The Coronavirus pandemic is proving among other things that people, not technology, algorithms or products, make great businesses.
Many big companies across the world have instituted a Work-From-Home (WFH) policy and some of them are even paying their staff, bonuses to support them as they practise self-isolation and social distancing. One of such companies is Facebook. It has instructed its content moderators to work from home and would be paying all of its 45,000 employees an additional $1,000 (₦360,000) to augment their expenses during this period.
Other big Tech companies have also done the same: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and chinese tech companies have ordered their employees to work from home. Some of them also released work-from-home guides, notably, Google and Microsoft.
Similarly, as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in Nigeria, tech companies across the country have joined in on the global mass remote work experiment. They have reduced or cancel physical meetings with clients and cancel non-essential travels while continuing to serve their customers.
In a way, it might seem there is a competition amongst companies to show who is the most human-centered but what it shows is that people make great businesses.
Some companies, however, cannot adopt a company-wide WFH policy, except they shut down. So, they have put in place some safety measures as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to keep their customers and staff safe during the global coronavirus outbreak. Tech companies of all kinds are affected, including startup hubs.
Taiwo Ajetunmobi, CEO of Leadspace, a co-working space, said: "In light of this latest news [increased confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria], we have decided to shut down all Leadspace locations (including HubOne) from March 23, 2020."
We understand that this will create some challenges for you—our valued customers and [we] do not take this hard decision lightly. However, the safety and health of our customers and staff is our singular most important priority at this time.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated with the latetst news from official government sources on this public health crisis. In addition, we will keep you updated on any change in plans with respect to re-opening our locations.
He added that members of the Leadspace community will be allowed to come and pick their personal belongings and work equipments between 9 AM—12 PM on March 23 and March 24, 2020.
How the 10 best tech companies to work for in Nigeria are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic
Last year, Jobberman identified the best tech companies to work for in Nigeria through its annual Best 100 Companies to Work For in Nigeria report. The tech companies listed were: Andela, Google, Paystack, Microsoft, Interswitch, Jumia, Tek Experts Nigeria, Oracle, Flutterwave, and Softcom.
We asked each of these best tech companies what they are doing during this unprecedented times and how they are dealing with the viral disease known as COVID-19.
From the get-go, as an Engineering as a Service company, Andela has a company-wide remote work policy.
Oluwasola Obagbemi, Andela's Senior Communications Manager, told benjamindada.com, "Andela is taking the challenges that Coronavirus present us with, extremely seriously. In terms of global company policies, we have paused all travels for now and are closely monitoring the outbreak globally and in the countries we operate in."
We have also instituted mandatory remote work policy in some offices. As a company that has always championed remote and distributed work practices, we have a work-from-home policy and most of our employees across Andela locations have the flexibility to work from home, more so during this period.
We continue to keep our teams updated with relevant information to ensure their health and safety, and we are also refreshing our existing Work From Home policies to guide our business operations and delivery.
Ranked as the second best tech company to work for in Nigeria, Google recently launched a Developer Space, which serves as a hub for its Launchpad Accelerator and can be used by members of the Africa tech community for free.
Google has made a commitment to compensate its staff and is setting up a COVID-19 fund that will allow all temporary staff and vendors globally to take paid leave if they have potential symptoms of the viral disease or can't come to work because they are quarantined.
The Google Nigeria team is yet to respond to our inquiries as of press time, and it's unclear if the Developer Space will be closed during the period.
As one of the leading payment processing companies in Nigeria, Paystack has released a definitive statement on how it intends to "provide exceptional service while ensuring the safety of our employees and customers"
Emmanuel Quartey, Head of Growth at Paystack, writes: "Many members of the Paystack team already work remotely, and our internal tooling and processes are highly optimized for distributed work. What this means is that we're able to transition seamlessly to a fully remote team with no impact on quality of service."
Also, from March 20 through April 3, 2020, the Paystack office will be closed to guests. According to the statement, if you had a meeting scheduled at Paystack HQ within this period, your Paystack contact will reach out to you to convert it to a virtual video call. All company-related travels have also been canceled and all external in-person meetings have been converted to virtual video calls.
According to a statement obtained by benjamindada.com, in addition to shutting its offices for a month, all Paystack employees are now working remotely; all janitors, office assistants, etc. still get paid; salaries get paid early, lunch and cost of internet will be covered; a few short-let spots are provided for people who need a place to stay because of power issues; and staff can sign out their office chair or monitor if they need it at home.
Microsoft has instructed its employees in the Bay Area and Seattle to work from home, according to The Verge.
Microsoft employees in South Korea are required to work from home, while employees in Milan, Rome, and elsewhere in Europe have the option to work from home too. All Microsoft employees in the middle east and Africa have also been mandated to work from home.
The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, on March 21, 2020, sent a mail to all Microsoft employees reiterating the company's commitment to "coming together to combat COVID-19".
Speaking with Microsoft Communications Manager, Lilian Nganda, she told benjamindada.com: "At Microsoft, our top concern is the wellbeing of our employees and supporting our customers in dealing with business impact during this challenging time."
For many individuals and organizations, Microsoft Teams video-conferencing, chat and collaboration are playing an important role in helping people to continue to work and collaborate.
By making Teams available to all for free for six months, we hope that we can support public health and safety by making remote work even easier.
In an internal memo obtained by benjamindada.com, the first Nigerian unicorn has instructed all its employees, who are currently not on leave, to start working from home from March 23, 2020 until further notice. However, this excludes employees identified as members of the critical team, who have been briefed on what to do in another memo sent on March 20.
As the leading ecommerce platform in Nigeria, Jumia will continue to serve its teeming customers while ensuring the safety of their staff and customers.
Massimiliano Spalazzi, CEO of Jumia Nigeria, told benjamindada.com,"We believe that we are essential and have a role to play in this situation to keep the economy going and help our community," while ensuring the safety of our staff.
Indeed, it is important that an ecommerce company like Jumia with logistics network continue to operate barring the lockdown. Because many people who are self-isolating or quarantined would need goods and materials to be delivered to them. In India, ecommerce is considered as an essential service for coronavirus.
This is why those CEO emails people are freaking out about are important. The email from Jumia Food CEO about the precautions they're taking put me at ease and that's the reason I've continued using them in these times. https://t.co/EKRDV7kY89— Taslim O. (@taslimokunola) March 21, 2020
"Starting this week, most of our staff would be working from home. But excluding the critical team, I call them the Jumia Heroes: those people that are actually enabling consumers to receive packages across Nigeria," Massimiliano said. "For them, we have put in place the highest level of safety in compliance with the WHO recommendations."
For example, there will thermometer guns to take temperatures; there will be sanitizers all around the office; no more close contact meetings [this will be done remotely]; we've engaged professional cleaning services that are constantly cleaning and disinfecting our offices.
We will also continue internal awareness campaign to make sure every member of the team is practising the WHO preventive measures in their day-to-day lives and they are abreast of the latest information about coronavirus.
To reduce physical contact with customers, we are incentivizing the use of JumiaPay and our riders will be wearing glass-masks and observing social distancing [stay six feet away] when delivering packages.
7. Tek Experts Nigeria
Tek Experts is a global provider of business and IT support services. It was ranked as the 67th best company to work for in Nigeria.
When asked how the company is responding to the pervasive COVID-19, a team lead at Tek Experts Nigeria told benjamindada.com, "We are still awaiting updates as to that regard internally. The work requires physical presence for the most part, so health and safety is being monitored at the offices. Everything we use is suited to be used at the office but with the constant outbreak, management is improvising as to what can be done".
The team lead went on to explain that the team has been split between two buildings (Wings and EvertyOne), which might be a strategy to limit close human contact, thereby practising social distancing.
Similarly, in a conversation with Tek Experts CMO, Raymond Murray, he explained that they are still working on various mitigation plans and as such, will not be ready to share at this time.
We are still working on various mitigation plans that we are not ready to share - the situation changes by the day. So we don't feel it would be right for us to participate in this article right now.
Like most tech giants, the CEO of Oracle, Safra Catz has told employees to work remotely in a memo released on March 16, 2020.
According to Business Insider, which obtained a copy of the memo, the company's offices will be open to only critical employees: those who are needed to maintain Oracle and customer essential services. And for non-critical employees who can't do their jobs remotely, Safra said, "Oracle will continue to pay you until further notice."
Ranked as the 87th best company to work for in Nigeria, Flutterwave's CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, had sent out a mail detailing the digital payment company's response to COVID-19 on March 16.
According to a copy of the mail obtained by benjamindada.com, Flutterwave's service will not be interrupted as payout and collection will continue to work as usual, settlement will be processed as scheduled, and customer contact centre and account manager will also be available as usual.
As a precautionary measure, we have incorporated remote and flexible work schedules for our team.
We will continue to work with our banks and third party providers to understand any potential impact on their services, as we work on our back up and contingency plans to avoid any disruption to your business. As of now, we anticipate no disruption.
In addition to this, Flutterwave has provided additional resources for employees living in areas with unstable power to make their work-from-home conditions more comfortable.
According to a mail sent to benjamindada.com, Flutterwave is also working in partnership with hubs and co-working spaces to provide its employees with hot desks so they don't have to commute to find a location to work from if the need arises.
Ranked as the 95th best company to work for in Nigeria, Softcom is a tech solutions company and the parent company of Eyowo—a bank on the phone.
According to a memo obtained by benjamindada.com, Softcom, which has a company-wide remote work policy, officially closed all its offices on March 2o, 2020, and instructed all employees to work from home.
In addition, a SPAR Gift Card was given to all employees and ₦10,000 monthly allowance would be provided to subsidise the cost of internet and power during the remote work operation.
According to the statement, the full remote work operation will continue until the WHO or the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) step back from the coronavirus precautionary measures or when a vaccine becomes available (whichever happens first).
"We will be donating to the relief fund created to provide relief materials for the residents of the community as our own contribution," Softcom CEO, Yomi Adedeji, said. "We will also continue to engage the authorities to learn how we can support the health care and border protection workers who are at the forefront of this".
These are companies not listed among the best tech companies to work for in Nigeria but shared with us what they are doing to ensure employee safety, customer protection and business continuity.
@timigod, we can share abi?— Tejúmádé (@TejuAdeyinka) March 17, 2020
Timi Ajiboye, CEO of Buycoins—a platform that enables users to trade cryptocurrencies instantly—announced on March 17 on Twitter that they are mandating their employees to work from home over the next few weeks and it would be extended as need be.
"To make this easier, we are giving everybody a stipend (outside of normal pay) to stock up on food, toiletries, etc,” Timi said. "We shall also reimburse internet subscription costs."
I personally believe there are many more people infected than [it] has been confirmed (like it is everywhere in the world, even with way more testing than we’ve done here). I think every company that can have people work at home should do so.