Thinking of working from home during this COVID-19 outbreak? A real WFH veteran shares 7 things you should know as you transition to remote work in Nigeria
Lagos is on lock down. Abuja is on lock down. Ogun is on lock down. Couple of other states are contemplating or enforcing varying degree of restrictions.
All these measures are in place, as both Federal and state governments race to minimise the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
The fallout is, businesses now have to re-assess their operational model. While many small and mid-sized businesses are shutting down operations until the restrictions are lifted. Others are opting to scale back operations with key functions performed by staff working from their homes.
For most, working from home is a new reality. They are used to doing most of their work at their workplace. And so, it can be overwhelming transitioning to remote work.
The good news, however, is that many people are already working from home in Nigeria. And with a little planning and adjustment, you too can handle work-related tasks from home.
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You see, I’m among the professionals who work from home. I’ve been working remotely since 2016 – that’s four years of working from home. Over this time, I’ve garnered experiences of what it means to work remotely in Nigeria.
I’ve had first-hand experience of the challenges you are likely going to face as you make the same transition. The psychological adjustments that is necessary, plus proven productivity hacks to ensure you get important work done.
COVID-19 Work From Home Tips
In this piece, you will learn seven things you need to know as you transition to remote work in Nigeria and some recommended tools to help boost your productivity.
Two Big challenges to sort out first
Nigeria, unlike most other countries, have two infrastructural gaps you have to fill by yourself before you think of working from home.
How are you going to power your devices, at least for the hours you will be working? Unlike, other countries with a steady power supply, you will have to provide your own power.
Ensuring I had power whenever I wanted to work was probably the hardest aspect of working from home in my experience.
When I first started, I had to organize my work hours around when we will have ‘light’ in our neighborhood.
PHCN (that’s the acronym for the public power utility company in Nigeria) gives us ‘light’ (Light as used here is Nigerian’s parlance for power supply) around 4 A.M in the morning till 8 AM – that’s four hours of light in the morning. So, I usually wake by 5.30 A.M every day to take advantage of the light.
By the time the power supply is cut-off, I would have clocked in three hours. The power comes on again by 10 AM and stays till 12 PM.
From 12 P.M. I will turn on my power generator, which will run till around 3 PM or 4 PM when the public power supply is restored.
While you may not want to organize your work hours around when you’d get ‘light’ in your neighborhood, you certainly have to figure out a more reliable and stable power source for your devices as you transition to working from home.
You already use the internet in your homes, so this might not really be an issue. YOu simply have to decide whether you are going to bear the internet cost during this time or your company does.
However, I’d recommend you get backup internet provider for when your primary provider becomes spotty – which of course happens most of the time.
Once you have sorted your power and internet needs, then you are good to go.
Other things to know as you transition to remote work in Nigeria
You’re going to get utterly lonely (sometimes)
If you are someone that feeds off been around other people, you are going to find working remotely punishing.
While you may have your family around, due to the lockdown, you will realize pretty soon that you miss the little talks with your colleagues at work.
Sure, you may have Skype and Slack to video call and chat with your team, but it doesn’t just feel the same way as a face-to-face conversation.
So, you may want to psychologically prepare yourself before transitioning to working from home. To help you mentally prep yourself for the switch, do the following:
Create a routine and stick to it – A routine brings structure and order to your day. When you commute to work, you have a specific structure to follow – wake up, bathe, dress and go to work. Even at your workplace, your day is already mapped – you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing.
That’s not the case with working from home. You have more flexibility and most times, your day just stretch out in front of you. However, with a routine, you can create a semblance of sructure.
For me, my routine is like this: wake up by 5:30 AM work for 2 – 3 hours. Workout. Freshen up. Eat breakfast. Get back to work for another 2 hours. Nap or take a break for 30 minutes to one hour. Get back to work.
Now with this routine, I have a bit of structure – though flexible and there are days when I don’t strictly follow this pattern, it helps ut me in ‘work mindset’ every time.
Have a designated work space – If you don’t have a home office like me, you will have to designate a specific corner in your home as your workspace.
I have a small corner in the living room where my laptop and bookshelf are located. That’s where I work and I try as much as possible to conduct only work-related activities here.
The advantage of having a space dedicated to work is that your brain associates that space with work. Hence, it becomes pretty easy to get into work mood anytime you are there.
See the work you do as ‘work’ – this is probably the most important thing you can do as you prepare to transition to remote work.
It’s pretty easy to slack and not take the work you do from home seriously. Think about it, while in your workplace, do you just slack off and start binging on YouTube? Or the time you should be working, scrolling through your social media feed?
The answer is No. So, why do the same thing when working from home? The most effective mind hack you can implement right now as you prep yourself for remote work is to see working from home as ‘work’ and treat it as such.
You are going to get distracted, a great deal
Whether you live alone or have a house full of boisterous little urns, you will often get distracted now and then.
It’s either you find lying on your couch unbearably tempting or have your little ones pull at your laptop cord or a friend calls you to chat after all everyone is locked in.
The bottomline is, if you are hoping to get the same level of distraction-free environment as your office in your home, you wouldn’t get it. So, you may just as well factor a couple of down time into your work from home strategy.
Even though my wife has learned not to disturb me whenever I’m working, there are moments when she can’t help it or our son becomes a handful or something comes up and I get distracted. It comes with the turf and I’ve learned to live with it – you might as well get used to this new experience too.
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You will struggle to be productive at first
Don’t expect to hit your stride on the productivity scale, in your first couple of days. You will need some time to get used to the new arrangement of working from home.
Use the first few days to ease yourself into the work from home mindset. To ensure peak productivity while working from home, you may want to consider this:
- Invest in an ergonomic chair – Your chair has a direct impact on your productivity. When you work from a comfortable chair, you are more focused. Since you are not thinking about just how uncomfortable you feel, you give your full attention to the task at hand. Ergonomic chairs also ensure you don’t get back pains.
- Use productivity and time tracker tools – It’s pretty easy to work long hours or get distracted working from home. I use RecuseTime to keep track of how long I work in a week and what I’ve been working on. Other productivity tools you may want to check out include Toggl and focus booster app
- Use project tracking apps to stay ahead of project progress -While working from home, you want to stay on the same page with your team. Here’s where project and team management apps come in handy. Depending on what you already use Trello and Asana are some of the resources you may want to consider.
- You need a filesharing resource – When handling bulk files, you will need a cloud solution to host them. I personally prefer MEGA. I love the end-to-end encryption feature that allows me to encrypt files, this way only people with the decryption key can access my file. Dropbox and Google Drive are two other cloud storage tools you can use.
- Instant chat and messaging app – Communication is key when working from home. Instant messaging apps like Skype and Slack make it easy for a quick check-in with everyone.
- You need a videoconferencing tool – To create a semblance of person-to-person meeting, use videoconferencing. Zoom and Skype are my two go-to tools.
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Your work and personal life will often overlap
That’s something nobody is going to tell you about working from home – the line between work and your personal life becomes a blur.
Working from home means, your workspace is always nearby. And, since work doesn’t seem to finish – there’s always a new email to send, a new content idea to research or a client work that needs some finishing – if care is not taken, you will be drawn into this endless loop of work.
See, I still struggle with this. I’ve had moments where I’m caught thinking or working when I shouldn’t. It is difficult to switch off from work mode.
Of course, you may not struggle with this yourself, as working from home, might just be a temporary arrangement with your business. Once the lockdown is over, you go back to your office. But, then, it doesn’t hurt to know what you’re up against.
Just in case you find yourself struggling to differentiate between work and your personal life, here are a couple of things you can do:
Be definite about work hours – Sure remote work gives you some flexibility with your work hours, however, if you don’t watch it, work can also creep into your personal life too.
Set clear work hours and stick to it. Just as you would leave work-related issues at the office at the end of the day, you will also have to implement same now.
Use time tracker – Before you start working for the day, decide how long you are going to work and then set your time tracker.
Some of the apps will either make your laptop screen go blank once the time is up until you shut down or an alarm will sound which lets you know its time to close for the day.
Close the laptop – At the end of the day, the simple action of closing the laptop will tell your brain its time to go ‘home’.
If you are like me with a workstation at the corner of the room, leaving the laptop open could be tempting. You don’t want to be unconsciously drawn towards the workstation once you are done for the day.
You will struggle with motivation, at times
Everyone of us, at some point, struggles with motivation to work. But, it is a lot easier to get things done at the workplace than if you are working at home with no boss or colleague looking over your shoulders.
See. let me upfront with you, if you are not self-disciplined and accountable finding the motivation to get work done will be difficult.
However, here are some tricks I use to get myself motivated:
- Each night before going to bed, I’ll play through my mind, all the tasks I will need to accomplish the following morning. This gives me a sense of direction and control, two crucial attributes you need when working from home.
- Once I wake up, thankfully, I’m a morning person, I go straight to work. With my energy high and little distractions that early morning, I get those works done.
- Thinking about the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment I feel when the work is done, gives me an added push to get to work.
- Finally, the thought of disappointing my clients and team who depends on my completing my part of the project to get started on theirs keeps me on my toes to finish whatever needs to be done.
While working from home in Nigeria during this pandemic has its ups and downs, it can also be an exciting experience and an opportunity to see if remote work is for you.
Hopefully, the tips in this post will help you make the most of your time during this lock down. Stay safe. Stay productive. We are in this together and together we will get through it.