Nothing defines one’s first plunge into adulthood as well as the first few years of their career. “Fast-paced, accelerated work environment” is often how employers describe the Nigerian work culture, but the reality is even more daunting. In the first couple of years, most people believe the idea of work-life balance to be nothing but a myth. That’s because, in this crucial stage, people are focused on learning the ropes of the job, trying to exceed targets and expectations. So naturally, finding a balance at this time is often not the priority.
Nigeria’s work climate is also quite different from what is available in other parts of the world. Hence, for many young people at the inception of their careers, balancing the other aspects of their lives with a job only exists in theory. So, we spoke to four young Nigerians in different work spheres about their experience with syncing the rest of their lives to their work.
I’m a medical doctor, and I’m only a couple of months into my first year on the job. My typical work month is very busy. I’m on 24-hour call rotations for 8–10 times in a month—2 weekends and 8 weekdays. My normal day usually runs from 7 am to 5 pm; if it’s call duty, then till the next morning at 8 am. You can imagine how exhausting that is. For me, if you’re ambitious, work-life balance doesn’t exist. I have a side gig that I also do to earn extra income, so I have to create time for that outside my normal schedule. Balancing work and life is impossible, especially if you’re a house officer in Nigeria. The only thing that can help me strike a better balance is more money, so I can fulfill my other dreams. Right now, I’d rate my work-life balance at 3/10.
I’m not a big fan of my work. I am a risk consultant at one of the big consulting firms in Lagos, and I’ve been there for about five years. I’ve also been tired for as long as I’ve been there. Consulting is not the regular 9-5. I work based on the projects I have that week. My Mondays are mostly spent highlighting the projects I have for the week, my deliverables, etc. Every other day is just a repetition of reviews, data analysis, etc.
I don’t believe in work-life balance. I even think the concept is flawed because it positions both concepts as opposing beliefs on a spectrum. I like to think of it as a subset of the others.
I don’t think work-rest balance is a myth, and that’s what I’m striving to achieve. I think it’s achievable to strike a balance between work and rest, especially at the start of your career. But there are different dynamics to it. One is that Nigeria is a poor country, so people have to do so much just to get by. What you’re optimizing for will determine your work-rest balance. For me, I’m currently at a 7/10, but the one thing that can help me optimize better right now is money.
I’ve been working as a commercial lawyer for two years. I work four times from the office every week and from home on Thursdays. On a typical day, when I have straightforward tasks, I try to sort them out before 5 p.m. On other days, I leave by 7:30 p.m. I think that work-life balance depends on two factors for every individual; the kind of work you do and you as a person. At the start of my job, I was quite eager to impress, and so I was doing the most, working late hours, etc.
Now, I’ve decided not to make work the center of my life. I can say I have a better balance now than I did a year ago. Work-life balance can happen, you just need to prioritize it. Having more work-from-home days will help me strike a better balance, but currently, I’ll rate it a 6.
I became a DevOps Engineer last year, and I’ve been working with development and operations teams to deliver the applications to users ever since. My typical work week is literally reliving the same day. I have standups in the morning and talk about the activities of the previous day and what’s happening now. I support other engineers and attend to issues they are facing; that’s how the rest of the week flies by.
On weekends, I don’t have a fixed schedule. Sometimes I work, other times I don’t.
I believe there’s more to life than work. There’s definitely a need to segregate work from the rest of your life. But achieving that balance at the start is quite hard because you’re inexperienced and you need the knowledge. I think if I prioritize better, I’ll strike a better balance, but right now I’d rate my work-life balance a 5. It’s fair, but it can be better.