The days of spending long hours in the office are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Today, businesses can be run online and offline no matter your location, thanks to the internet. Working from home or remote work is often practiced by companies that lack physical offices, offer services within the tech space, or have limited space to employ a larger number of people. It is also used by technologically inclined companies and organizations with employees across the world.
As technology filters into the mainstream and internet access improve, it has become more easier for people to work remotely, an activity which helps to improve work-life balance. It not only helps one be productive, but also creates opportunity for reflection, space to innovate and reclaimed time (from sitting in traffic for example) to finish tasks.
What remote jobs exist? Web or graphic designer, virtual public relations specialist, online re-seller and social media manager are some job roles to explore. You can also explore similar remote opportunities in freelance consulting and content writing and blogging; all you need is an internet-enabled device and reliable internet access.
My experience working remotely & in the office
I have had the opportunity to work in a traditional 9-to-5 work environment where I was required to be at the office daily, and to work remotely from home with an institution where almost every task is performed online.
Working remotely & staying productive
For remote work, I worked from 6 am to 6 pm to accommodate clients in different time zones, enjoyed a one-hour break and could continue working at a convenient time, if I felt like it. Personal discipline is needed in order to work remotely, because working close to your bed and TV can be tempting and distracting. With, self-discipline and rewards like commissions however, productivity can be boosted. To increase one’s productivity while working at home, it is important to keep a daily schedule; avoid distractions like social media; set clear boundaries for yourself; and manage burnout by taking breaks to walk around for a few minutes.
How do you measure or assess effectiveness and punctuality, or monitor tasks when working from the comfort of your bedroom? At my former company, we used applications that were connected via networks with each employee given a unique log-in account. Supervision of employee work was done online and with monitoring tools like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, Drop Box, and Trello. As you work, supervisors track progress on tasks and reward hardworking employees accordingly.
Tasks could also be assigned and periodically checked with apps like Freed Camp and Click Up. These apps give you timely updates and remind you of deadlines and changes made to the tasks. Meetings are also organized and held virtually at specific times by team leads using apps such Skype, Zoom, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook. Completing tasks before a deadline attracts a commission which spurs us on to deliver before time. With all these checks and motivations in place, why wouldn’t you be disciplined and finish up tasks?
The Perils of Commuting to Work
The average Ghanaian working in Accra spends four to six hours daily on average commuting to and from work, especially residents of periphery areas like Madina, Dodowa, Kasoa, Oyarifa, and Amasaman — Pokuase. Spending that much time in traffic affects productivity.
After spending three years with my remote work company, I resigned and moved on to work with a law firm, a job that totally requires your presence in the office. Commuting to work has become a daunting task for me; I spend between two to three hours in traffic going to work and the same timeframe getting home. Any other strategy applied to beat time and traffic results in cost and sacrificing my sleep. For instance, taking a motorbike or “okada” to get to work faster or leaving home at dawn just to avoid gridlock in town leaves me stressed or reduces my sleeping hours.
A speech delivered by the WHO Director General during World Health Day 2010 highlights traffic congestion as one of numerous urban challenges that have altered the lifestyles of urban dwellers and continue to affect the health of inhabitants negatively. Consistently sitting in gridlock can have a tremendous impact on personal life, career, health, and future prospects.
Making a business case for remote work
Having worked both remotely and in a traditional work setup, I believe a remote work lifestyle can help Ghana’s youth get employed. It can also offer solutions to companies that cannot afford or expand offices. Existing companies can introduce flexible working hours for employees or possibly run a shift system for people to work some days in the office and some days at home. This is a strategy we applied at my former workplace when we lacked office space at a point but needed to expand with more people working. When adopted and implemented on a city-wide scale, flexible hours can also help limit traffic congestion as it cuts down on the number of cars or commuters at a given time.
As a head-hunter, I noticed that job candidates from Europe seek opportunities that will allow them to work home at least once each week. With such requests increasing daily, some technology and data companies in Europe have also introduced a remote working option as part of their employee benefits packages. That said, companies must juggle the pros and cons of remote work through the lens of the workload, the kind of services they provide, and the work ethics of employees. If applied well, working remotely offers some advantages for both employers and employees.
Some advantages of remote work
Flexibility: This will give employees a chance to conserve precious time and energy, directing it away from traffic to give off their best. This will largely benefit pregnant and nursing mothers who can work from home and earn a living whilst on maternity. Students may also be willing to take jobs with flexible work hours as they can synchronize work with schooling.
Money Saving: Working from home will help one stick to spending budgets for the day, week, or month. Employers can save on transport stipends or renting large office spaces to host all their employees, as some can work from home while others work at the office. Employees who no longer commute to work daily can also save money. Most people working in Accra spend more than half of their salary on transportation alone. To ensure equality, remote work must be run on a shift basis to benefit all employees. Both employees and companies save on buying professional clothes or work uniforms.
Stronger Work Relations: Some employees resigned from companies because of the distance from home and the amount of money spent on transportation. Giving your employees the opportunity to work from home can help earn their commitment to their jobs and get them working for you for years.
We are in an era of exponential change where innovation is exploding. With proper planning and discipline, companies and individuals alike can work smarter. Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below.
Saviour Avornyo is the head of digital content at Binary Means and JoziGist. He works as a digital marketing consultant and has experience working as a digital recruiter hiring for global advertising companies in Europe.