Being an HR Partner to several small businesses, talking to CEOs, the train of conversations are similar. With the recent spate of foreign investor interest and investment in indigenous businesses, many entrepreneurs are enamoured with the idea of building a world-class organisation with best in class HR practices and policies. Well, only, until we get talking about remote working. It is not unusual to hear ‘I’m not sure remote working can work in Nigeria; with our limited infrastructure and capacity, we need our people to come into the office.’ The pandemic tagged ‘the largest work from home experiment’ has since changed this narrative.
With the ongoing lock-down situation across the country, I reached out to some CEOs to understand how remote working was working out for them and their teams. You guessed it! 10-out-of-10 CEOs said the same thing. The team is more productive, even more typically reticent individuals in the team seem to be more engaged than usual in team meetings.
Come May, as we hopefully step out into a relaxed lock-down reality, here are some predictions on the future of home working in Nigeria.
Greater focus on output versus time spent in the office
Showing up at work and staying for an inordinate number of hours a day is often not tantamount to productivity. Countless research has shown that employees who work remotely are generally more satisfied and productive than colleagues that work from the office. The surge in freelancing and independent professionals if anything, tells us that productivity is about outputs and results and not so much about timing and location. We can expect that more employers will embrace this new reality with greater focus on output and productivity.
The model-new-hire will change
Remote working requires an ability to work independently, self-discipline and motivation; individuals who can manage their own time and delivery. Our new way of working will require employees who are accountable for their deliverables, and can be relied on to deliver on commitments. Employers will pay more attention to competencies like integrity, digital intelligence and collaboration. These competencies will also inform whom in the existing team remote working is extended to.
Limited infrastructure will not be a barrier
One of the biggest concern businesses raise as a limitation to remote working today is local power and technology challenges and rightfully so, especially as It is unlikely that these will transform overnight. As such, we expect to see an increase in the number of co-working spaces beyond the city centre (Ikeja, Victoria Island, Ikoyi) to the outskirts (Oshodi, Akowonjo, Agege).
We can also expect to see more employers explore co-working spaces as an alternative to large expensive office spaces and question whether they need the exorbitant office spaces and operating costs.
Flexible Management Style
The new ways of working also calls for a different management style that is high in planning, goal setting and evaluation. We can expect to see more people requesting to work remotely and employers approving these. An increased uptake in remote working requires managers who are adept at engaging and communicating with team members, setting clear expectations and leveraging technology to foster team effectiveness.
No doubt, the rewards are great for companies that adapt quickly to this new normal: productive, efficient, and satisfied workers; a culture based more explicitly on merit than eye service; access to a wide range of talent and lower operating cost.
Nevertheless, remote working comes with its challenges, poor communication, loneliness and isolation are often quoted its biggest challenges. As such, staying connected and leveraging smart communication tools will go a long way to close any communication gap and ensure out of sight is not out of mind.
If you are a small business owner already mulling over these possibilities for your business, you can start planning for this transition now by taking some deliberate steps:
· Encouraging remote work: if you don’t already have a remote working policy in place, consider crafting one to encourage flexible hours or occasional working from home, say once a month, for starters
· Ensure you have an effective performance management system in place that focuses on delivery against set goals and managing and evaluating employees by the results they deliver
· Consider hot-desking and co-working spaces as an alternative to more tradition workspace to help manage your cost
Enitan Oyenuga is Managing Partner at HR-EX Consulting. HR-EX Consulting provides outsourced HR services to small businesses.