Working Remotely: Lessons From COVID-19

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Working from home isn’t alien to the corporate world/working environment in Nigeria and globally, but only a few organisations in Nigeria have partially or totally embraced the concept, pre-COVID-19.

Overnight in Nigeria, working remotely, which is also referred to as telecommuting, has been widely adopted as a response to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown in some states in Nigeria and the need to stay safe at home has necessitated a lot of organisations to embrace the idea of working remotely. All the reasons for the initial resistance to telecommuting seem to have vanished into thin air, as the need to stay safe and contain the pandemic rises.

While it is apparent that there are some job descriptions that are absolutely impossible to carry out within the confines of an employee’s home, and would require people to commute to and converge at workplaces, COVID-19 has reiterated that smooth performance cum delivery of some roles have absolutely no restriction to the four walls of a designated place called the office. Workers in essential industries are notable exemptions to working from home.

The fact that some organisations have been running smoothly has proven that a lot of jobs do not require the physical presence of workers at the office. Suffice to say that, telecommuting might become the reality of most organisations post-COVID-19 period. Besides the productivity rate that organisations are recording, employers have realised that they can save much of their overhead costs.

Telecommuting has a whole lot of advantages for both the employers and the employee. The advantages of telecommuting to the employee, in the long run, are beneficial to the employer, hence symbiotic. Telecommuting saves the employer a lot of administrative costs which is unavoidable if workers have to commute to and converge in an office. Such include office rent, power supply cost like the purchase of fuel. Employers can also save themselves the cost of paying transport allowance since workers wouldn’t have to spend money on transportation and fuelling official cars in some cases.

One advantage of telecommuting to the employee is a reduction in commuting stress – employees are relieved of the stress of commuting to their place of work, hence they can wake up and attend to their jobs with the right frame of mind.

Another advantage of telecommuting to the employee is that it aids efficiency and productivity- the energy that is required to commute to and from work is diverted to accomplishing all the deliverables set by the organization. Individuals can also better navigate the demands of their jobs, home and other societal responsibilities while working from home and in turn live a balanced life.

Besides, being advantageous to employers and employees, working from home has a positive effect on society. Since there are limited workers commuting the road, there is a reduction in traffic rate especially in high-density/populated areas and traffic prone areas such as Lagos. Individuals who still have to commute can easily get to where they are going and attend to their schedule on time.

The high rate of adaptation to telecommuting during this pandemic has also revealed that most of the reasons people give against working from home are just excuses, there are alternatives to getting those things done. In place of the seemingly irreplaceable physical meetings, virtual meetings have been embraced. Organisations have resorted to video conferencing apps such as zoom, easy dial to hold management meetings, team/unit meetings, brainstorming.

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While all these apps are not novel technological discoveries, a lot of organisations have either not been using them or take full advantage of them, hence advocating for physical meetings instead. The initial reluctance of industries to embrace telecommuting has been suppressed by massive investment in acquiring technological gadgets and embracing technological innovations that aid telecommuting. Employees are also left with no option than to ride on the waves of change by acquiring needed skills so as not to be swept away.

Technology is an important force in the success of telecommuting. Asides the employer’s responsibility in ensuring a smooth transition to working remotely, employees and prospective employees would need to have individual training and technological upgrade in order to remain relevant, employable and indispensable, post COVID-19. There is a possibility that human resource officers and recruiting agencies would place a high value on the acquisition of basic technical skills as one key requirement for employment.

It won’t be wide of the mark to postulate that some job roles will be eliminated if organisations embrace telecommuting post-COVID-19. This is peculiar to job descriptions having to do with maintaining the office space. Investors would also divert their resources to industries where remote working is possible since that would be a fertile ground for investment

All the aforementioned merits of working remotely do not mean that telecommuting is without its cons. Navigating the intricacies of working from home, especially to employees who are new to working remotely can be tasking and the rate of adaptation may vary among individuals based on how technologically compliant one is, and how disciplined one can work without supervision.

The best way to adapting and overcoming the hurdles of telecommuting is to find what works for an individual, you can either adhere to the normal office schedule at home or create your own work schedule, what matters is meeting all the deliverables as set by your employer. This is quite important because COVID-19 may permanently change the operation-mode of many jobs.

Some organisations may stick to the concept of working from home even post-COVID-19. The level of productivity recorded by each organisation during the COVID-19 period will influence the adoption rate of telecommuting by organisations in Nigeria, post COVID-19.  Companies recording high productivity rates have a higher probability of embracing remote working, and the probability will be much higher if they realise that this can save a large chunk of their overhead cost, just as companies that experience a downward slide in productivity might be resistant to allowing employees work from home.

Whichever way the coin is flipped, COVID-19 has made obvious the need for employers to review work policies, find new ways of measuring productivity, and redefine workplace/workspace. The outbreak has ramped up the telecommuting trend and this will probably stay with industries in Nigeria and globally for a long time.

Written by: Fehintola Onifade

A writing enthusiast and connoisseur of beaded jewellery

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