Hr experts seek flexible office Hours for workers as lagos traffic worsens
In less than two weeks, Mrs Damola Akintunde has been served two queries by his employer for resuming work late.
It is unusual of the 32-year-old resident of Olowora, Isheri area of Lagos State. For the past four years she has been working with an insurance firm in Ikoyi, 40 kilometres from her residence, lateness was a rarity.
She devised some methods to beat the regular morning traffic and ensured she was at work before the 8am resumption time. Her tactics against lateness collapsed on February 1, following the ban of commercial motorcycle and tricycle operations in some local government areas of the state.
The two hours travel time to work became double. Tricycles and motorcycles she relied on as alternative transport means to beat traffic in some routes are off the road.
The mother of two now has to endure long queues for commercial vehicles at bus stops. Despite adjusting the time she leaves home for work, meeting the resumption time has become a battle she struggles to win on a daily basis.
“I now leave home at 5.30am; one hour earlier than I used to,” she said. “On the two occasions I was queried, I got to the office at 9.30am and 10am respectively,” she added, admitting that she had been warned twice before getting the queries.
She went on, “These days, I trek for 20 minutes from Isheri to Berger bus stop because keke (tricycle) and okada (motorcycle) no longer ply that route.
I spend about an hour at Berger queuing for buses en route to Obalende. Worse still, the traffic is more than it used to be. “It is another fight for vehicles from Obalende to Ikoyi and it is even tougher when I am returning home in the evening. The stress is too much but I need to work to support my family.
As a mother, I have to prepare my children for school before leaving home. It is part of domestic duties I cannot shy away from.” Criticism and violence trailed tricycle/okada ban in major parts of the state but the government insisted it would not reverse its decision, saying it was made in the best interest of the masses for safety and security.
“I agree it’s a tough decision we made regarding the restriction of okada and keke in some parts of Lagos but I want to say some facts, which people can debate. The restriction that we have done is primarily based on security and safety of lives of residents.
We took the decision based on the level of danger we have seen to have happened to our people,” the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu, had said. Akintude’s plight is similar to what many commuters now go through in Nigeria’s commercial capital in the wake of the enforcement.
Many officials who snubbed their private cars on working days and jumped on commercial transport, have now been forced to put their vehicles on the road to avoid trekking long distances and queues at bus stops. Taofiq Oladele falls into this category.
A public relations officer at a multinational in Ikeja GRA, Oladele resorted to using his car when the stress of walking for about one hour every day started telling on his health. “I live in Alagbado.
The first day the ban started, I trekked for over an hour from Ikeja Along bus stop to the office and repeated same while returning home.
I got to work at 10.30am that day and got back home late. After engaging in the ‘endurance trek’ for two days, I started using my car,” he told Saturday PUNCH during the week.
He stated that despite driving, he struggled to make it to the office at 8.30am after spending two hours in gridlock.
“I am just lucky my boss is compassionate. He gave us 30 minutes extra beyond the normal resumption time. Yet, many of us can’t meet up,” he added.
A teacher at a private school in OPIC, a border town between Lagos and Ogun states, also told our correspondent that the traffic from her home in Ogba (Lagos) to the school has worsened in recent times.
The woman, who identified herself simply as Susan, stated, “Yesterday (Wednesday), I left home at 7am but didn’t get to school until 11am. The traffic on Ogunusi Road, stretching to the LagosIbadan Expressway was on standstill because two vehicles broke down. On Thursday, I experienced traffic too. The most annoying part is the struggle for buses at bus stops every day.” The impact of the increasing traffic is more serious for Daniel Uzochuckwu, a secretary at a construction company in Lekki, upscale Lagos metropolis. In defiance of the office rules, he was caught sleeping on duty thrice in one week and warned sternly to avoid a repeat or lose his job.
“Sleeping on duty is a serious offence where I work, but I couldn’t just help it these days,” the resident of Ogudu bemoaned.
“I wake up at 4am and leave home at 5am to beat the traffic and get to work on time. It was as if vehicles were springing up from the ground since the ban on okada and tricycles began,” he said worryingly, adding that he devised a strategy to save his job. “I don’t want to lose my job.
I had to beg a bachelor colleague who lives on Lagos Island to allow me pass the night at his house during the week pending the time the traffic situation will improve.
I cannot cope with the stress to and from the office every day.” he stated. The ugly trend has been blamed on the poor conditions of some major roads across the state and inadequate mass transit system, among others. In the short-term measures, administrators urged employers to take strategic steps to address the traffic challenge.
The Director-general, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Dr Timothy Olawale, noted that the chaotic traffic situation required organisations driven by Information Technology to develop the capacity for offline work, whereby staff members didn’t have to be physically present in the office.
He said, “We have employers that have already started leveraging IT to make life easier for their workers as long as the workers will deliver and be productive. However, working from home does not apply to every job. For instance, there is no way a security guard can secure the environment by working from home. “Generally speaking, traffic situation in Lagos is becoming more chaotic and it calls for government to strategise on how to solve the problem.
The conventional means of adding more vehicles cannot solve the problem. The first thing to do is for the roads to be good. Part of the traffic is caused by bad portions on the roads.
“For now, employers should treat the situation with understanding. These are realities and everybody is caught up in it.
While the employees should try as much as possible to be responsible, where it is unavoidable and they are caught up in proven cases of traffic jam, employers should treat it with understanding and not kill an ant with a sledge hammer.”
The DG identified a laptop, mobile phone and Internet facility as the three most essential tools required to work from home, noting that a number of jobs could leverage the
IT to proffer short-term solutions to traffic issues. “Even senior executives can sign documents now without being in the office.
There are a lot of jobs you can do from home. It only takes maturity and sense of responsibility.
Once you deliver on your deadline, what is the big deal? It is the reality on the ground. More employers should embrace it.
Employers should invest massively in infrastructure that can help employees deliver on this,” he added.
On her part, the Country Manager, Nigeria and Regional Sales Manager West Africa, Avanti Communications, Jane EgertonIdehen, urged firms with flexible working hours to explore such to relieve their staff members of stress. She stated,
“There should be transitional arrangements by the government before the ban.
There is high demand for transportation and there are no enough buses to meet the supply.
All the people that would have used keke or bikes are now forced to use buses. “For organisations that offer flexible working hours, this is the good time to allow the staff members know they have such opportunity. It means they don’t have to show up at work at 8am.
They can come to work at 10am and close at 7pm.” She said with such arrangement, workers would be able to manage the traffic while going to work and avoid returning home at peak hours. Egerton-idehen added, “Another thing employees can do is to allow staff members close earlier than normal.
If they normally close at 5pm, they can start closing at 4pm or 4.30pm so that they don’t get stuck in traffic.” Besides, the Managing Partner, Human Capital Partners, Mr Innocent Oseghe, canvassed for both flexible working arrangement and IT use.
He said, “Flexible working arrangements can be put in place for staff members. Workers can also be allowed to telecommute. Employers should work out an arrangement whereby staff members don’t need to rush to work in the morning.
They should be given enough time to be able to resume. “With okada and tricycles withdrawn from Lagos roads, an organisation can arrange for a bus that will pick workers from certain location not too far from office and take them to the bus stop where they can easily get vehicles after closing from work. Right now, workers walk for 30 minutes to one hour from office to bus stops.”
•Gridlock on Third Mainland Bridge •Commuters stranded at bus stop. Photos: skytrendnews and file