The Future of work in Lagos is r-e-m-o-t-e

About two weeks ago, I ran a Twitter poll. The goal was simple — confirm if I was the only one that had spent 24 hours/every work-week shuttling Ogudu and Lekki Phase 1 despite setting out around 5:20 am everyday and leaving Lekki as late as 10:30pm sometimes. The results were interesting.

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When do you leave for work?

43% of respondents said they set out for work before 6am. One of my friends in the US could simply not understand this. His question was “when do they sleep?”

80% said they needed 1–2 hours to get to work on an average day. 7% informed that they’d still need 1–2 hours to get to work even without rush hour traffic — this means that regardless of traffic, a bunch still live pretty far from their office. Another question my US friend asked was “Do they live in Ogun state?” The answer I told him was “Yes, actually!”

This friend’s total commute in a week is about 2–3 hours.

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About getting to work

60% found the distance between home and the office so stressful that they had to move and 50% said they’d be worried if there wasn’t traffic! Moving to the island for me was common sense.

The days were flying by and I was waking up with a headache nearly everyday.

The stats also revealed that 66% of respondents worked on the island. This came as no surprise. The evidence is in the To and Fro lanes of 3MB. The question is “Do we all have to be in the office everyday?”

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When do you leave work?

A staggering 70% believed that closing at 4pm instead of 5pm would make all the difference. We also had 71% say they’d rather leave work once it was 5pm instead of staying till really late when the traffic had cleared up — this reinforces the fact that people want to have a life outside work. How will this happen when 65% get home between 8pm-10pm? Sterling Bank Plc may be the only major employer doing something about this with their Flexi-time and Flexi-place rules. A quote from The Guardian article sums up Abubakar Suleiman’s expectations,

“… described the pilot stage as highly successful, expressed his optimism that the initiative will enhance productivity of staff, promote bonding among family members, reduce the stress of waking very early and spend long hours in traffic to get to the office early, improve the well-being of staff and ultimately promote work life and balance among the workforce.”

It’s time to go remote!

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According to this CNBC article, 70% of professionals work remotely at least once every week and 53% work remotely at least half of the week. This feedback was from 18,000 employees spread across 96 international companies.

In the Twitter poll, 73% said they believed that their jobs could be done remotely. For software engineers and sales professionals who currently enjoy this option, apart from not having to spend half of their weekend on the road, they are able to commit to more than one employer — some international. This eventually translates to more opportunities, varied experience and of course more money in their pockets. Some cogent advantages for employers are reduced admin costs, reduced employee turnover, recruiting better (many have bowed out of a recruitment process because of distance). You are also able to recruit more talented employees (on a need basis) without having to compete with the bigger companies that can actually afford them.

Presence ≠ Productivity

The major concern I have had employers express is how to measure work done. In other words, they do not trust that remote workers will submit deliverables when due if they do not monitor them physically. This makes me think that a vast majority of Nigerian employers recognise presence over productivity. We have to change this if we are ever going to achieve work-life balance. With claims that Lagos state houses ~20m people, it’s time to work out smarter ways of achieving productivity.

What can we do to get there?

While this feedback was from a relatively small sample, the majority share the same sentiments — working at a preferred time and location as long as the job gets done.

Depending on what the measure of productivity is — it shouldn’t always be number of hours worked by the way, information available here and here give great ideas on managing remote teams.

Also, replicating the SeedspaceWorkstation and Cranium One models across Lagos will go a long way especially for instances where employees need to hold frequent standups or client meetings.

If we are ever going to truly disrupt anything, we need to start with the way we work. Who created “8–5” anyway?

I’ld love to hear your thoughts!