Far too many Nigerians, especially in the larger cities, spend way too much time in transit to and fro the office. Do we all have to be at the office? Must we all be there at the same time? Must we all be at the office all day?
I once read an article about a British actress taking 6 months off work to focus on her new baby, and when she noted that not many women have that privilege, it really got me thinking about Nigeria. Here we are fortunate to have 3 months of paid maternity leave, but many mothers know how quickly that time flies. Before you know it, it’s time to return to work. Other mothers, like me, decided not to go back to the office.
However, this isn’t just about working mothers; it’s about everyone who has to leave home for the office in the morning and return in the evening. Although I believe that work-life balance as we tend to think of it is a myth, I certainly agree that working 8am to 4pm or 5pm in an office building Monday-Friday is not for everyone and is not always necessary.
Here are other options Nigerian organisations may consider adopting:
- Working from home: This is the most popular option, the one that pops into everyone’s minds first when job trends are discussed. It certainly has its perks, but it is not for everyone. Some people just can’t work without colleagues around, while some need supervision to be effective. Also, if you work from home, you are expected to achieve the same amount of work as you would in the office, and also to answer your phone during working hours as well as check and answer your emails, so banish visions of faffing around in your pyjamas. It’s basically the same thing as being at the office, except that you skip the stress of a commute to work and back, saving your energy and your fuel, not to mention reducing mileage/wear and tear on your car.
- Half-day: Also known as working part-time, this means working half the hours of a normal working day. In some cases, you are also expected to be reachable via email and on the phone even when you’re not at the office. A couple of years ago I attended a seminar where personal finance expert, Nimi Akinkugbe, was a speaker. She mentioned that when her children were small, she arranged with her employers to accept a salary cut that would enable her work till 12 noon every day, and return home to be with her children. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if every mother who wanted such an arrangement could secure it, instead of having to choose between career and being a present mother.
- Flexi-time: I recently had a conversation with a friend in Delta State who recently got a new job, and one of the things she loves about it is flexi-time. This simply means that you work the normal eight hours a day, but you get to choose when they start and end. You may choose to avoid traffic in the morning by waiting until morning traffic has reduced before leaving for work, and remaining there long after everyone else has closed. If you cannot, or do not want to resume later and close later, you can resume earlier and close earlier, which has the same benefit, in addition to others.
- Job-sharing: The first time I read the story of two British women who shared a job, I was thoroughly amused. I couldn’t help laughing when they related a question they often had to answer: “So, which of you exactly is the CEO?” The answer, of course, is always “both of us.” Job-sharing, which has been a popular trend in the UK for years, means two people share the same job. This means half the responsibility for each person, but it also means half the salary. If having free time and less work means more to you than 50% of the salary a position offers, then this may be for you, although you also have to consider how well you work with the other person, since you can’t afford to be on different pages in the same role. You’re meant to work as one.
All of this, of course, depends on how willing Nigerian organisations are to move away from the conventional work style in exchange for greater productivity and happier, healthier employees.
Which would you prefer, if your organisation offered you these options?
Employers, would you consider any of these work styles for your staff?
Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at] yahoo.com