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Remote work is good for business, and the world BY Ifeanyi M Nsofor

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  • Employers should continue to encourage remote work even after the fight against coronavirus is over.
In the last few months, as it became clear that the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus would eventually overwhelm health services, governments around the world started to mandate social distancing in public places to protect their citizens.

Social distancing, which typically involves keeping a certain distance from others and avoiding large gatherings, is a sound non-pharmaceutical intervention commonly used during epidemics. It prevents person-to-person transmission of contagions and helps authorities to contain disease outbreaks.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries not only mandated basic social distancing, but also closed down schools, shops and offices, cancelled all conferences and meetings, and banned domestic and international travel.

These shutdowns sent economies into meltdown and caused real financial hardship for small businesses and people in the gig economy in many countries. Some companies, whose workers are able to work remotely, however, managed to not only continue business as usual amid the chaos, but increase their employees’ productivity.

The success of remote work is no coincidence. Studies have shown that when it is done right, remote work can improve employee productivity, creativity and morale. It has also been established that remote work leads workers to take fewer sick days and less vacation time, resulting in more workdays overall. Moreover, it can save businesses thousands of dollars a month per employee in office and other expenses.

After being compelled to invest in tools that make remote work easier and more efficient due to the coronavirus pandemic, and experiencing the benefits of this new work model, many companies are considering allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely.  

Social media giant Twitter recently announced that it would support employees, who are able and willing to work from home to do so “forever”. Many other tech giants, from Facebook to Google, also said they are planning to support remote work “for the foreseeable future”.

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The business world’s apparent move towards remote work is good news not only for companies themselves and their employees, but also for the wider society and the environment. Businesses can help the fight against climate change and protect public health by continuing to support remote work where possible even after the end of this pandemic. 

Widespread remote work practices would reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. This would lead to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. In the European Union, road transportation accounts for 72 percent of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while in the US emissions from all transportation – cars, trucks, trains, ships, aeroplanes and other vehicles – make up 29 percent. 

The world has already seen an average of a 6 percent drop in greenhouse gases amid the coronavirus pandemic due to lockdowns and industry shutdowns. While it would be impossible to keep to this level after the end of the pandemic, remote work can help us hold on to some of the environmental gains we made during this crisis.

It is easy to see how fewer cars on our roads could help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. This could also mean densely populated cities would be less polluted, residents would have access to fresher air and children would be less vulnerable to illnesses like pneumonia.

With cleaner air, improvements in health can happen fast. As a report from the American Thoracic Society notes, “Within a few weeks, respiratory and irritation symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough, phlegm, and sore throat, disappear; school absenteeism, clinic visits, hospitalisations, premature births, cardiovascular illness and death, and all-cause mortality decrease significantly.” Further, eliminating the stress of commuting could lead to lower blood pressure and a decrease in risks associated with cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), causes 7.5 million deaths globally every year.

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Fewer vehicles on roads would also result in fewer traffic accidents. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, globally, road traffic crashes was the sixth leading cause of death in 2017. According to WHO, in 2018 alone, 1.35 million people around the world lost their lives in road traffic accidents. On average, road traffic crashes cause 3,287 deaths per day, and injure or disable thousands of others. Estimates by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that every year, 3 million people are injured in nonfatal crashes in the US. Furthermore, medical care costs and productivity losses in the US due to car crashes was above $75bn in 2017.

Remote work would also help reduce some of the disadvantages women have in the workplace and contribute to maternal and infant heath. Many women around the world still do not have adequate maternity leave, and others choose not to use the maternity leave they have in full because they cannot survive on the limited maternity pay they receive or are scared of harming their career prospects by staying away from the office for too long. Many new mothers who return to work a few months – or even weeks – after giving birth also face a difficult choice between either giving up on breastfeeding completely or enduring the stresses of pumping milk in the workplace. Remote work can resolve all these issues. New mothers can return to work in the comfort of their homes, not endure long commutes before their bodies fully recover, remain close to their babies even during working hours, and breastfeed or pump comfortably in private. 

To be sure, remote work also has some disadvantages, for some workers, such as decreased work-life balance, isolation and management difficulties. But businesses can overcome these challenges by building up strong communication channels between employees, listening and addressing the workers’ concerns and making sure that employees have the ability to switch off from work and focus on their private lives on weekends and after-hours.  

It is also true that not everyone can work from home, and remote-work is only an option for a privileged minority who work in some white-collar industries. Nevertheless, remote work practices benefit all members of the society, including the ones who are not able, or willing, to work from home. If everyone who can work from home does work from home, others will enjoy easier, safer, less stressful commutes, cleaner streets, better air quality and less overwhelmed public health services. 

It is clear that coronavirus is redefining the future of work and providing a great opportunity for establishing long-term policies that can increase the health and happiness of employees and nations, while also helping businesses increase their profits. Remote work can change the world for the better. All businesses that can should consider allowing their employees to work from home even after our fight against coronavirus is over.

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The artice first appeared on Al Jazeera 


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Now is the time to set yourself up for the future of best practices BY Dr. Ibrahim Abduba

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It has been said over and over by a multitude of business systems experts. One of the greatest barriers to digital transformation is not technological. It is human resistance to change. Within an enterprise, a wholesale culture shift is needed for digitalisation to take hold and be used to its full efficiency-boosting potential.

Of course, enterprises are now operating in a context of forced, unprecedented change beyond the scenarios covered in most business continuity plans. Who projected that we would one day be in a situation where essentially everything would close at the same time, crippling supply chains? Or that a company’s workforce would be mandated to stay home, with no access to on-premise systems? Businesses need new solutions to ensure business continuity in the current economic climate, recover quickly and ensure operational resilience in the “next normal” beyond COVID-19.

The time is ripe for change, but it demands a greater embrace of new perspectives. These newer attitudes have been slowly taking root in Africa. First, there was the move from manual to automated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) (https://bit.ly/3cohBuI) applications. This led to the realisation over the past decade that cloud-based systems drive greater operational agility than their on-premise equivalent, allowing enterprises to operate efficiently and securely, even across borders.

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As an example, Bank of Kigali Plc in Rwanda has leveraged cloud-based functionality such as end-to-end process automation to reduce costs, improve scalability and innovate customer offerings.

Despite such success stories, many companies continue to cling to the mindset of “I have my own customised ERP, and it works for me; I’m not giving it up.” That attitude is understandable, but current challenges prove traditional ERPs lack the flexibility to overcome them efficiently. Rigidity is simply not contemporary best practice.

Even before the current crisis, Steve Cox, Oracle’s Group Vice President for ERP EPM Product Marketing, referred to the future of best practices as being one of less work, more automation and better outcomes. The wider business context has, of course, shifted, but evolving technology remains key to unlocking business benefits, such as greater speed and cost savings.

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Best practice is also continually being disrupted and redefined by emerging technologies. We see artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) well entrenched in Oracle Cloud applications now, producing insights from big data, automatically maintaining systems and underpinning chatbots. Becoming similarly commonplace in enhancing everyday work processes are the likes of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR), with the first two having special advantages for supply chain management (SCM).

Even with expensive IT upgrade cycles, old on-premise platforms may battle to integrate with such new solutions. By contrast, through cloud, enterprises can instantly leverage the latest best-in-class technologies, which connect seamlessly because of already considered integration capabilities. The cost of continual upgrades goes away, and it becomes easier to predict spend and calculate budgets.

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With continual cycles of disruption the new business “normal,” the ability to accurately predict and prepare has become the best practice for enterprises. Cloud ERP offers users the ability to effortlessly pull together data sets across a business for better insights that drive scenario planning and optimisation strategies. At the same time, an organisation’s human talent is liberated to focus on innovation instead of losing their workdays to mundane manual tasks like report generation and transaction processing.

Leveraging these capabilities, and more, does not require reinventing the wheel. To make an enterprise truly future-ready, and minimise unpredictable risk, starts with overcoming attitude barriers.

Dr. Ibrahim Abduba, ERPM Strategy and Business Development Leader – East & West Africa at Oracle

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Simi, the ‘Tiff’ that stole the show

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Popular Nigerian Musician, Simisola Ogunleye professionally known as “Simi” since breaking onto the Nigerian music scene in 2008 has had a smooth ride and an impressive and enviable career run.

The 32 years old songstress started her career as a gospel singer, releasing her debut studio album in 2008, titled “Ogaju”, produced entirely by Samklef.

Simi then had her breakthrough in 2014 with her amazing singles, “Tiff”.

Born in Ojuelegba, Lagos, She is the last born child of the Ogunleye family. Although her parents separated when she was 9, Simi graduated from Convenant University, where she studied Mass Communication.

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The amazing and talented star grew up dancing and singing as a member of her local church’s choir. She wrote her first song at age 10.

In 2014, Simi released an EP she titled Restless. The EP earned her a record deal with X3M Music, but she left the label in 2014 following the expiration of her contract.

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At present, Simi is arguably one of the best female musicians in Nigeria. Simi is also enjoying the smash success of her recent music release, “Duduke” which has virally taken over the social media space.

The single, Duduke was inspired by her pregnancy, as the lyrics of the song depicts the expectant mother singing for her unborn baby.

Surprisingly, Simi isn’t just a singer and songwriter, the expectant mother is also a sound engineer as she is credited for mixing and mastering her husband, Adekunle Gold’s debut album, “Godl”, released in 2016.

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Simisola has released three studio albums and has featured in one movie. She made her acting debut in “Mokalik”, a movie directed by Kunle Afolayan.

Simi has won over 10 awards including; Headies’ Best vocal performance (Female), Best Recording of the year, NEA’s Most Promising act to watch and many others.

She is indeed the “Tiff” that stole the show

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Dangiwa’s Letter: my two cents BY Femi Fani-Kayode

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“At this time and in the light of all that have happened since you took office, any conversation with you Mr. President cannot gloss over the chaos that has overtaken appointments into government offices in your administration. All those who wish you and the country well must mince no words in warning you that Nigeria has become dangerously polarized and risk sliding into crisis on account of your administration’s lopsided appointments which continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others. Nowhere is this more glaring than in the leadership cadre of our security services. Mr. President, I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the offices of the federal government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to this nation”- Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd.)

Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar is a former military Governor of Kaduna state and a Fulani Prince from the ruling house of the Gwandu Emirate who has had the courage to speak out against Buhari’s “Fulanisation”, “Islamisation” and “northernisation” policy.

He is one of the heroes of the June 12th struggle and he lost his Commission in the Nigerian Army for insisting that President-elect MKO Abiola should be given his mandate and allowed to lead Nigeria after winning a free and fair election in 1993.

He is an old friend of mine who used to be my Polo captain at the Lagos Polo Club many years ago and who I have known and admired since 1983. He openly opposed Buhari’s military regime as a young Major at the Lagos Polo Club between 1983 and 1985 and he often spoke against him whilst Buhari was military Head of State.

This was a very dangerous thing to do at that time because Buhari’s military Government was the most vicious and repressive that Nigeria has ever known. I used to listen to him with fascination in those days and I marvelled at his courage and his willingness to give up his life for his beliefs.

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I read his polite, well-crafted and well-researched letter to the President which was released yesterday and I was touched and moved that he had the decency, patriotic zeal and presence of mind to say the things that some of us have been screaming for the last 5 years about Buhari’s dangerous policies and divisive politics.

I called our mutual friend and brother Bashorun Akin Osuntokun, who is presently doing a stint at Oxford University, to express my deep appreciation for the efforts of a man that we have both come to love and learnt to respect over the years.

Akin was equally impressed with his letter and we expressed satisfaction at the fact that he had once again lifted our spirits and gave us cause for hope.

May God bless this gallant soldier known as Dangiwa for being fearless and consistent over the years and may he continue to be the light and inspiration that he has always been to those in our generation.

We have not always agreed on everything but his timely interventions, courage and consistency is as remarkable as it is uplifting. I urge him not to relent in his noble efforts to make Nigeria a better place for all regardless of tribe, ethnic group or faith. We need more of him.
To those that are too young to know I will add the following. During the coup d’etat against Buhari’s vicious, murderous and bestial military regime in 1985, it was Dangiwa Umar who effected his arrest in Dodan Barracks and took him into custody.

He is one of those that brought an end to that hideous and cruel nightmare which plagued our beleaguered nation for two long years and which led to the destruction of many lives and the death of many people.

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Dangiwa is a very tough and decisive man indeed both on the polo field and off it and just as he stood up to tyranny, injustice, wickedness, racism, nepotism and ethnic and religious bigotry in both in 1985 and 1993, he is standing up to it again today. That is the measure of the man and I am not in the least but surprised.

Yesterday I tweeted the following:

“When Col. Abubakar ‘Dangiwa’ Umar speaks the Government would do well to listen. He is a man of deep wisdom, profound knowledge and extraordinary courage. Like yours truly, he fears no man and bows before no mortal. He speaks truth to power and he makes tyrants tremble”.

I stand by these words and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Dangiwa Umar and millions of other Nigerians who have had enough of Buhari’s evil, injustice and tyranny and who are deeply concerned about the destructive course that he has set our nation on.
May God deliver our nation from this evil man and those that are supporting him and egging him on. May God raise more Dangiwa Umar’s to help us in this noble quest to save our nation.

Permit me to conclude this contribution with the following.

In his letter to Buhari Dangiwa Umar quoted the words of Sheik Usman Danfodio, the father and founder of the Fulani Caliphate, when he wrote the following:

“One of the swiftest ways of destroying a Kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favour to one group of people rather than another. And to draw near those who should be kept away and keep away those who should be drawn near”.

If Buhari will not listen to anyone else let us hope that he will at least listen to and learn from the words of his esteemed forefather and let us hope that he taps into the wisdom and draws from the counsel of the greatest and most revered leader of his Fulani race.

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More importantly let us hope that it is not too late. I will end with the following counsel.

President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was betrayed by General Zia Ul Haq. General Yakubu Gowon was betrayed by Colonel Joe Garba.

President Mohamed Morsi was betrayed by General Abdel Fatah El Sisi. Captain Thomas Sankara was betrayed by Captain Blaise Compaore.
Chairman Josef Stalin was betrayed by Marshall Lavrentiy Beria. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was betrayed by Finance Minister Geoffrey Howe. Gaius Julius Caesar was betrayed by Marcus Junius Brutus.

President Robert Mugabe was betrayed by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

I could go on and on. History is replete with such examples.

A leader’s greatest and most dangerous enemies are not those who speak out against him and oppose him publicly but rather those that are close to him and thet are plotting against him secretly.

They are those that are in his inner circle, Government or family that refuses to tell him the bitter truth, that desists from setting him on the right path when he has derailed, that decline to advise him when he is wrong and that egg him on in his manifest and unrelenting cruelty and injustice and encourage him to continue to perpetuate wickedness and to do evil.

Worse still it is those same people that will eventually discredit him, betray him and facilitate his fall from grace and removal from power.

I advise President Muhammadu Buhari to be wary of his ‘trusted’ friends and allies, to be careful of the cheerleaders around him, to change his ways, to watch his back, to do the right thing and to listen to selfless, honest and forthright men like Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar who truly have the nation’s interest at heart!

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