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Remote Working: The Puzzle of Nigerians Adapting to a New Normal

The aim of this article is to provide a quick and easy proposal to get any company working online, and remotely. Status Quo“Don’t worry, sir.

The aim of this article is to provide a quick and easy proposal to get any company working online, and remotely.

Status Quo“Don’t worry, sir. I will be available all evening awaiting your feedback. I’m sorry, I was unreachable all day – my phone has got battery issues,” says Mr. Video Editor, with the phone to his ear as he types furiously on his keyboard. “Ok oo… last time it was generator issues, but it’s fine,” I replied. “I’ll get the feedback from the client and call you back in 10 minutes.” The client had spent millions on their TV advert to be broadcast the very next day, and at this time there was the very real threat that all that money would go to waste.

7 minutes and 45 seconds later, I place a call to Mr. Video Editor, and it rings continuously without an answer. On the 3rd attempt, on the second ring, I’m greeted by another voice that spoke the sentence that I was dreading to hear; “THIS person’s phone is switched off…”

This is a true story and is, sadly, quite a common occurrence in a lot of service businesses.

Working with teams remotely has always been a challenge in Nigeria due to a collection of factors – internet connectivity issues, power issues, device theft during commutes, aggressively loud housemates or family members… the list goes on. Worse still see, is if you have a team member as unfortunate as Mr. Video Editor who seems to consistently have sizable amounts of his day affected by natural disasters and other “acts of God,” that conveniently prevent him from successfully accomplishing any given task.

It is due to instances such as this, that remote working in Nigeria is considered a luxury reserved for company bosses, chairmen, department heads, and, on the odd occasion, possibly, a few high performing members of the team. In “the abroad” a lot of companies are more welcoming to the idea of working from home, usually, due to increased worker satisfaction, lower overhead costs, and, in some cases, increased productivity. However, due to the aforementioned set of uncontrollable factors, working from the office seemed like it would be the status quo in Nigeria for the foreseeable future.

On the 29th of March 2020, however, President Muhammadu Buhari made the announcement that would force most businesses to shut down completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we liked it or not, the era of remote working in Nigeria had officially begun.

What is happening now

The effect of the distancing is now being felt by every single business. In some cases, it may be as minor as the annoyance of an unclear voice call from a team member that lives in an area of poor cellular service, or in extreme cases, could be the shut down of business forever.

How to approach going forward

So now that we must work remotely, what next? In order to have your team performing optimally while working remotely, you really have no other option but to opt for cloud productivity software. In lay-mans terms, these are online tools and technologies geared towards helping you work from wherever you are from right within your website browser. A lot of them start out free, but start to charge once your usage exceeds a certain amount.
At our agency, Monospace Digital, we use a collection of online cloud tools for the entire team, and then more specialised ones for the various departments. Our general stack, which is relevant for most businesses, consists of the following tools:

Google Docs: I still find it hard to believe Google gives this out for free, but hey. This gives each user a Google version of Microsoft Office Suite (Google Docs replaces Microsoft Word, Google Sheets replaces Microsoft excel, etc). It also gives you access to 15GB of storage space to host your files. This means that all the files you save within a Google Drive folder can be accessible to anyone you share it with.

Google Hangouts (Or Google Meet): This comes standard as part of the Google Docs. There’s a lot of fanfare around Zoom, but I love this because you can use it right from within your browser without needing to install any applications. Straight to the point.

Slack: This is amazing for internal communications. We have “Channel” to discuss client projects with the team and even external partners and consultants outside of your work domain. This allows for real-time communication.
Notion: I won’t lie, I was a bit late to the table with this one. I’d like to call this a note-taking application for ease, but that would be an insult to this program. They refer to themselves as an all-in-one workspace. It allows you to take notes, compose a list of tasks, product roadmaps, used as a design repository, and so much more. They even had a handy tool to allow me to migrate all my notes across from Evernote!

Paystack: These guys changed the game for e-commerce in Nigeria. They easily allow anyone to receive payments and have it resolved to their accounts.

More important than tools, however, is “mindset.” It takes a level of discipline to come to terms with new software and use it everyday. It does not matter what amazing magical online tools you have, if the person you hire refuses to follow workflows and processes, or if they are unavailable during a group call.

Back to our story from before. It appears we would be unable to get Mr. Video Editor to complete our video. Luckily for us, we use the core cloud solutions mentioned above as part of our day-to-day operations. After our inability to reach Mr. Video Editor, we swiftly engaged another team member who was able to continue using the project files from where they left off. Great. Now, on to the next problem…

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