the coronavirus and changes to work, will be telling. One thing is certain – the coronavirus is likely to mean the definition of business, as usual, will change.