BY LEO ATAKPU
“The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown up new challenges, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing business and we have to think creatively to up our game. Traditional ways of doing things can no longer be relied upon. We must innovate, we must change our approaches of doing business if we must be the best in the sector,” were the opening words of the Rev David Ugolor, Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, a leading Civil Society Organisation as he set the tune for the training on Remote working for staff of the organization.
While the world prepared to mark this year’s May Day, management of ANEEJ decided to use the opportunity to take an introspection into remote working with its employees. On Thursday 30 April, 2020, ANEEJ management arranged for training of its staff. A resource person, Anthony Ewere, PhD was hired to lead the training. He took the employees through a draft guideline and terms for a remote working
Prior to the spread of COVID 19, general approach to work globally was for employees to resume work and close in a particular location. The time sheet is signed and work force have their man hour on a daily basis depending on the contract with employers of labour. This has been the norm in most State and Non-state organisations past decades.
But some organisations have had to shift from this approach over the years to the remote work arrangement whereby, based on an agreed terms and arrangement, employees are allowed to work from their homes. All over the world, more employees than ever before are working remotely, and it was predicted that by 2020, 30 percent of the workforce will either be freelance, outsourced or remote workers who spend much of their time working from home. But COVID 19 changed that prediction as it has ballooned the figure to close to 70 per cent in the last three to four months. This has gotten more and more employers of labour into the re-thinking work arrangements. Some organisations are just getting to know of remote working, thanks to COVID 19!
This is because, while the benefits of working from home are immediately clear for employees, namely avoiding the daily commute and working to a schedule that suits them, the advantages for employers are not always quite so obvious. But according to Irma Hunkeler, there are about eight benefits derivable from remote working. These are: Less time spent commuting, improved employee retention, access to a wider pool of applicants, more autonomous employees, lower cost for the employer, better use of technology particularly for younger folks, reduced salaries, and above all, increased productivity.
Anthony Ewere informed participants that the COVID 19 pandemic has thought the world a lesson and any organisations that worth their sort ought to take action to reposition itself for greater productivity and efficiency. He stated the objective of the training which was to make deliberate effort to institutionalize remote work arrangement for the organization which clocked 25 years in February this year.
The training had nine staff physically present at the ANEEJ Benin City office, while the rest staff participated virtually from their homes through the ZOOM technology. It was a participatory exercise which had the employees taken through a draft guideline, terms of reference, and employees code of conduct. He called for inputs from the staff to improve the draft remote work policy, which the Executive Director assured will be taken to the Board for approval. The resource person informed ANEEJ employees that he would be reaching out to them one-on-one for further harness their perspectives before the draft documents would be finalized for the board’s approval.
“To ensure optimal performance for staff on remote work, employee on remote work should:
(i) Choose a quiet and distraction-free work environment for performing his/her duties,
(ii) Ensure that there is constant internet connection that is sufficient for performing his/her job functions,
(iii) Ensure that private/family demands do not interfere with job functions during office hours.
(iv) Ensure that all information relating to ANEEJ job are guided and controlled in such a way that non-ANEEJ staff do not have access to ANEEJ documents and information.
(v) Employee’s HOD/Supervisor must inspect the above conditions to ensure that they are satisfactory for the job before approval for remote work is granted. Also, HOD is to carry out inspection of the above from time to time and take any step necessary to protect ANEEJ documents and information.” Anthony Ewere said.
The new policy comes into effect once the board gives its approval. On eligibility, the resource person explained, “all Staff are eligible for remote work arrangement. Interested staff or Head of Department/Supervisor can suggest remote work arrangement for any staff; provided that applicant is formally recommended for remote work by his/her HOD. In recommending staff for remote work, HOD/Supervisor is to be guided by the nature of job/duties performed by applicant. Final approval for remote work will be determined by the Executive Director.”
 Mr. Leo Atakpu is the Deputy Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ and wrote this blog from Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.
 ANEEJ works on issues of Governance, with focus on Anti-corruption, particularly asset recovery, Democracy, Human Rights, migration and Social Justice in Nigeria