Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended people’s working lives. We have taken a closer look at how people’s working lives have changed in Sub Saharan Africa, with a special focus on Nigeria and South Africa.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of people from both countries describe the pandemic as having dealt a substantial impact on their careers, with around a fifth of all workers having lost their jobs. Of those that retained their jobs about half of South Africans and just under two-thirds of Nigerians describe having lost a significant portion of their monthly incomes.
With lockdowns still in place in the two countries, only six percent of South Africans and less than a fifth of Nigerians feel that their working lives have reverted to normal. Job security is a concern for many looking towards a post-pandemic economy, with more than a third of employees predicting a permanently altered working life.
Those workers who have managed to hold on to their jobs describe adjusting to different working conditions, with almost half of people now working from home. More South Africans describe increased workloads than their Nigerian counterparts, and more workers in South Africa are learning to juggle the unexpected burden of childcare with work, creating an unseen layer of stress.
Despite the challenges inherent in the work-life balance changes being experienced by working people in both countries, half of all South Africans say they would choose to work from home once the pandemic is behind them if given the option. In Nigeria, the picture is quite different with nearly three-quarters of the workforce planning to return to work. Making the transition from office to home was easier for South Africans, the majority of whom did not have to purchase computers or upgrade internet connections to be able to continue with their jobs. Less than a third of Nigerians reported such a seamless office-to-home transition.
The idea of ‘telecommuting’, as the notion of work-from-home was first described, is not a new one. The pandemic has allowed people to test whether the idea works for them. Read our article Are home offices the future? to learn more.
While childcare, a dedicated workspace and improved digital communication channels between colleagues were listed as areas that needed improvement for people to be able to effectively work from home, an uninterrupted power supply and reliable and fast internet connections were the major obstacles for the majority of South Africans and Nigerians.
Employees from both countries expect strict health-safety requirements to be implemented before returning to work. Practices such as spaced-out seating, sanitation, reworked shift schedules and the wearing of masks are a high priority for both countries, and appear to be especially important to South African workers.
While the challenges to working effectively in the pandemic are numerous, there have been unexpected positive outcomes to the pandemic as our earlier article illustrates. Undoubtedly, the pandemic poses significant challenges for working people, however, it has thrown into relief areas where relatively small adjustments can result in a whole new way of working for large sectors of the working population.
In our next piece, we explore how attitudes to health and fitness have changed due to COVID-19, this also having a strong impact on working life as people struggle to adjust to new ways of working while staying healthy. Additionally, we will investigate how job losses and pay cuts have resulted in more conservative spending across categories, worldwide.
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