Why Lagosians want to work from home
The six-week lockdown in Lagos, to curb the spread of Covid-19, upended individuals, companies, and the megacity itself. It caught them unprepared too. It presented many, who worked from home for the first time, with problems they never faced before.
To fill the gap in the literature on remote work in Nigeria, Danne Institute for Research conducted a survey. It was carried out to assess employee experience with this relatively new phenomenon and their preferences regarding working from home post Covid-19. Most respondents were married (60%) with school age children (52%) and were in managerial positions (85%).
About one third of respondents said they had “a moderate amount” of time to prepare to work from home during the lockdown. It was easier for them because their organisations helped them with the resources to work from home and some training and support.
Lagosians faced many challenges while working from home during the lockdown: unstable internet access, epileptic power supply, distractions from family members, keeping a schedule, no dedicated workspace and zero physical communication with colleagues. In spite of these, an overwhelming majority say they want to work from home occasionally. For a majority of respondents (70%), savings in commute time was the most important advantage of working from home. In Lagos, a typical commute to and from work could take between four to six hours. Respondents in our survey described traffic in Lagos as a terror. It saps their energy, robs them of sleep, peace, and tranquillity.
With traffic out of the way, respondents said working from home allowed them to schedule their time. For instance, working at night to take advantage of better internet quality. And for those with families, their presence at home meant they could devote more time to their spouses and children. A few of them mentioned higher productivity as an advantage, a consequence of savings in commute time and more time to sleep.
Despite the challenges of working from home, 98% of respondents said they would like to work from home sometimes; 52% would like work from home twice a week. According to one respondent: “I feel relaxed working from home and I think that makes my productivity level higher. I don't have to wake up too early and dash into the Lagos traffic. I save time and energy that can be put to better use.”
Overall, it appears that working from home will be part of the new normal for many organisations, but they have to overcome the challenges. And they don’t have to wait for another lockdown or emergency. It should be part of their business continuity plan.
The curb on movement of goods and people imposed in Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, slowed down the volume of transactions among businesses and people. The economy shrunk the most in a long time during the three months to June 2020.
The easing of restrictions on movement is happening when the Third Mainland Bridge is being repaired. This has put more pressure on road transport and increased traffic jams. The cost of transport will increase with the removal of the fuel subsidy. Ultimately, business activities in the city will be slowed down, if not disrupted.
Our survey on the lessons from working from home during the lockdown, together with our research on connectivity and productivity show there are many economic benefits to remote work. If many organisations implement a work from home policy, productivity levels of these businesses will increase, traffic jams will be eased and business activities can continue with fewer disruptions.
The survey of employees who worked from home during the lockdown provides rich data for top managers to make informed decisions based on evidence.
For work from home to work, however, employees must have the necessary tools. For instance, access to stable internet connection and power supply is a must – it was the biggest challenge respondents faced during the lockdown.
Our survey revealed a wide gap in the support organisations provided their employees. While some respondents said their organisations did all they could to get them started, others said their organisations did nothing.
If working from home is to work, organisations must support employees at least as much as they support them while working from the office. The tools and resources to work from home should be provided, targets should be clear and check-in times specified. A detailed policy on working from home is also necessary as organisations prepare for the future.