Opinion | May Day: A Disruptive Look At The Concept Of Work

By Robinson Sibe

For the Physicist, work done is the product of Force and Distance covered. Although many Nigerians who still engage in menial labour get paid from time slices and Newtonian measurement, the world has since moved on, and this is not the type of work I’m interested in in this piece. The concept of work has evolved over the years.

The definition of work has changed from what it was in the pre-industrial era when work was just part of living and survival, to the 1st Industrial Revolution, when a foreman checked log registers and manual timesheets, to what it currently is in the 4th Industrial Revolution where technology has altered the definition and scope of work.

Technology has revolutionalized the concept of work. It has improved efficiency, reduced cost and altered the workspace. Globally, workers have adjusted to this digital shift, while we are still stuck in the pedestrian workspace under the supervision of a “manual” taskmaster.

The workspace has evolved from the physical to the virtual. Over a third of IBM and AT&T Staff do not have desks at the office. About half of the staff of Sun Microsystems are allowed to work from anywhere; this saved them over $400 million in real estate cost. Most of Cisco’s 75,000 staff scattered in 6 continents, work in flexible schedules using technology. This is not just limited to Tech companies; the US Government have a flexible work arrangement, in a programme called Flexiwork.

In the modern workspace, there are emerging terminologies such as virtual or remote teams, outsourcing, onshoring, offshoring, nearshoring, farshoring, etc. All of these comes with challenges; change management, Technology Acceptance, innovation management, etc. Corporations and institutions have devised models to align their business, corporate and information strategy.

Are Nigerian Corporations looking to position themselves to take advantage of these concepts? That’s a question for another day.

Today is workers day. The Nigerian worker will be at parade grounds across the states, marching and saluting Governors and the President (or his designate). Rest assured, they will commend the President for signing the minimum wage Bill for N30,000 (Approximately $83). But, what is the value of N30,000? In an import dependent economy, should you call it a pay rise when the value of the local currency depreciated by a greater percentage than the appreciated wage? Motion without movement?

Last week, I bought a single book for $120 (excluding shipping cost). It will take the man earning minimum wage almost two months salary to be able to acquire this book of about 300 pages. With the absence of functional libraries, he is technically barred from ever having access to this book or any other within the price range. He is condemned to remain an intellectual dwarf, in an information age. For no fault of his, he can never be equipped to be part of the work force in the 4th industrial revolution; he is working in 2019 with a 1975 disposition.

For Nigeria, work still remains largely pedestrian, menial and bland. We need a smart work force. May Day, May Day, May Day…can you read me?

Happy Workers Day!

Robinson Tombari Sibe is a Port Harcourt based geospatial expert and political commentator.

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