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Virtual Working Could Double Our Productivity Rate



Nearly half of the world’s population is currently under lockdown, forcing many to work remotely to stop spread of the virus. Numerous virtual platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Team, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp video calls have seen a surge in usage, as people embrace technology to connect quickly with their business peers and clients 24/7. Gone are the days of working nine-to-five. Now, a 16 hour shift is the new normal, resulting in irregular sleeping patterns and afternoon naps.

The pandemic has disrupted nearly all our daily routines. So when the lockdown was instituted, I decided to investigate the new working consequences induced by such. Many of my friends and business associates across the globe said they follow certain patterns or routines. I followed suit for the first week, but during the second week, it fell apart. Except for a few aspects. I still keep to my daily exercise schedule, spend more time with my family, do gardening and cleaning and indulge in a few power naps – and I’ve become a lot more productive work-wise.

This is because the urge to respond immediately to emails and be available for virtual meetings at any time amidst the pandemic is uncontrollable – and has made me work even harder (as I’m sure many others do too). I will leave the medical professionals to advise on health consequences of such. In this light, I reckon virtual working could also engineer a new type of gig economy where people can easily do two jobs – or more – without sitting in traffic, using ride apps and avoiding other time-consuming, on-site work side effects (which all cost money). From an environmental perspective, CNN recently showed a series of before and after photographs of the most polluted cities, pre- and post–lockdown and the difference is absolutely remarkable – clear blue skies have replaced dirty grey atmospheres and stunning vistas are now perfectly visible. From a dietary angle, having healthy home-made meals rather than toasted saamies from the canteen at work or take-outs every day, will also help improve our health. So there are upsides to lockdowns.

At our 22 on Sloane campus, we have over a dozen staff members who are on site every day and I’m sure these could easily work remotely. Recently, we did a survey with various businesses, which noted that virtual working is the new norm. 56% of these said that virtual working is seen as a future business opportunity. 46% of them want to diversify their offerings as they believe they can do more with less, while 37% are looking for disruptive approaches in their businesses.

The pandemic has and will present many more challenges. Yet with any disaster comes opportunity and I believe a new space for fresh ideas and collaboration is quickly emerging and will showcase the inherent interconnectedness of our positive human spirit.

As was said by one of the protagonists in the series called ‘Trial’ on Netflix, “sometimes what connects people in life is pain more than love”. I believe this pandemic will bring us closer to the things that matter.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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