The space where people live and work are most strategic for interventions aimed at realising sustainable development agenda, and critical to peoples’ ultimate life outcomes. A 2021 research (see https://www.scirp.org/journal/paperinformation.aspx?paperid=112247) conducted by the Institute for Work and Family Integration (IWFI), Nigeria, revealed that people spend the bulk of their lifetime at home with family, and at the workplace where they fend for their livelihood.
Thus, development interventions must target fundamental problems that are located in the work and family spaces, as a precursor to addressing larger scale problems in other spheres of society. Developed countries in Europe, America, and Australia seem to have achieved a proper understanding of this, as evidenced in the priority accorded the lived experiences of people in these spaces, through research and advocacy, policy, regulation, laws and other forms of support that seek to address the root causes of problems in family and workplaces.
There are regulations, for instance, about promotion of metal health, responsible parenthood, non-violence in families, incentives and support for child upbringing, and strong laws regulating employer-employee relations and prohibiting exploitation of all forms. Not only do these enhance peoples’ quality of life; they also promote security and prosperity for everyone across board.
In Nigeria, adequate attention has not been accorded the everyday condition in which people live and work. As such, majority of populations still struggle with the most basic of human needs, notably, physiological (e.g food, safe water and air), safety (e.g shelter and peace) and esteem (human dignity) needs, which also constitute important development indicators, and for which work-family spaces constitute strategic intervention points.
Incidentally, these indicators either seem to have been neglected in the large part, or accorded little attention only in a few quarters of national life in Nigeria. It, therefore, appears a misplaced priority that work and family spheres in Nigeria do not seem to have received the required attention, support, research, regulations, policies and practice engagement by government and development practitioners as well as employers and agenda setters in government, private sectors, as well as civil society and development sectors.
With the myriad of problems confronting the country today – in terms of peace, stability, quality of human resources; the prevalence of moral vices, corruption and crimes – including the exploitation of labour in the most extreme forms, could it be time for Nigeria to develop and adopt a national work-family standard?
A national work-family standard aims to provide a framework or guideline by which employers, through their conducts, employment contracts, practices and working conditions, foster family-friendly workplaces and working arrangements. It begins with a recognition of the dignity in the personhood of each employee, eschewing the mechanical approach to human resource which has become a dominant tendency in today’s Nigeria.
Employers are both sensitized and educated to recognise and adopt family-friendly-policies as an enabler of health and wellbeing of employees and those who either depend on or relate with them, so that wellness is optimised in the population; people are happy, and well activated to pursue nationally set development imperatives. Workplace family-friendliness optimises participants’ productivity-potential through the promotion of employee wellbeing, workplace diversity and inclusiveness, as well as safety.
It also ensures that workers are not alienated from the social life – outside of the workplace, which enhances their mental health and makes work more meaningful and fulfilling for them. A national work-family standard is capable of helping employees achieve work-life harmony, a key determinant of employee job satisfaction and a predictor of productivity and job performance.
Countless benefits abound in a “work-family standard-compliant country”, as being advocated for Nigeria. First is that the quality of human populations, beyond mere ‘quantity’, is enhanced across the various stages of the life cycle. Parents and workers can lead an effective and healthy life, optimally productive at home and at work. It implies that couples are able to afford the time required to nurture a happy marriage, while children get the required attention and holistic formation that can only be acquired, not from the school or society, but through quality time with their parents.
For instance, through adequate maternity or sick leave, and the necessary restorative breaks that workers require to get rejuvenated from the stresses and strains of the work-place, they are better equipped and disposed to form their children in the family space.
Additionally, work-family conflicts are either nipped in the bud, or better managed to address the possible spill-over effects of toxicity, aggression or violence in the home. In short, the physical, mental and social dimensions of health and wellness are better enjoyed by adults who are, then, better able to take care of older persons, their own children and other dependents.
It further implies that children are better nurtured in moral and virtues, so that problems such as laziness, truancy, teenage pregnancy, theft, corruption, and cybercrimes, are all contained, while the values of hardwork, integrity, honesty and accountability, patriotism and honesty become established.
In view of the persistent problems in families, work organisations and businesses, could it, then be time to begin to think towards a national work-family standard for Nigeria?