New fuel prices raise questions about the future of work in Nigeria – TechCabal

Image source: Ngozi Chukwu X Dall-E
The removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria has led to a significant increase in commuting costs for workers. Both employers and employees share their challenges and express the need for cost-saving measures in the workplace.
Employers and workers in Nigeria are floating ideas for how to adapt to the ballooning fuel prices. In addition to record high inflation—22%—Nigerians now have to bear the weight of the full price of fuel which the government has partly shouldered for years through fuel subsidies. Now, the cost of fuel has nearly doubled, eliciting a commensurate increase in the cost of transportation and fuel-powered generators—common backups for the country’s unsteady power supply. People who work remotely, at the office or a combination of both are looking for ways to work around the situation and spend less money. 
James*, a salesperson at Access Bank in Port Harcourt, shared that the cost of his daily transportation using ride-hailing services has nearly doubled. “[Yesterday] I had to combine both public transport and [ride-hailing platform] Bolt as the price of the latter has increased. It will now cost me about ₦‎‎‎5,000 daily to go to and return from work daily,” James told TechCabal. He expressed a desire to work from home, but the nature of his job won’t allow that. “Most of my work requires access to bank applications that are limited to the bank’s wired network. Unless there are significant changes to the network infrastructure,I will have to continue hitting the road to work daily, even though it means increased expenses,” he added.
Danjuma*, who works at a multinational fintech company, explained that his commute costs have also doubled. His company follows a global hybrid work policy, that requires him to be in the office three times a week. With the recent developments, he estimates spending ₦36,000 ($78) on transportation each week.
For employees fortunate enough to have the option of full-time remote work, Nigeria’s erratic power supply poses a challenge. Only 57% of the population has access to the electricity grid. Mobalaji, a data analyst in Ogun State, shares that his work remains unaffected due to the reliable power supply in his area. But power outages remain common in most parts of the country, leading to a reliance on fuel-powered generators as an alternative power source. Unfortunately, the removal of fuel subsidies has increased the cost of operating generators.
Lynda*, who recently got a job at a tech startup that encourages remote work, initially planned to work from home. However, due to the changing circumstances, she now considers going to the office to reduce the expenses associated with using a generator. Her temporary solution is to work at the office until she can save enough money to buy an inverter or battery system for an uninterrupted power supply. Joseph, a writer at a tech-focused publication feels the same way. Even though he can work from home, he goes to the office instead. “Considering the unstable electricity supply in my area, it didn’t seem productive to stay at home today. Therefore, I have decided to work from the office until I can resolve how to go about the fuel situation,” he said.
Others have found alternative power solutions to combat the increase in fuel prices. Tope Nkechi Akintola, a brand designer in Lagos, uses an inverter to power her workspace, providing uninterrupted electricity for her laptop and essential devices.
Employers and human resource managers have varying opinions on how both employers and employees should adapt to the circumstances. Emmanuel Faith, head of talent management at Big Cabal Media, believes that employers should explore remote work policies to reduce employees’ financial and commuting burdens. He told TechCabal, “The effects of macro-economic changes like this vary from the hike in transport prices to hike in the cost of every other necessity. He strongly advocated for workplaces to implement remote work policies, and in cases where exceptions cannot be made or remote work is not feasible, he recommended exploring flexitime.
Seye Bandele, the founder of an HR tech startup, Pade HCM, acknowledges the complexity of adjusting work structures to accommodate the diverse needs of different teams. As an employer, he is still evaluating how to adapt to the situation. He notes the challenge of finding a balance that is fair to all employees.”The administrative staff, who may be required to [bear the increased expenses of commuting and] be present in the office, are not necessarily the highest-paid members of the team. The sales team doesn’t need to come to the office at all but it feels unfair to ask the admin guys to come in and them [the sales team] not to,” he explained.
Jude Dike, co-founder of VC crowdfunding platform, GetEquity, says that his team is currently fully remote and that the company is exploring means to reduce the burden of the increased cost of power supply. “At GetEquity, we already offer data packages, and are considering affordable alternate power supply options like Solynta Energy [a subscription-based solar energy provider] to meet the power supply needs of employees,” he told TechCabal. He advises companies that can’t afford to have remote workers due to the dynamics of their team to consider transporting employees with bus-hailing services such as Shuttlers.
Gbemisola Araba, the people operations manager at female-focused fintech Herconomy, emphasized the importance of meticulous planning for organizations to keep their employees satisfied and maintain profitability. She suggests that if feasible, employers should consider reviewing employee salaries or offering additional perks such as providing lunch to boost morale. Gbemisola mentions that her company’s team is currently working remotely, and she advises other employers to allow their employees to work from home if possible. She highlights that employees are now spending three times the usual amount on commuting to work, so companies need to tap into other ventures in their sector increase revenue and cope with the financial strain caused by increased operational costs.
In response to suggestions that employers should raise salaries, Jude expressed the following viewpoint: “If it is feasible for companies, they should consider reevaluating employee compensation. However, it’s important to acknowledge that we are currently facing the most challenging global economic cycle in recent years. Given the circumstances, I suggest that those unable to implement salary increases focus on providing specific perks that can enhance employees’ quality of life.”
*Indicates names of subjects that were changed for this article.
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