#TechThursday: Working from home and the African dynamics

The tech industry in Africa has, indeed, advanced initiatives to stop the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the adverse effects of closed economies and social distancing. Many tech companies have asked their employees to resume work from home – a move that has become the industry’s most popular response to the global pandemic.

The Future of Work is being driving by the confluence of technology and people-driven disruptors and accelerated by COVID-19.

In the US and China, office workers are working from home and the Financial Times says “remote work is on trial”. The trial is seeing mixed results according to tech publication, Protocol. They outlined some of the less glamorous parts of working from home: loneliness, discomfort and rising tensions with partners.

For years on, remote work has remained in our conversations in the tech ecosystem in Africa, but much like artificial intelligence and realistic financial inclusion, there seems to be more talk than action. You then wonder how remote work will manage a ‘system of distrust without physical meetings‘; among other issues.

But remote work is catching on – call it the growing puppy which will turn out to be a wild dog on the streets. Yet, we will need to consider how Africa slows it down until the world has moved on.

Where’s the infrastructure?

Besides a few African countries that have made intentional efforts to enable stable power in their nations, power in Africa is generally epileptic – an issues that hints at low productivity. Poor internet is also a common African problem and with a fast paced job, these problems can be costly. Beyond infrastructural problems are things which are not often discussed, like concentration and need for human interaction.

But, knowing you want to work remotely and hoping to pass through the infrastructure huddle is just one part of it, finding the gigs that are worth your time is important.

Beyond infrastructure, funding, getting jobs, distractions and human interaction, there’s an interesting continental problem – the belief that leaving home everyday is the first true evidence of hard work. This highlights a societal problem of how people who work from home are viewed. On one end of the extreme is the belief that these people are internet fraudsters – or outrightly lazy. Fortunately, this position is changing in a positive direction.

However, remote work presents some complexities in Africa, especially as many companies still require the physical presence of employees. But, you will want to add infrastructural deficit to the conversation. And clients? Let’s talk about it some other day.

As remote teams work in Africa – struggle to beat domestic tensions – and bring more of their personal lives to their professional lives on camera, the nature of relationships can change and bonds within teams can strengthen. Leaders must adapt to encourage workers bring their authentic selves to work and create space to celebrate uniqueness.

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