Working from home is merely recognised by African parents.
I opened my mail on a beautiful day and the first inbox was a congratulatory message. I rubbed my eyes and read the mail carefully. ‘Yesssssss, I was picked”, I screamed, “picked where?” my mum asked, “for the internship role, I got the job”, I excitedly replied. Well, this led to series of explanations and a few “congratulations” from everyone at home. For the days that followed, however, the question on everyone’s lip was ‘when are you resuming?’, I took my time to explain how it was a remote work and what working from home entails.
While this worked for a while, soon the music changed.
“So you are not going to work today again?” “So you’d just sit at home again today?” “how can you be home and we’d not even feel your usefulness?” “You’d just be pressing that laptop from morning till evening and do nothing else” ‘You’re just in this house doing nothing! Is it not better if you are not around at all, at least then we know you are absent”‘
Fast-forward to three weeks into the job, I was attacked with at least two of those questions in a day. Fortunately, I have been able to rework my schedule, adequately manage my time and be available for work and home, ultimately, successfully working from home.
Like myself, this is the reality of many young Nigerians, especially, students who get remote work opportunities. Explaining the virtual concept to their parents is often very challenging.
If we are going to be fair, though, the concept of working from home is still relatively new (for certain parents) in Nigeria. We probably should give a big thumbs up to the Coronavirus pandemic for shinning enough light to that part of life. In the midst of lockdown restrictions that followed the pandemic, many companies implemented many voluntary or mandatory work-from-home policies. Working from home during the pandemic became an unexpected reality for millions of Nigerians.This made parents a little bit conscious of the large possibilities with the internet; they have the time and reasons to finally understand why remote work is real, legit and profitable.
Notwithstanding, for a middle-aged parent who has spent at least four decades of their lives working a regular 8 to 5 job, or running a business, a stay-at-home-work is still mostly strange for the following reasons:
The first thing that could pop into the mind of a typical African parent when you inform them that you got a job, you’d be using a laptop, you won’t be leaving your house, you will be paid is: fraud. They might begin to ask certain questions even if they don’t jump to the conclusion that you have joined ‘bad gang’. They likely don’t see a full-functioning virtual society. Whatever goes beyond a simple use of the internet for typing documents or playing games in their imagination risks falling in the category of fraud.
Sharing a personal experience Funmi Richards, a podcaster, writer and poet, said “there was a day I needed to charge my laptop because I had some work to do and there was no light, I told the new security man to go put on the generator, and he legit asked me if I was a yahoo girl”.
On another occasion, Funmi’s neighbor also assumed she was an internet fraudster because she doesn’t leave home for work like they do. “Another time my neighbor was greeting me and asked how my work was going, before I could reply, her nephew just said that I am a yahoo girl, I don’t go out, but I still make my money”, she stated.
“Some of them will not disturb you, some of them understand how remote work goes, but some, most of them, like large number of them don’t agree with working from home, they just believe you’re into an illegal job and all”, Alagbe Mayowa, a final year student of University of Lagos and content creator also lamented.
This is where trust comes in. Family trust plays a huge role in keeping these misgivings checked. While this is not an issue for some, it is a big challenge for others.
SINCERE CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
There are parents who have a relatively sound understanding of possibilities of the internet and endorse remote work. While many don’t really mind you working remotely, where they have a problem is when it starts affecting your health.
Olanrewaju Oludegun, a poet, content writter, and a final year student of Federal University of Technology, Akure, affirmed that sometimes you are ‘caged’ from harnessing the full benefits of remote work.
“Last two weeks, I had a job and the deadline was getting really close, I was informed that food was ready but that was the least of my problems, I had to lock my myself in my room in order to finish up”, he said. “Everyone took turns at knocking on my door, daddy came, I didn’t come out, mummy came, I didn’t come out, my younger brother came, I didn’t come out, I finished my job and when I finally came out my parent lashed seriously at me for missing dinner’, he added.
Like Olanrewaju’s parent, my mother will also always nag at my sleeping and eating habit. She also believes spending that much time in front of my computer screen, will have adverse effects on my sight. While her fears are valid and her reasons are justified, sometimes it becomes a bother. Complaints from me, as little has a knee pain or a finger scratch will some how lead to a diagnosis that my phone and laptop are about take my life.
THE MISCONCEPTION THAT PRESSING YOUR PHONE EQUALS WASTING AWAY
Relating to a culture that one is not entirely familiar with might pose a big issue. Some African parents can’t relate to whatever kind of sense of purpose and responsibility one could have in waking up daily to simply do something on the internet. For them, the internet ends with Facebook and Whozup (Whatsapp).
Getting some of them to understand that you don’t have to put on work clothes and get on the bus to an office to earn a living can be a hard nut to crack. “You mean after all the amounts I have spent from your nursery school till tertiary level, you want to pay me back my sitting in my house, pressing a laptop, when your mates are in suits and ties, hustling”, many parents have probably thought.
“I live with my eldest brother and the fact that I am always at home makes it seem like I don’t have anything that I’m doing”, Funmi Richard said. “A lot of people just assume because I am at home, I don’t get to do anything, sometimes what people don’t understand is that I might be sitting down at home but I might end up doing more hours than people who go to offices”, she added.
They just can’t come to terms with the fact that you’d be spending 6 to 8 hours on your PC and actually get tangible work, that attract some amount into your bank account, done .
So when they see you with those phones and PC for 2 hours straight, they conclude you are jobless and embark on the quest of finding you something to do. This usually leads to a long list of chores and errands.
There are simple tricks to making an African parent gain full acceptance of your remote work. The simplest of those tricks is Money. Make them see and enjoy the financial rewards that comes with the job.
Take breaks between work, excersise, avoid skipping meals, have a proper eating and sleeping habit.
Also, patiently explain what it s exactly, you have been spending hours on. Share your work and contents with your family and relatives.
Lastly, pay full attention to them, make sure their fears about anything whatsoever is surmounted. If you want to successfully ‘work from home’, then you have to make extra efforts to convince your parents that you’re still a properly brought up child.