Working from home is now a norm in Nigeria, thanks or no thanks to the pandemic. However, as smoothly as you imagine it, it comes with its own set of challenges. In this article, I asked five Nigerian women to share their experiences working from home. Here’s what they said:
I am like the housewives in Nollywood movies — the ones that work hard all day, juggling work and family, only for their spouse to come back home at night to ask why there is no food on the table. Except in my story, my siblings and my elder cousin do the asking.
Every day, I wake up early to do house chores and cook because everyone leaves the house at 6 a.m. After this, I resume my work online. It’s a remote job, so working hours are blurred — sometimes I work till 8. Of course, my family members don’t understand and the judgmental sighs from my cousin who is visiting from Oyo state don’t help. Recently I got one of those sighs on a bad day and I got angry. I told him and everyone else that cooking for them is a privilege and they shouldn’t feel entitled to it. I work the same way they do and I am not a junior staff at my office.
I stopped cooking and created a timetable. They say “Ijoba military la wa” and tell everyone that I’m starving them every time they have to enter the kitchen after work but I don’t care. It also made me realize that I’d rather stay unmarried than manage a man child.
I work for a UK-based tech startup that is bootstrapping. This means we don’t get paid for now. It’s horrible. I feel bad sometimes because I am only able to work at night. I am never on time and I miss many meetings because I live with my aunt. I have to wake up at 5 am everyday to do house chores. I make fresh meals three times a day. I can’t use my phone or laptop outside of work because they would say that I am obsessed with my gadgets. When I eventually sit down to work, I get called every 10 minutes to do something as minor as taking a cup of water to the kitchen, which by the way is closer to the parlour than my room.
Sometimes, my cousins and siblings bring me their kids to watch. It’s a complete mess. Some months ago, I complained and was told “What sort of work do you want us to believe you’re doing when you don’t even get paid? Your mates are in the office, meanwhile all you do is type on your laptop and make calls that never end. Who even buys you airtime?” I am genuinely tired.
My mum doesn’t respect the work from home idea. She calls me to do chores any time she pleases. One time I was on a Zoom meeting and she kept screaming my name, asking me to come and blend pepper. I said I was in a meeting but she still asked me to do it.
Then there is my dad who thinks I’m jobless because I work from home. I’ve tried to explain how remote jobs work but he’s not having it. He insists that I’mjobless. It’s frustrating but I prefer working from home because I have social anxiety and working at the office can be a lot for me.
I have always been accustomed to working from home because I worked in the UK for a while before moving to Nigeria. However, living in Nigeria and leading a completely remote team while also being a wife and mum is a new level for me. I run a consulting firm and mainly work from home. I have to keep reminding everyone at home that even though they can see me, I am not available — I am working.
Different things happen in my day to distract me from work like the help barging in while I’m in a meeting to ask me what’s for lunch or my husband asking me to make his breakfast just before I go into a 10 o’ clock meeting. Sometimes, there’s an expectation that I should actually leave the meeting to attend to their needs.
I also have a toddler who thankfully is always in her room with her nanny during the day but as her mum, I am sensitive to her different sounds and cries to make sure she hasn’t bumped her head or something like that. These days, I just ignore and everybody sorts themselves out. Sometimes I have to escape to a cafe so they deal with my absence and they always do just fine.
It’s been over a year since I started working from home. At first, when I was living with my parents, everything was okay apart from light issues but we had a generator. I was working a part time job then so it wasn’t bad. Everything changed when I moved out. I have to pay my light bills myself now. My flatmate goes to work every day so I am often alone and that sucks.
Luckily, my new workplace makes things easy for me. My colleagues are nice people. Sometimes, we have zoom parties. They are currently considering getting me an inverter because there is no light during the day. I struggle with staying up while I am working because my old job was part-time and I could nap when I wanted but I curb that by going to work at the bookstore where my friend works. Other times, I go to nearby restaurants. Overall, it’s a nice experience for me.