Remote working is not a new work arrangement and as much as working from home was already being implemented by most forward-thinking companies abroad, a lot of companies in Nigeria preferred the conventional way of working.
In February, I conducted a research on remote working in Nigeria with the intention to implement it at work, and my analysis revealed that it was mostly adopted by tech companies. However, with the insurgence of the coronavirus pandemic, working from home has become the new reality for almost every company in Nigeria and abroad.
We’re in the fourth week of a lockdown in Lagos and most employees have been asked to work from home. And because it is a drastic change in doing work, employers and employees have been faced with challenges on how to adjust to this new reality. Some companies in Nigeria have placed their staff on compulsory leaves to accommodate for the time lost while some have terminated the employment of their contract workers.
I’ve always considered the remote working option as a win for any organization because it has some amazing benefits which include; promoting work-life balance, increasing job satisfaction, reducing turnover and boosting employee productivity amongst others. However, working from home every day for a whole month or more is a big step from working from home once or twice a week especially when we have fear and uncertainty looming in our minds.
So how do we attain productivity during this period?
From the Management perspective, I believe this new transition will only work if every member of the team (employee representatives, managers, and leadership) is actively involved in creating strategies and processes. Some of the avenues that can be adopted include;
- Transparency: Leaders in every organization should communicate the short-term and long-term plans that may be embarked upon to deal with the crises. Employers and employees should discuss the impact on their employment relationship openly. If there was ever a time for employers/organizations to show a great sense of empathy, that time is NOW. This way, drastic decisions like furlough and terminations may be avoided.
- Virtual Meetings & Brainstorming Sessions: Team leaders should ensure meetings and brainstorming sessions are conducted virtually. This will make employees feel like they are working, are a part of a team, and are serving a purpose.
- Technology Enhancement: To make work smoother, the IT department should be tasked with continuous research and implementation of the use of web applications, tools, and software that enhance communication, collaboration, and accountability.
- Wellness Check-in: It’s very important that line managers, HR or the organizational psychologist (if available) check on employees to see how they are faring during this time. Take some time to consider the well-being of your employees because these are not normal circumstances. Employees are working from home in a crisis and this crisis has affected them in different unforeseen ways. This gesture may make employees feel that they are genuinely cared for outside of work.
From the Employee perspective, I will suggest the things I’ve been doing to stay productive.
- Dedicated Work Area/Space: People that already had a work area at home before this pandemic, found it easy to use this space to work from home. However, some employees have had to order a home office desk and chair online or create makeshift work areas at home. I work from the dining table at home and I’ve realized that I’ve been more productive than casually working from my bed or right in front of the TV.
- Set Specific Working Hours: You can use your regular work hours or create one that suits you as long as you attend all your meetings and work effectively with your time. I’ve been doing this for the past three weeks and I’ve felt like I was going to work every day.
- Charge Your Devices: Interruptible power supply is still a constant in Nigeria during this pandemic and the only way to be on top of it to work efficiently is by ensuring all your devices are fully charged when you have power. Also, invest in a power bank and ensure it is charged too. You can also make use of the power-saving mode on your devices to save your battery power. This helps you avoid the lack of power as an excuse for not getting work done.
- Communicate With Your Team: Most companies have set up systems to facilitate team communication and collaboration such as; Microsoft Teams, Skype, Microsoft OneDrive, Zoom, Slack, Monday, etc., make use of them. If there’s no system in place, please conduct an extensive research and discuss it with your line manager. The importance of team communication and collaboration cannot be overlooked.
- Relax & Rest: As we all know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. This is the perfect time to exercise, keep your body healthy and finally get on that full-body workout you’ve been putting off for about a year or two. You can also use this time to catch up on all the books you haven’t been able to read, watch a movie or series on Netflix, learn a new skill-I started braiding, expand your knowledge by taking an online course, take quality naps, etc. Do all the things you love to recharge and reset for another workday.
This is the future of work we thought was years away but the coronavirus pandemic has fast-tracked it to now. It’s time to face it headstrong because we have no other choice.