Hr ex­perts seek flex­i­ble of­fice Hours for work­ers as lagos traf­fic wors­ens

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

Afeez Hanafi

•Grid­lock on Third Main­land Bridge •Com­muters stranded at bus stop. Pho­tos: skytrend­news and file

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