Remote work or Work From home (WFM) is either the biggest blessing or the craziest curse to hit the professional landscape in the last 50 years. Before you scream your opinion, just know that views depend on who is making an opinion.
The impact of remote work on the global work culture has been undeniable. I think it’s just as transformative as the advent of cloud computing which allowed startups to work their magic. Who would have known Stripe, Paystack, Moniepoint without the ease of launching scrappy startups from the cloud?
Then the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown happened.
And then individuals and organizations came to realize they could do so much more from their homes– the world unlocked a new realm of possibilities that had been hiding just under our noses.
There are only two kinds of people left in this world
It’s been three years since remote work became as normal as working from the office and now there are two kinds of people left in this world: those who want to work from home and those who want to return to their offices. A subset under those who want to work from the office is those who can’t even work from home to start with because they don’t have the means.This is prevalent in Africa where constant power and affordable stable-internet access is a daily miracle.
Some even pray for this 😞.
The argument of whether or not it’s time to return to the office or if life can continue with remote work is one in which there’s some merit on all sides. Remote work introduces a much appreciated flexibility and, in many cases, boosts productivity, especially in cities like Lagos where long commutes are a norm. There’s no such thing as a 9-5 job in Lagos. 5-9 is a more accurate description for the average Lagosian when one considers travel time to and from work and traffic conditions. Personally, there are some places I dread going to in Lagos for fear of growing old and missing the birth of my grandchildren because I’m stuck in traffic.
Alternatively, for those pushing to go back to the office, they’ve probably measured their productivity in both situations and determined they’re better off with traditional office-based work. Access to power, internet and no screaming family members or daytime chores? Can we really blame them?
Don’t even start with annoying parents who send their grown kids on errands during work hours.
Hybrid work presents a middle ground and has its own benefits. Sometimes, being able to meet up with colleagues physically just makes sense. Teams are able to balance virtual interactions with occasional in-person collaboration.
As much as there are merits to all sides of the arguments, some professions don’t have the luxury of choice. For instance, pilots, air hostesses, logistics agents, etc. Try being a dispatch rider from home and see how that works out for you.
If remote work met the love of its life and had a poster child, it’ll be me
There are people like me for whom remote work has done wonders and fueled innovation and growth. Without the opportunity to remote work, my Lending-as-a-Service (LaaS) startup, Lendsqr, wouldn’t exist and I probably wouldn’t be configured the way I am right now.
Obviously, I had to do Lendsqr by the side when I had a corporate job but it wasn’t scaling. I barely had time to check on it and it stayed a tiny operation on the road to who knows where not. Then the COVID-19 lockdown happened and suddenly I could do it all. I could tap into a diverse pool of talent across Nigeria, work from home and work for as long as possible. Additionally, I didn’t have to hide what I was doing in the office.
That was how Lendsqr grew.
This isn’t unique to Lendsqr alone. That’s how a lot of companies flourished between 2020 and now. Of course, some others had been working remotely even before then but it was a relatively new development to much of the world.
Remote work is a great color on my company, Lendsqr
During one of my recent travels, I met a bunch of founders and business owners who all had offices in Nigeria at one time but had to shut them all down because the cost of running those spaces was unreasonable. That’s just the reality of trying to run a business from physical offices. In the last few years, the price of everything has gone up: diesel, petrol, rent, etc. For large organizations with big business and cash flow, perhaps the price hikes have been manageable. But not so much for small operations.
Lendsqr isn’t profitable yet (sadly) but if we had decided to operate from a physical office, we probably wouldn’t exist anymore.
Last year, I considered using one of my apartments as Lendsqr’s office and after looking at what it would cost to set the place up into a really nice office, I just didn’t think it was worth it. That money would have been better spent on salaries for the next few months. The opportunity to work remotely has allowed us to significantly reduce operational costs and redirect our funds towards growth and employee wellness.
One of the blessings I’m most grateful for operating remotely hasn’t even been the cost savings. It’s the opportunity to have discovered a few young people that have been extremely amazing.
In Lendsqr, access to quality talent is one of the benefits we enjoy from operating remotely. If we weren’t operating remotely, we would need to have an office and by extension, only be able to employ only people who could easily get to the office. This would limit our recruitment to a very narrow geographical area.
Some of the best people that have worked in Lendsqr have been from all over Nigeria: Abuja, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Benin, etc. These are people who would have never been able to come work with us if we didn’t operate remotely and Lendsqr would have been forced to compete in a very narrow space.
I’m sure we can all agree that the flexibility from working remotely is also unmatched. My staff can jump on different projects throughout the day and take a nap to recharge as well. Yes, we sleep at work … but with sense. They don’t need to sit in traffic for hours or think about getting robbed on the way to work. They also don’t need to worry about getting to work tired or coming to the office smelling like petrol and fumes (sorry guys, but it’s true) from commuting. Uber is out of the question of course, that’s expensive for most and not sustainable for all.
If Lendsqr had a voice, it’ll probably curse remote work sometimes too
Operating remotely also comes with its own significant pains, of course. The most obvious one is that employee retention becomes a concern. Wait. Don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s because I’m impossible to work with. Those who’ve stuck with me the longest are actually the ones who’ve seen even the worst of me.
Virtual meetings are a pain; video meetings are a curse. They drain you so deeply you are more tired than a 70 year old running a marathon the first time. It never ends well.
The real reason is that with remote work, the ease of exploring alternative employment opportunities is frictionless. They can jump on calls, take interviews, and close new jobs without breaking a sweat. This would have been incredibly difficult to do if they were working out of an office. If you don’t agree, do your next interview in your current company open-plan office and then let me know how unemployment is treating you.
Also, there are some issues with the quality of work. It takes longer to get some things done with the communication barriers and longer review cycles. These are things that would probably only take a couple of minutes to refine if we could just stroll into each other’s offices. Don’t even mention how difficult it is to have decent conversations via chat when your colleague takes 57 minutes to reply to each message.
It’s not the common view but working remotely actually demands more discipline and not a lot of people have it. People can tell you they’re working on something already meanwhile they haven’t even opened the brief. Guess what? There’s nothing one can do about it.
I see the lack of discipline a lot with young people who usually have a hard time fitting in. But you can’t blame them at all!
You have green talent, fresh out of school, have never worked before and they come into a remote job. How do they make themselves sit at a desk everyday and do the work without being pushed? Many get distracted with domestic responsibilities, seeing friends, playing games, binge-watching series, etc. You can get on a call and ask people to turn on their videos only to discover someone has been on the road somewhere doing something completely unrelated to work.
Everyone knows this can’t happen when you work physically and no one gets to go home until the day’s work is actually done. With remote work, someone says their internet isn’t working and poof everyone disappears.
To each his own. I know my own.
Hybrid work seems to be the best and we’d have the chance to bond and connect more when we see each other physically. However, it’s not always practical. I can’t always get my designer in Kaduna, developer in Abuja or support person in Port Harcourt to come down to Lagos to work.
Lendsqr will probably continue to operate remotely for a long time. However, I can’t ignore what I’m missing out on from not having a physical office. I wish we could be more stable. The attrition rate is atrocious and we, myself included, could all benefit from being even more disciplined than we are now. Although, I do recognize that some people who work physically just pretend to be busy while they misuse theirs and company time gisting and doing other irrelevant things.
The reality is that remote work comes with many blessings and many curses. It’s up to you to decide which works best for you. I won’t recommend any approach to anyone because it depends on what you have the capacity to make work.
Just like cloud computing created the opportunity for startups to build things without having to actually build things, remote work has created the opportunity for serious-minded people to build beautiful careers.
Above all, do what works best for you. I know I am.