The safety precautions enforced by the government as a way of curbing the spread of coronavirus have encouraged a lot of people to stay at home and avoid social gatherings that could compromise their health.
The ease with which the virus spread led to the closure of businesses, religious institutions, workplaces, schools, among others. In the place of physical interaction or meeting, virtual options not previously considered became the norm in various sectors.
With the closure of many firms, employers and small-scale business owners were forced to consider the work-from-home option. For many, working from home is necessary for business survival as COVID-19 ravages the world.
These times are perhaps the best to transition into a home-based entrepreneur, because of the large-scale outbreak and also because technology has made such transition relatively easier. Technology in today’s world has made it possible to build a business from scratch from the confines of your home, as it has made it similarly easier to work from your home even in the presence of a physical store.
Due to the outbreak, business owners, who typically conduct business transactions in their physical stores have had to switch and transition into home-based entrepreneurs, deploying ecommerce as a major tool for such transition. Business owners now see the possibility of running their businesses largely from home. This is besides the fact that most business owners now find it more convenient to transact business from home, rather than using physical stores.
Kehinde Alao, a jewellery merchant shared her experience about working from home.
“Before now, I used to operate my business in my shop. I paid rent, electricity bill and had to use a mode of transport to get work each day. However now, I can save more because I am working from my house and it is more convenient than having to leave the house daily. Although these are unusual times and business is not moving as usual, I can still save from the little sales I make,” she explained.
A retail entrepreneur, Moromoke Omowumi, said, “It is not easy working for home to be honest. There are times when one would barely feel the urge to work. But what gets me up each morning is the fact that money must be made for survival. But sooner or later, one would adjust to the whole work-from-home idea, internalise it and incorporate it into one’s daily business life like I did.
“As against when I started, I find working from home easier than having to go to shop now. Since most of my customers have my phone number, they simply place their order through calls to me and I try as much as possible to deliver their products as soon as payment is confirmed. When your customers trust you and are comfortable with your service, they would continuously patronise you.”
Sanusi Opeyemi, a retailer believed that working from home is now important to entrepreneurs who want to survive and remain in business.
He said, “I have always been working from home. I meet my customers both physically and online and I deliver their products to them at the right time.
“Generally, though, working from home for me has always been more convenient. The stress of going to shops, paying transport fare and rent is eliminated. I usually use my phone to advertise available products and interested customers connect with me. I engage in more of social media advertising to keep my existing customers informed and also to encourage new customers to patronise.
“In addition, I usually encourage my customers to do referrals, that way, my customer base is strengthened.”
However, it is understood that working from home presents more challenges than expected. Such challenges are those that affect productivity and relationships with suppliers and clients alike.
Opeyemi noted that there are no designated business hours for work-from-home entrepreneurs as customers can call at any time of the day to request products or services.
“Sometimes, one can be tied up with other engagements, including chores or one may even be out of the house to sort out some things, inability to pick clients’ calls at those times often lead to loss of that particular sales.
“So, from struggling to meet customer demand and supply and going about normal day to day activities, a work-from-home entrepreneur may find it difficult to maintain work-life balance,” he explained.
Moromoke Alao on her part explained how transitioning from physical store to working from home has been challenging.
“It was difficult adjusting to the reality that I would no longer be going to the shop to transact businesses. I had to set clear boundaries and designate time for work and family. Although this does not always play out as I want largely because of the type of business I am into, people usually request for goods at any time in the day.
“Entrepreneurs need to find a way to balance their work and family life in such a way that one does not affect the other,” she said.
For Kehinde Alao, it is also challenging to shift from going to shops to being a home-based entrepreneur.
Alao explained: “Compared to working from shops, working from home is actually not easy at all. There are days you wake up and not feel like doing anything related to work or you just feel too tired or de-motivated to work.
“Some of the things I have learnt when it comes to working from home is the need to be more conscious of time. There should be effective time management when you are a home-based entrepreneur, this would help to balance work and life efficiently without one affecting the other.”
While some entrepreneurs find it convenient to work from home, it does not come without its own challenges which include distractions, finding work-life balance, maintaining relationships among others. Entrepreneurs who work from home have to schedule their time in such a way that it would aid productivity and help them maintain that balance between life and work. While the pandemic has necessitated working from home for some entrepreneurs, in a bid to comply with social distancing measures. Others have found it convenient to just work from home rather than from offices. Working from home generally needs more discipline to ensure high productivity, maintain good customer relationship, boost sales and business continuity.