Teleworking in Nigeria. Issues, Prospects and Challenges


Term Paper, 2021

25 Pages, Grade: 7.0


Excerpt

TELEWORKING IN NIGERIA: ISSUES, PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

Ademolu Adediran

Master of Industrial and Personnel Relations Programme, Department of Sociology, UniversityofIbadan,Oyo
State, Nigeria. June2021.

ABSTRACT

Teleworking practices have been increasing internationally due to the global expansion of organizational boundaries it offers businesses. It had been perceived as a crucial response to competitive imperatives by top multinationals even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Nigeria however, it was the Covid-19 lockdowns that obligated the adoption of teleworking practices by organizations, as a means of business continuity. The benefits teleworking offered in the business environment during the period have since brought about conjectures it could become part of the “new normal' even after the pandemic. Despite this, the globally reported prospects and challenges for employees and organizations have largely not been investigated in the Nigerian context.

The paper, through critical review of secondary data aims to explore the perceived prospects, success factors, and challenges of this emerging work arrangement for Nigerian employees and organizations.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Telework arrangements are becoming part of organizational structures internationally due to the increasing pressures on cost-saving, and in a bid to increase employee productivity. The improvement in quality and expansion of internet services and the merging of voice, data, and video over common frameworks have made teleworking a viable option, or perhaps a requirement, for medium to large-sized businesses in today's marketplace (Ingham, 2006; Richard Ye, 2012).

Also, in responding to competitive imperatives, a visible pointer of the changing work environment is the global expansion of organizational boundaries. In this regard, the creation of virtual organizations is the only response to the current chaos of global competition (Watson-Manheim et al., 2002; Helms and Raiszadeh, 2002; Thorne, 2005).

Organizations are making greater use of teleworking teams as fundamental parts of their functioning. Multinational organizations like IBM, Boeing, AT&T, and Merrill Lynch are making a success of virtual telework arrangements in their global operations. Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, of recent claimed that by the year 2050, 50% of workers globally will be teleworkers. These factors and more have led to companies feeling even more challenged to initiate flexible arrangements for the new “corporate office.” (Morgan, 2004; Jackson et al., 2006; Kowalski and Swanson, 2005).

Asides from being a response to competitive imperative in global business, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns also necessitated the adoption of teleworking by many organizations as a means of business continuity, and in a bid to stay safe. The lockdowns affected all sectors of the economy, necessitating quick adoption of telework arrangements due to the need to reduce social and physical contact of persons. The lockdowns influenced nations and individuals in different ways, from mental, to social and then financial dimensions, and a catastrophe of such enormity cannot leave without its marks. A major shift it has brought about is the adoption of teleworking and virtual meetings over the energy-intensive forms of transportation (Pan et al., 2020; McKeever, 2020; Petersen et al., 2020; Joseph et al., 2020).

The rise in teleworking during the pandemic has led to increased employee proficiency at using digital work tools, employers find it appeasing that work continues despite employees not being physically present in the office, organizations have employed diverse digital means to reach out to the needs of the consumers, while consumers have learned digital ways to have their needs met. Unlike physical meetings, online meetings are held when needed, and just like physical meetings they also require a lot of planning and strategy, with meeting time is strictly adhered to. These factors make the argument that teleworking helps in transforming organizations by enhancing employee efficiency and organizational performance tenable (Helms, 1996; Neufeld and Fang, 2005; Glenn and Dutcher, 2012; Alexander, 2020).

In Nigeria, despite the internationally perceived prospects, many firms and corporate organizations found teleworking an unacceptable work style before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Now many of these firms and corporate organizations have embraced the work-from-home style to remain in business.

Considering the possibility of a prolonged or recurring coronavirus outbreak and the need to maintain a competitive edge by expanding organizational boundaries while offering flexible work arrangements, it is not unlikely that there will continue to be an increase in teleworking, even after the pandemic. The aim of the paper is therefore to examine the prospects and challenges of telework and factors organizations need to consider when deploying a teleworking program in the Nigerian context based on a review of available literature and published global best practices.

CHAPTER TWO

TELEWORKING: MEANING, PRACTICES AND REQUIREMENTS

2.1. Meaning of Telework

The term “telework” was first developed by Jack Nilles in 1973. He used the terms to describe the working arrangement in which work is done in a location outside the traditional office space (JALA International, 2007). It is a working system in which employees do not have to commute or travel to a workplace such as an office building.

Teleworking involves a swap of the worksite, with interactions restricted due to the physical and psychological distance involved in the swap. In most cases the alternative worksite inferred by the definition above is home, telework centers and remote offices are however also alternatives (Feldman and Gainey, 1997; Hill et al., 1998; Davis and Polonko, 2001; Baruch, 2001; Bailey and Kurland, 2002).

Whilst the telework concept dates back to the 70s, there is no generally accepted exact definition. This is also demonstrated by the many kinds of terms applied to it: telework, telecommuting, remote work, work-from-home, smart working, virtual work, e-work, etc. The 2002 European Framework Agreement on telework defined it as a form of organizing work using information and communications technology, in the circumstances of an employment relationship, where work which could be performed within the employer's premises, is constantly carried outside the premises. A teleworker is any ICT-using employee whose worksite at least on one occasion a month is outside of the employers according to The International Labor Office (ILO)” (Eurofound and the ILO, 2017).

2.2. Types and Practices

According to Huws et al., 1997, the following are the various telework types and practices:

- Multi-site Teleworking: In this form, there is a rotation between working on the employer's premises and elsewhere. Usually, the alternative worksite is the home, it could alsobe a tele-cottage, telecentre, or some other outpost
- Tele-homeworking: refers to arrangements where work is based only in the employee home and executed for a single employer, with or without formal employee status.This type of teleworking generally involves fairly low-skilled work carried out by people who aretiedtothe home bythe need to care for children or other dependents
- Freelance teleworking: Freelance teleworkers, in contrast to tele-homeworkers, work for different clients, rather than a single employer
- Mobile teleworking: Refers to professional, technical, and managerial work that can be carried out ‘on the road'. Examples include traveling sales representatives, inspectors, or maintenance engineers. The new technologies, especially the development of portable equipment such as the notebook computer, the mobile telephone, the portable fax machine, have created the type ofmobility that allowed an increase in this kind ofarrangements
- Relocated back-office: The first four categories of teleworking involve activities which employees can carry out in isolation away from the employer's premises. Relocated back­office takes place on remote office sites. Many big companies have been noticed a rapid growth in specialist centers carrying out activities such as data entry, customer service, airline bookings, telephone banking, and mail-order. Challenges such as lack of promotion prospects, health and safety problems, and equal opportunities issues, for instance fairly low-paid work carried out by women are associated with these type of teleworking arrangement (HuwsU. et al., 1997).

Conner (2003) notes three degrees of‘virtualness' to telework:

1) The teleworking or telecommuting arrangement where technology allows employees to work away from the office and each other
2) The front-line arrangement where front office activities are taken closer to the customer
3) The cyber link arrangement where many different organizations work together through technology to achieve set goals

2.3. Telework requirements

2.3.1. Organizational factors

Establishing a thriving teleworking program requires much more than simply providing good internet service and digital tools. Organizations have to begin by analyzing the primary issues and factors that must be handled appropriately. Some keys factors necessary for consideration include:

- Eligibility (of workers) - Selection criteria and requirements for participation
- Technological equipment
- Teleworker training and help desk support
- Remote worker management and performance evaluations
- Teleworking rules and policies
- Teleworking agreement and contract (Richard Ye, 2012; Ajayi, 2020).

2.3.2. Employee/Personal factors

The ideal telework candidate is one that demonstrates high level of professionalism, and is dependable, resourceful, and self-reliant.A good teleworking candidate should be a team player, good communicator, and knowledgeable on teleworking technologies (Richard Ye, 2012).

Working from home requires personal control over working hours, organization of the home space as well as negotiations among family members over the distribution of time and space (Felstead et al., 2005). Ojala et al. (2014) highlights that while work-life balance is seen as a major benefit of teleworking, research finding as to whether work from home strengthens or weakens work/family harmony is contradictory.

Grant et al. (2013) found job effectiveness, well-being, and work/life balance to be key factors when exploring the impact of remote technology on individuals and groups. These three areas overlap and are interrelated to some extent, in that job effectiveness can be impacted negatively and positively by both well-being and work/life conflict.

Carrying out paid work from home offers not just the possibility of work-life balance but there are questions of identity which are central to understanding the mutually, fundamental connections between domestic and professional aspects of life (Tietze and Musson, 2010). Hence, there is a need for people to come to an understanding of teleworking from the perspective of their overall lives, with regard to the home, which influences every facet of our lives, especially health and well-being.

When work and home activities take place in the same physical space, boundaries between work and home can become obscure. Research findings back up claims that teleworkers work longer hours. While employees vary in how they handle work and activities outside work separate or overlapping, those who favor the integration of work into home activities are more likely to experience weaker boundaries. (Harker, Martin, and MacDonnell, 2012; Clark, 2000) Kreiner et al. (2009) propose four approaches to managing the boundary between work and home which are: physical, behavioral, communicative, and home-based tactics. The absence of the usual physical and time-based boundaries of the office space is the challenge telework poses to boundary management.

The physical tactics involve employees involve creating separate space for work activities and switching off. For the time-based tactics, strategies such as walking the dogs at a fixed closing time, picking up children from school can be of help. Behavioral tactics relate mainly to digital technology such as turning devices off after work hours, shutting down the computer system, thereby eliminating chances of checking messages. An example of communicative tactics is getting family members to knock before entering the workspace. According to Kreiner (2006), boundary management is a question of individual preferences, but the ability to manage preference can reduce work-life conflict and increase job satisfaction levels.

Gorham (2006) calls for women to exercise management skills in the home such as delegation of responsibilities, efficient use of time and resources, and coordination of activities.

CHAPTER THREE

PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES OF TELEWORK

As with any business decision, ideally, before choosing a teleworking arrangement, the prospects and benefits sought for all stakeholders need to be clearly understood.

The description of businesses that engage in teleworking as revolutionary and not limited by the physical organizational structures needs to be modulated by considering the prospects and challenges posed by teleworking arrangements (Baruch and Yuen, 2000; Watad and Will, 2003; Morgan, 2004; Thorne, 2005).

3.1. Prospects

3.1.1. Prospects for organizations

As teleworking proficiency is rising, employees are becoming more proficient at using digital work tools, this has enabled organizations to employ diverse means in reaching the needs of consumers while consumers have learned digital ways to have their needs met. Other documented possibilities for organizations include:

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Details

Title
Teleworking in Nigeria. Issues, Prospects and Challenges
Course
Industrial and Personnel Relations
Grade
7.0
Author
Year
2021
Pages
25
Catalog Number
V1140058
ISBN (eBook)
9783346517876
ISBN (Book)
9783346517883
Language
English
Keywords
Teleworking, Covid-19, Nigeria, Work from home, new normal, business continuity, prospects, challenges
Quote paper
Ademolu Adediran (Author), 2021, Teleworking in Nigeria. Issues, Prospects and Challenges, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1140058

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