Working from home is not a new concept. However, in recent years, it has grown in popularity as technology advances. NASA engineer Jack Nilles coined the term “telecommuting” to describe working remotely in 1973, laying the groundwork for modern remote work. IBM employees were experimenting with telecommuting in limited numbers around 1990 too! As communication tools like email and cloud computing improved, so did the relevance of telecommuting.
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Remote Working in Africa: All you Need to Know
What is Remote Working?
A casual definition of remote work would be a type of employment in which workers are allowed to do their job away from the traditional office environment. Remote working includes any place that is not a designated workplace that will enable colleagues, clients, stakeholders to communicate using electronic tools such as computers and smartphones.
Remote working is a new and exciting way to work in the modern world. It allows employees to work from any location, whether it be the office or their own home. Remote working has been growing steadily over the past decade and Africa has not been left behind: remote working in Africa is on an upward trend with Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa leading the pack. These countries have highly skilled citizens with a global outlook and yet the job market cannot accommodate all of them.
Current Trends of remote working
Global statistics indicate an increase in more people working remotely rather than in an office setting. As a result, organizations see potential benefits, including the reduced cost of office space, equipment and other operational costs. In addition, organizations tap into talent pools across different parts of the world while increasing flexibility.
Africa has benefited from teleworking in many ways. Many people choose to work at home rather than travel into an office every day and waste time commuting or sitting idle waiting for a meeting to begin. According to research by ICT Pulse 42% of all employees regularly perform some duties outside regular business hours. This statistic is even higher in Nigeria, where 62% of workers do so.
More people than ever work remotely, with estimates that over 80 million African citizens now have a remote work arrangement. Many of these workers telecommute at least one day per week.
Due to the high cost of living in Africa and lack of experience, outsourcing customer service or technical support was a massive opportunity for companies. Therefore, this trend could be beneficial because it has created many opportunities for new businesses to grow with more skilled workers who can efficiently complete back-office functions at reasonable costs than hiring locally.
Opportunities And Platforms of Remote Working in Africa
So as an African or someone living in Africa, how can you tap into the remote working space? There are many opportunities for remote working and all you need to do is find a suitable online platform to engage in your craft.
Work From Home
Many corporations are getting more open for their employees to work remotely, popularly known as Work From Home (WFH). With the spread of Covid-19, it seems that this trend will remain with us for some time to come. In WFH setups, workers engage in their work remotely and most communication occurs via technology such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts.
Working From Home requires you to set up a functional space, minimize distractions and remain connected on the phone and the internet.
Some of the freelancing platforms commonly used in Africa include Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr. These are global platforms that offer freelancers the opportunity to use their skills in today’s globalized world.
In Kenya, young professionals are increasingly going into the gig economy, with the majority working in IT, writing, editing, sales, and data entry.
Co-working is a set-up where staff from different organizations share an office space. This is convenient and cuts operational costs. There are shared infrastructures such as printers, internet and equipment.
Co-working spaces leverage technology to minimize. A quick check of Google reviews indicates that the most highly rated Co-working spaces in Africa are Ventures Park in Abuja, Impact Hub in Accra, Workstation in Lagos, BongoHive in Lusaka, Nairobi Garage in Nairobi and AlMaqarr in Cairo to name just a few.
Co-working helps you to avoid the feeling of loneliness you may experience while working remotely.
Benefits Of Remote Working in Africa
In addition to the apparent cost savings, there are also several benefits for employers who hire remote workers. Workers too can reap some of these benefits.
- It is effortless to find people with relevant skills and expertise in Africa through numerous freelancing sites online. You can even source someone on-demand via an app if needed!
- Companies can access a larger talent pool through various freelancing sites such as Fiverr and Guru – meaning they don’t have to limit their search geographically.
- Remote work allows you to live where you want and work when it suits your schedule.
- Remote working offers increased productivity. Workers can concentrate on a task without distractions.
- Remote work reduces commute times significantly for many people who can work a full day or just three days, depending on their schedule and availability.
- Freelancers often bring fresh perspectives that are not available within any other team member – especially if they’re from another country and culture. This cross-pollination of ideas and experience can help improve workflows and processes.
Many businesses and individuals in Africa are gravitating toward remote working. However, there are some challenges.
Challenges And Downsides of Remote Working in Africa
The biggest challenges facing the remote working space in Africa are infrastructural.
A huge chunk of work is cloud-based and online. It means that internet connectivity is key. Unfortunately, most parts of Africa have poor internet access, with only 28% of its residents being internet users according to the International Telecommunication Union.
Power and electricity are not constant in some countries. Interruptions in electricity supply are bound to interfere with productivity. This is more so in the rural areas, meaning that remote working is only limited to urban areas of Africa.
In addition, there are some general challenges associated with working remotely in any workplace.
- For one, it is difficult to get feedback for work projects and other duties assigned by supervisors.
- Secondly, employees who aren’t used to remote working may struggle with the social aspect of working outside of an office environment, leading to reduced productivity.
- Lastly, the inability of employers and employees to communicate face-to-face; lack of social interaction can affect productivity levels.
The unique African cultures have an impact on how we view work. There is a need for a cultural change in organizations and individuals to adapt to remote working.
While in Africa operating remotely may be taken up slower than in other parts of the world, the benefits remain the same. Remote working in Africa has many benefits both for employees and employers to tap into. There are several major platforms available through which work can be done.
Despite the obvious challenges, most individuals and organizations in Africa have opted to switch to working remotely. This trend looks like it is set to continue and is one of the significant ways companies can reduce costs, become more productive while also working with highly skilled employees.
The future seems bright for remote work!