Covid-19: Redefining The Future Of Work

By Ayo Afuwape

Before now, Human Capital experts have warned of imminent changes to the work environment. They projected a revolution in the way, manner and how works are done, as well as the dynamic nature of work itself.

As hard as these realities seem to many, current Covid-19 global pandemic experience has further underscored the believability of these changes and several alternatives available to how works could be done, either through a ‘virtual-physical’ or ‘virtual-virtual’ platform as against the traditional ‘physical-physical’ work model.

Since the virus made its way to countries of the world through the Wuhan Province of China up till its discovery in Nigeria, several lessons have manifested from this unfortunate development.

For us in Nigeria and Lagos State specifically, being the epicenter of the virus in the country, the stay at home order from the President Muhammadu Buhari has further exposed the dependence of a large chunk of the country’s population on daily earnings, just as it also revealed the need for us to be more inventive in our approach to work and move with the current trend of virtual work environment.

In March this year, President Buhari launched the Digital Nigeria Programme as “one of Federal Government’s key initiatives that will empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in our emerging digital economy".

Also, the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy is partnering with a number of institutions to enable Nigerians acquire cutting edge digital skills within the comfort of their homes. One of such partnerships is based on the MoU signed with IBM, a computer hardware company in January this year to provide Nigerians with over 280+ hours of free learning & 85+ courses on key emerging technologies like; Blockchain; Artificial Intelligence; Big Data; and Cloud Computing.

The tragic episode of Covid-19 may be one that had exhumed inherent creativity in us as human and it has, no doubt, made it more glaring that certain things we had hitherto considered to be far-reaching and highly unattainable are actually achievable and within our reach. Thus, “we may not know the giant that lies in us until we're pushed to the wall.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lagos State government may never have considered the possibility of an online Executive Council meeting if the current reality had not compelled governments across the world to be more ingenious and think outside the box to ensure that the business of governance continues in-spite of the threat posed by the virus.

As it was in Lagos State, the United Kingdom also witnessed a first electronic cabinet meeting which allowed Ministers to discuss the latest updates on the corona virus outbreak, while observing official advice to work from home whenever possible. This was indeed historic because it was the first time in the history of the UK that a cabinet meeting took place with no ministers physically present.

In the education sector, the Lagos State Government also introduced a teaching and learning platforms on Radio and Television for learners. The initiative, according to the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, was intended to support SS3 students preparing for their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), while the Chairman of Lagos SUBEB, Hon. Wahab Alawiye-King explained that the on-air programmes were designed to academically engage pupils despite the closure of schools.

Of the most recent in these series of online initiatives in Lagos State was an online training session targeted at thousands of Public Servants in the State through the Ministry of establishments, Training and Pensions with emphasis on the future of works across the globe. This initiative was also made possible through Zoom App and was facilitated by several resource persons including the Chairman of the State’s Civil Service Commission, Mrs. Olubunmi Fabamwo. This, being another first of its kind, was commended by several Public Servants who joined the online training sessions.

Perhaps, the underlying message here is that in-spite of several disruptions of social and human activities globally occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, creative ways are being devised to keep the business of governance going, improve the human capacity of workforce and ensure smooth running of school curriculum through the aid of technology.

Also, in what appears to be incredulous, faith-based activities are now being held online, with faithfuls worshiping in the comfort of their homes. Charity offerings are now being sent online and used for the purposes which they are meant for. Also, casual worshipers have quickly come to the realization of the need for personal relationship with their makers as against seeking covering under the shadows of their spiritual leaders.

To government officials and other corporate workers, the reality is dawn on them that their daily activities could now be carried out anywhere and anytime via the internet, considering the viral advantages associated with the various online platforms and channels which are yet to be fully explored for maximum economic gains.

In reality, many Lagosians share this sentiment as some had continued their official work within the confine of their homes, thereby making millions of naira for themselves and their respective organisations. Sadly, many are yet to come to term with this reality.

Among other things, Covid-19 has taught us the need to save for the raining days and not ‘eat’ with all fingers, as there may sometimes be very complicated situations that might hamper daily activities.

That a lot of us, from the first day of the restriction order, have already started exhibiting palpable fears of survival for the two weeks which the restriction order was supposed to last, clearly exposes a seeming lack of saving and proper planning culture.

With more emerging trends globally in the workspace, tougher times lie ahead, especially for those who cannot innovate and move with the wave of technology in carrying out assigned tasks. As it is presently in developed climes, where medical solutions and treatments could be administered online without a physical contact between doctor and patient, our society should brace up and prepare for the unimaginable in the space of the future work.

While we await a final end to this deadly pandemic and a resuscitation of our business activities, it is quite instructive to carefully note some salient issues imminent in the present predicament.

If we can embrace the culture of flexible work hours and also working from the comfort of our homes, our life expectancy, especially, in this part of the world, would geometrically increase, as there would be more time for family integration while needless hours spent in traffic would be reduced. This would obviously leads to a healthier lifestyle and saner environment.

Afuwape is of the Social Media Department, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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