When COVID-19 hit in the beginning of the year and the world withdrew into shells, not many expected that large-scale economic activities could run effectively inside the homes of workers.
Though nations shut down, many businesses continued to thrive.
Working from home may ultimately emerge as the defining event of 2020, ranking higher than its stimulus, the coronavirus pandemic, in significance.
Technology has sparked a revolution in productivity from office spaces to living rooms and bedrooms.
Those who failed to prepare are paying a huge economic price. Industries and societies are measuring their advancement and sophistication by how ready they are for a cloud-first way of working.
It is not that remote working is entirely new.
It’s always been around us – just not at the scale imposed by COVID-19.
In banking, retail, insurance and a lot of sectors in the service industry, electronic and remote service delivery have been on the rise for many years.
The difference in a post-Coronavirus world is that companies are not only able to deliver services electronically, they are able to do so without their employees going to a physical office.
The reality today is that the workforce is now able to work without stepping out of their homes and without any decline in quality or observable change in service.
Work from Home is also facilitating Buy from Home.
The Black Friday sales that trails the annual Thanksgiving holiday in the United States is adapting to the virtual life this year.
Many stores are closing for days, as a way to stop the second wave of COVID-19 infection – but have been doing sales online.
The closure of stores at the busiest sales season of the year is an indicator of a change in the way of buying.
Amazon, Walmart, Target and many other big retailers have been doing better during the pandemic than before.
Consumers are more relaxed about buying from their devices.
Global companies are not just using the opportunities presented by the pandemic to roll out temporary or permanent Work from Home policies, they are saving money by downsising office spaces and turning employee properties into useful resources.
Among others, Facebook, Amazon, Mastercard, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, PayPal, Salesforce, Twitter, Reuters and Uber have been allowing long-term Work from Home for at least eight months.
None of these companies intend to re-open their offices this year.
A few others have bolder plans, allowing employees to permanently work from anywhere.
Zillow, Upwork, Shopify, Slack and Square are happy to forever keep their workers out of the office.
With a permanent work-from-anywhere policy, some employees are it taking further by making long-term rentals in exotic vacation destinations such as the islands of the Caribbean, from where they can work.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on air travel, as businesses forbid business trips.
Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, predicts that over 50 per cent of business travel and over 30 per cent of days in the office will go away in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Global companies are not just using the opportunities presented by the pandemic to roll out temporary or permanent Work from Home policies, they are saving money by downsising office spaces and turning employee properties into useful resources
Employers are recognising that telecommuting will not stop after Coronavirus is gone and are adjusting for that new reality.
Companies are offering employees money to adapt better to a Work from Home life.
Allowances are being approved for furniture, upgrade of Internet speed, computer equipment and other conveniences.
During the summer, the housing market in American cities shrunk, while surrounding suburbia experienced a boom.
City dwellers, realising they can work from anywhere, started moving out of their tiny homes and apartments for bigger spaces at lower costs.
The office space real estate market is shrinking too, as employers advertise full remote jobs to attract talent.
The opportunity to tap into the labour market from any location will be a disruptor, since companies can now hire from low-cost markets.
Regrettably, working from home will never be for everyone.
Some jobs just do not lend themselves easily.
Those who have to make personal contacts, such as hospital workers and automobile technicians, still have to go to an office.
Besides, remote working is creating jobs that require contact, such as retail shipping and delivery.
It might just be a matter of time, however, before many of such professions also modernise for the home.
Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotics are making it possible for machines to do the work of humans.
For instance, innovation in robotics is enabling doctors to perform telesurgery hundreds of miles away from their patients.
Scalpel-wielding robots are not just a possibility, they are now a reality in some places.
While remote surgery is still evolving, the emergence of real-time Internet through 5G technology could change the game.
In World Bank’s seminar, the Future of Work, these shifts have already been predicted.
In Nigeria, where high-speed broadband Internet is limited to a few affluent parts of town, the flexibility of work becomes an issue, and the future of work predicted is as elusive as space technology
Long before COVID-19 hit, experts outlined a future where machines would do those works of humans that are repetitive and physical.
Experts predicted a future in which analytic and “thinking” skills would become important to employers, when many other jobs could be done by machines.
The World Bank’s conclusion was that workers would become far more flexible and productive than they are today, earn more income and would be required to work fewer days, leaving them with more recreational time.
Around such discussions is the subject of Universal Basic Income (UBI), an idea that every working adult would receive a guaranteed minimum income from the public purse on a regular basis.
UBI has already been tested in some parts of the world, including Alaska in the US, Finland, Spain and Italy.
This unconditional cash transfer has so far not had any negative impact on employment, and in fact increased part-time work in places where it has been tested.
Anyone who has had the ability to work from the convenience of their homes will likely not wish to trade it.
It offers such flexibility that makes you wonder why this has not been considered by more employers.
Not only do you save time by avoiding many hours of drive time, you can also balance work and life, yet remaining productive.
Parents are able to assist their children with online schooling, while attending meetings and doing other official work from home.
In Nigeria, where high-speed broadband Internet is limited to a few affluent parts of town, the flexibility of work becomes an issue, and the future of work predicted is as elusive as space technology.
An immensely talented population is stuck in the poverty of the mind of those it elected.
For having failed to apply vision and invest in broadband Internet, Nigeria now has to deal with low productivity in an already battered economy.
Most Nigerian universities took a nap during the height of the pandemic because our academic institutions failed to see the future
Try to imagine most Nigerians being able to work efficiently during the lockdown in the safety of their homes– how would it have helped the GDP?
Working from home requires a strong cloud infrastructure, a secure remote access, but most importantly, super-fast Internet.
Sadly, Nigeria bled during the lockdown because it wasn’t prepared. The mobile data available to most people is too slow and unreliable to Work from Home productively.
In the same manner, the spotty wireless network infrastructure of the mobile service providers is hardly useful for work or education online.
Most Nigerian universities took a nap during the height of the pandemic because our academic institutions failed to see the future.
They were too unprepared to deliver courses online; and students were even less prepared.
If India, a nation with much fewer natural endowments, can open itself and citizens up for this modern way of life with more stable electricity and broadband Internet, Nigerians leaders need to hang their heads in shame.
They have failed woefully. Once again.