Many companies have asked for employees to come back to work, whether it be full-time, flexitime or on a hybrid model. And as everyone starts trickling into the office, it can be difficult to switch back to the pre-pandemic harmony that may have existed in your place of work.
For the most part, we’ve grown used to working in our own space, on our own. To now have to share space with people who are not in our bubble, can be daunting for many. And while working in close proximity to others could potentially breed germs, it could also breed hostility.
So, just how can employees create a harmonious workplace? How can business managers and bosses ensure that there aren’t any dishwasher wars taking place between colleagues? Here are tips for creating a safe workplace for all.
Get extra help where needed
Everybody has become fanatical about cleanliness – and rightfully so. As employees start coming back to work full time again, it’s probably just a matter of time before a dirty cup is left in the sink or someone doesn’t clean up after making themselves a sandwich. While it may be a minor irritation at first, it could flare up into something bigger and before you know it, people are fighting over who didn’t pack their dishes into the sink and who left their half-eaten lunch in the fridge to become an ecosystem all of its own.
Awazi Angbalaga, Country Manager for a cleaning services company, SweepSouth, suggests that businesses hire someone to come in on a regular basis to clean the space. According to Angbalaga, this takes the burden off of the team to always be on top of things in addition to their daily work and ensures that surfaces and areas are properly cleaned.
A study done by microbiologist Dr Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona to measure bacterial levels in offices shows that personal work areas contain alarmingly high levels of bacteria. Desks, in particular, are teeming with germs.
In fact, says Dr Gerbera, the average desk harbours 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table! A desk can support 10 million bacteria, and without proper cleaning, even a small area may contain bacteria that can make you ill. Work surfaces need to be kept hygienic by regularly cleaning them with an antibacterial product.
Phones and keyboards also need to be wiped down weekly to stop them from becoming bacterial battlegrounds. According to British microbiologist Professor Sally Bloomfield, our hands and the surfaces we touch are the superhighways for bacteria. And, because we touch our phones and keyboards so often, they top the list of the dirtiest items on our desks.
“People are still feeling very nervous about the spread of germs in shared workspaces,” adds Angbalaga. “You need to see to it that your office is being cleaned properly and thoroughly so that your team is working in the best conditions possible.”
Other sanitary measures to implement include placing bottles of hand sanitisers around the office and encouraging any employees who are hot-desking or using phones that others have used, to keep antimicrobial wipes handy, advises Angbalaga.
“Remember to also ask your office cleaner to disinfect hand-contact surfaces like door handles and the buttons on the photocopier – both of which are of the most touched spots in the office. Ensuring your workspace is sparkly clean not only creates a space where people feel more comfortable and happier, but it could also result in fewer employees getting sick and needing to take off work,” she adds.
Physical environments that support wellness
The impact the physical work environment has on our well-being is increasingly well understood. In the world of hybrid work, the workplace needs to be more than a functional place in which work is done, but rather be an inviting space that promotes creativity and collaboration, or “less office cubicle and more cafe lounge”, as the Harvard Business Review puts it. Consider office design that is inviting – spaces that incorporate greenery, natural light, art and design, all of which contribute to making the space a pleasant one to be in.
Office workers returning to corporate spaces will have spent the past two years surrounded by their houseplants and taking afternoon walks, so will undoubtedly have a heightened desire to avoid spending hours in workspaces with poor ventilation and no natural light, or spaces that have dust or contaminants in the air.
Workspaces that feel more eco-friendly definitely have a positive impact on workers’ well-being and productivity and will definitely go a long way towards creating a peaceful work environment. Green spaces promote an open and calm feel, which, in an office context, could result in team members interacting more harmoniously and collaboratively – a big plus as businesses rally to rebuild post the pandemic.
Lastly, as people learn to work together at the office again, consider holding inspirational team events that rekindle old, or foster new bonds amongst colleagues. As companies start finding their “new normal” they need to transform and evolve in ways that not only suit the company’s purpose but also recognise the tremendous value of happy employees.
Competing for Service – a Customer’s Choice
Ask any staunch modernist, and you’ll hear them say that the last 100 years have far outpaced the previous 1,000 in terms of human invention. They will say that to define modernity is to acknowledge recent advancements in technological innovation, urbanisation, and globalisation and how they have accelerated financial exchange through fintech and other inventions.
We live in a time where the same generations who are always ready to whip out their cheque books and those who grew up completely digital bank with the same service provider or shop at the same retailer. So while we see today’s innovations across the retail, technology, banking, and travel sectors, for example, it begs the question of whether today’s innovations compete with traditionality.
When UNCTAD released its findings on e-commerce sales earlier this year, it described the growth of online sales as having increased “markedly in value”. At the same time, 46% of respondents in Raydiants 2022 Consumer Behaviour Report said that given the choice, they still prefer to shop in-store.
Like in online retail and in-store shopping, the biggest difference between traditional forms of payment or traditional banking and online banking is physical presence. As it goes, the same consumers who prefer shopping in physical stores likely still prefer the human interaction that goes with traditional banking.
That said, not everyone has access to a personal bank or financial advisor who can help with savings and investment decisions. However, data released by mobile industry insights company Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) shows that smartphone adoption stands at 64 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to grow to 75 per cent by 2025. The report also reflects that $155 billion of economic value added will be generated by mobile technologies and services by 2025. In 2020, transactions on mobile money platforms reached $490 billion.
“It’s not surprising that we have seen a proliferation of established players in mobile banking and payments. We expect these mobile solutions to extend to savings options, with the emergence of platforms that will make it easier for anyone with access to a smartphone to explore various investment and saving options,” says Tony Mallam, managing director of upnup, a micro-savings and investment platform.
There are, of course, still businesses and consumers that prefer using cash. And for consumers who prefer making payments using bank notes, the old saying of ‘nothing is more powerful than habit’ remains king. Eventually, as a home services marketplace, SweepSouth’s co-founder Alen Ribic comments market forces and market demand will be the deciding factors behind the financial behaviour of businesses and consumers.
“Our offering has always been a case of creating products according to customer needs and what the market demands. We don’t assume to know a customer and then launch new products or offerings based on that,” notes Ribic. “We know that a different market will add new variables into the equation and using a combination of market data with local, on the ground, team presence we assess what is in demand and what would be a suitable additional offering for our customers.
In fact, the very way that brands and consumers interact and learn with each other has changed. Today, most consumers will have researched a product online before making a purchase. More brands are using customer data gained from online behaviour and purchases to dictate their offerings.
Salesforce reports that while 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only 32% of retail executive respondents say their organisations have the full ability to turn data into personalised prices, offers, and products in real-time across channels and touchpoints.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online travel booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou.says, “Innovations are coming in thick and fast but the key is to meet your suppliers and customer base where they are. Each generation has their own way of approaching business, but to stay on the pulse – you have to meet them where they are most comfortable.”
Google’s Travel Insights portal notes that destination popularity can change in an instant. For the most current information on those changes, travel businesses should rely on travel data to determine service offerings. Today this type of trend analysis is far more useful than gauging the number of customers physically visiting travel agencies to pick up travel brochures.
Weighing up the benefits of traditional versus digital should not be seen as a war of which is better, but rather pose the question of how businesses can leverage mixed customer demand for services. Business owners should use data to educate themselves on trends and preferences for the generational mix of consumers with purchasing power that we see today. Whether you choose to be exclusively online or to satisfy various markets, there’s no doubt that, for now at least, both traditionality and modernity are here to stay.
African Marketers Simply Cannot Afford to Ignore Snapchat: Here’s Why
By Alistair Errington
Over the years, Snapchat has consistently defied its most ardent critics. The platform has grown from strength to strength rather than fading away as existing social networks mimic its features, and new ones, such as TikTok, target the same audience. This illustrates how people want more options and choices when it comes to social media (something that its critical advertisers understand).
As recorded by Statista, Snapchat boasts 347 million daily active users in Q2 2022, up more than 50 million from the same quarter in 2021. Data Reportal also sheds light on Snapchat’s presence, with a total advertising reach of more than 617 million people. This puts it in the top 10 social networks globally. It is, in other words, a platform that advertisers simply cannot afford to ignore. This is as true on the African continent as it is anywhere else.
In Nigeria, for example, Snapchat has more than 9 million users in addressable reach for advertising. This puts it on par with Instagram and well ahead of platforms such as LinkedIn.
With this in mind, it is worth looking at what makes Snapchat so popular, why it’ll continue to be a good marketing option, and how advertisers can best take advantage of it.
Embracing technological evolution
The key to Snapchat’s success in recent years has been its willingness to continue evolving and embracing new technologies as they emerge. In particular, it utilises augmented reality (AR) to appeal to its user base. Snapchat is a camera-first app, encouraging its audience to create personal, authentic content featuring themselves.
For instance, some 250 million users use AR tools that allow them to add 3D experiences in the real world and overlay graphics on images every day. But the platform’s AR ambitions go far beyond augmenting the world only for entertainment. Earlier this year, Snapchat announced updates to its AR shopping features which make it easier for users to try out AR versions of a retailer’s product and to buy directly from the AR experience on Snapchat.
As a result, Snapchat isn’t just a place where brands can advertise to their customers. In fact, it’s more like a virtual showroom that allows people to see what products would look like on them or in their homes. ‘Product trial’ has a whole new meaning.
But even its more prosaic offerings give advertisers a lot to work with. Take Spotlight, its short-form video offering, for example. Spotlight offers a place where an infinite stream of full-screen videos can be engaged with, tailored to the user’s interests. It saw instant success, growing 60% in activity year on year since mid-2021. Based on this growth, Snapchat announced earlier this year that they were testing ads on Spotlight, having successfully rolled them out in a revenue-sharing model with Snap Star creators.
Hyper-connected digital natives
It’s also important to highlight that Snapchat has been developing its technology for 10 years, and its followers have remained loyal through that evolution. Retaining a community that has grown with the app, Snapchat capitalises on the millennial generation and is constantly accruing a younger generation of users due to the cutting-edge experiences it offers.
Zooming into Africa, these younger generations are becoming the centre of attention for Africa. The majority of purchasing power will reside in this audience, not to mention how connectivity in these countries becomes ubiquitous. Nigeria serves as a prime example of a market that is well positioned for digital growth – both in digital users and an audience to be capitalised on. With the combination of internet penetration currently sitting around 51% and over 70% of the users on Snapchat being 21+ in Nigeria, the opportunity for advertisers is there in the short term to bring returns and prepped for the long term to invest in. Bundle this with a median age of 18 and the expected addition of 35 million more internet users by 2026 in Nigeria, and Snapchat anchors itself in the helm of a booming economy.
There is also a very exciting convergence taking place in the digital sphere with this spike in internet users: by 2025, nearly 75% of the global population and all social/communication apps will be frequent AR users. Right now, Snapchatters spend over 3 minutes a day engaging with AR experiences alone and more than 30 minutes on the app everyday – nevermind the fact that they open the camera over 30 times a day resulting in 2.4M snaps every minute around the world. And one of the most interesting nuggets to these behaviours is that it’s done by an audience barely found anywhere else. On any given day, 95% of Snapchat users aren’t on TikTok, 84% of Snapchat users aren’t on Twitter and 47% of Snapchat users aren’t on Facebook. Snapchat hosts a unique audience.
The right messaging with the right partnerships
Of course, advertisers can’t simply hope to slap their existing messaging onto Snapchat templates and expect great results. They have to ensure that the messaging matches the platform and that they’re reaching the people they want with it.
Here, the right partner can help. Brands should look to work with a media sales partner that not only understands platforms such as Snapchat inside out but also has extensive experience working in growth markets like Nigeria.
In doing so, they can reap the full benefits of being on a rapidly growing platform that’s becoming increasingly significant on the African continent.
Alistair Errington is the Snap Partner Director at Ad Dynamo by Aleph
Nigeria at 62: A Critical Analysis
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Going by historical events and developments starting from 1914, it is evident that Nigeria is not a natural country, state or nation but an artificial creation via a marriage of two unwilling brides who had no say in their forced and ill-fated union- an amalgamation of the northern and the southern protectorates on the 14th February 1914, a day set aside to celebrate love all over the world, by Sir Lord Lugard.
The British colonial overlords probably intended the protectorates to operate symmetrically with no part of the amalgam claiming superiority over the other. This arrangement conferred on the fledgling country the form of the Biblical trinity.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria became a federation, resting firmly on a tripod of three federating regions-Northern, Eastern and Western Regions. Each region was economically and politically viable to steer its ship.
Shortly after the independence, but before the country became a republic, precisely in 1961, something that qualifies as a setback happened.
According to a report, Southern Cameroun, which was then part of Eastern Nigeria, agitated that it wanted to leave Nigeria to rejoin their French Cameroun brothers. The United Nations resolved the matter by conducting a plebiscite to determine whether it was the wish of the majority of the Southern Cameroon people, then part of the British Colony, to leave the independent nation of Nigeria.
An overwhelming majority, said to be around 90% of the people, agreed to leave Nigeria, and they did in 1961, thereby reducing the geographical size and population of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, a clear warning of a possible separation of Nigeria’s constituent ethnic nationalities from the Nigerian Federation.
That was not the only early warning signal that something was fundamentally wrong with the federation.
Take, as an illustration, the federating units were meant to enjoy some level of independence, yet mutual suspicion among them was rife as regional loyalty surpassed nationalistic fervour, with each of the three regions at a juncture threatening secession.
The late Premier of the Western Region once described Nigeria as a “mere geographical expression” and later threatened “we (Western Region) shall proclaim self-government and proceed to assert it”, a euphemism for secession.
In the same vein, the Northern Region under the Premiership of the late Ahmadu Bello never hid its desire for a separate identity. Just before independence, the region threatened to pull out of Nigeria if it was not allocated more parliamentary seats than the south. The departing British colonial masters, desirous of one big entity, quickly succumbed to the threat.
In fact, the north at that time pretended it never wanted anything to do with Nigeria. For example, the motto of the ruling party in that region at that time was “One North, One People, One Destiny.” And the name of the party itself, “Northern People’s Congress (NPC),” was suggestive of separatist fervour and distinct identity.
It has also been said in several publications, which no one from the north has refuted till today, that the primary reason for July 29, 1966, bloody revenge coup carried out by young soldiers of Northern Nigerian extraction which led to the massacre of thousands of Igbo soldiers and civilians, including Nigeria’s first Military Head of State, General Thomas Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, was primarily to pull that region out of Nigeria.
But of all the secession threats since independence, it was the one issued by the Eastern Region in 1966-67 following the bloody counter-coup of July 1966 and subsequent genocide by northern soldiers and civilians in which thousands of easterners living in the north lost their lives or were maimed, and the failure of Gowon to implement the Aburi Accord which was aimed at settling the crisis, that was much more potent.
This also explained the massive ARABA (secession) protests that rocked the region shortly after the coup. The result was the declaration of the Eastern Region independent country with the name “Biafra” on May 30, 1967, by the then Military Governor of the Region, the late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in compliance with the Eastern Nigeria Consultative Assembly resolution and mandate of May 26, 1967.
The proclamation ended with the emotional ‘Biafra Anthem,” The Land of the Rising Sun rendered in the beautiful tune of ‘Finlanda” by Sibelius, symbolising the end of the struggle to assert the self-determination of a new nation.
The scene was set for a confrontation between the new state of Biafra and the balance of the ethnic nationalities that made up the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to resolve the question of the unity of the Nigerian states by use of force (see the report titled Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra).
Without a doubt, today, the war ended over 50 years ago, but its effects and fears remain and stare on our faces.
More dangerously, after 62 years of independence, a wave of secessionist sentiments is still sweeping across the country, with restive youths in the north and southeast as the main gladiators. Some groups in the southwest and south-south have also joined the fray to demand the marriage of 1914 be ended as the basis for its continued existence has severely been weakened.
For example, at the return of democracy in 1999, Ralph Uwazurike, an Indian-trained lawyer from Imo State, ignited a passion for Biafra among southeast youths via his separatist platform Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
MASSOB and its founder enjoyed tremendous following and respect among mostly youths of the region and it almost became an alternative government in the southeast. The group’s sit-at-home orders were religiously obeyed, just as the one declared by IPOB on May 30th was a monster success.
Uwazuruike’s support base has since drastically waned following dissent in MASSOB. But from the ashes of MASSOB’s bye-gone years of strident pro-Biafra agitation came Kanu and IPOB, a much more vitriolic but charming personality and organisation.
Kanu happened in the national and international limelight through a pirate radio called Biafra, which he used as a vehicle to promote the agitation to actualise the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) quest for independence. Two factors have so far worked for Kanu in his separatist agenda: his long incarceration by the Buhari government over Biafra and the recent quit notice given to the Igbo residing in the north by Arewa youths. Both factors, apparently unknown to President Buhari’s handlers, have helped and still helping IPOB and Kanu’s cause. One, his incarceration for almost two years helped to project him to his supporters, a mass of Igbo youths, and the international community as a prisoner of conscience and freedom fighter.
Secondly, the thoughtless quit notice by northern youths to the Igbo resident in the north has not only made Biafra more attractive to most south easterners and portrayed Kanu as a messiah of the Igbo but has triggered off a chain of secessionist sentiments in the southwest and south-south.
While those of us who believe in the unity of Nigeria may not agree with the campaign by any group or ethnic nationality to dismember Nigeria, the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness of youths, whether in the south-east, south-south, north or south-west, and resurgent demand for the dissolution of Nigeria stems from mindless exclusion, injustice and economic deprivation.
Evidently, Nigeria has not fared well as a nation in all sectors of national endeavours. Let’s look at the particulars of this claim.
Fundamentally, there is no denying anymore that presently, life in today’s Nigeria, quoting Thomas Hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short as Nigerians diminish socially and economically, and the privileged political class on their part continues to flourish in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will.
Again, even as we celebrate, it remains a painful commentary that presently, no nation on the surface of the earth best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace. As a nation, Nigerians have never had it so bad.
Nigeria is a nation soaked with captivating development visions, policies and plans, but impoverished leadership and corruption-induced failure of implementation of development projects on the part of the political leaders is responsible for the under-development in the country. Today, mountains of evidence support how seriously off track the present administration in the country was taking the nation with their deformed policies, ill-conceived reforms and strategies,
Lately, the greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state today is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditated, well-organized and orchestrated killings across the country.
The country’s economy, on its part, has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land (eighty per cent of Nigerians are living on less than two dollars per day – according) to the African Development Bank (AFDB) 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook. Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries in the world.
Sadly, according to a report from Brookings Institute, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the world’s largest number of extremely poor in early 2018. At the end of May 2018, Brookings institute’s trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute.
In Education, 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest in the world. Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for most of our people. The University students have been at home for nearly seven months or more. No thanks to the incessant industrial action which currently characterizes the nation’s university system.
The running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution, which stipulates forcefully that the economy’s commanding heights must not be concentrated in the hands of a few people.
The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators are deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. It has been shown that adequate investment in this area is clearly not the priority of those in power.
As a result, our hospitals, whether state-owned or federal-owned, have become veritable death centres where people go to die rather than to be healed. The absence of basic items such as hand gloves and masks indicates decadence and rot in the country’s health National Budget recommended by the United Nations.
With regard to the criminal justice system, our people, especially the poor and vulnerable, continue to suffer unprecedented acts of intimidation and violation of rights at the hands of security agencies across the country. Extra judicial killings, lack of scientific-based investigation of crimes and corruption in the judiciary contribute to acts of injustice against the innocent. Our prisons have become places where prisoners are hardened rather than places of reformation of prisoners for reintegration back into society.
As to the solution to these challenges, this piece and, of course, Nigerians with critical minds believe that leadership not only holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria but to sustain this drive, leaders must carry certain genes and attributes that are representative of this order.
Thus, as the nation celebrates, one point Nigerians must not fail to remember is that only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness.
This, as argued elsewhere, will help ensure adequate social infrastructures such as genuine poverty alleviation programmes and policies, healthcare, education, job provision, massive industrialization, and electricity provision, to mention a few. It is critical to jettison this present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people.
The only way this can be done is to work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture. Only then can we truly resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
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