WORK-LIFE BALANCE

work-life balance
2020 Workplace Trends

There was a time when working late nights and weekends seemed like the prerequisite to earning more money, advancement, and recognition in the workplace. In a bid to earn more income, some employees would put in extra hours, sacrifice their time and extracurricular activities, and in some cases neglect their families.

However, that trend is rapidly effacing as employees now seek jobs that would give them better work-life balance and incentives that positively impact their wellbeing. 

As you may have rightly deduced, we are considering 2020 Workplace Trend #5, Work-life balance. 

According to Wikipedia, the term ‘work-life balance’ is recent in origin, as it was first used in the UK and US in the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Work-life balance is a term commonly used to describe the balance that a working individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work-life can include personal interests, family and social or leisure activities.

It is now apparent to employees that business is a shared value and as such, long-term job security and attractive salaries alone are no longer enough to make them stay in a job, but a flexible work schedule will. Talents now favour jobs that avail them time for family, friends, hobbies, and self-care. 

Giving credence to this point, HR services company Randstad maintains that job seekers of today claim good work-life balance invariably sway their decisions when evaluating an organisation. 

“Finding and keeping good staff can be difficult especially in a tight labour market. Employers who offer work-life balance and flexible work options are likely to have a competitive edge, gain access to a wider recruitment pool, and are more likely to hold onto existing staff.” – Employment New Zealand.

Employers who understand the importance of retaining top talents in their organisations know that one of the ways to do so is to keep them happy and satisfied – this is what has bolstered the work-life balance trend in the workplace. 

In a bid to appeal to suitable candidates, some organisations have begun to explore various strategies for flexible work schedules and related trends like remote work, compressed workweeks and onsite amenities to cater to employee well-being. 

They do this with the understanding that when people see them as being the employer of choice, it will give them a competitive edge for attracting the right candidates who will not only join their organisation but stay and grow with it.

When you make work-life balance part of your organisational policy, you can be sure that productivity will increase and your organisation will never be short of high performing talents.

Investing In Employee Well-being

investing in employee well-being

Two weeks ago, we talked about developing soft skills. We determined that soft skills were a necessity for employees who wished to thrive in the modern workplace.

This week, we will be considering a trend that is very critical to the success of any organisation – investing in employee well-being.  

At a time like this, when everyone needs encouragement and some ray of hope to latch unto in the face of the growing global COVID-19 pandemic that has already claimed thousands of lives, prioritizing the well-being of employees has never been more important.

Employers are meant to play a leading role in the overall health and well-being of their employees since they are usually among the first group of people to feel the impact if something goes wrong with an employee. 

Employers who pay attention to their employees’ well-being have a major advantage over those who don’t because a physically, emotionally and financially healthy and happy workforce will allow them to focus on critical operational decisions that will advance their organisations instead of looking to replace ailing staff regularly, at the detriment of progress.

What exactly is well-being?  

It refers to all the different ways employees feel about themselves – their lives, their jobs, relationships as well as their colleagues. Feelings of wellbeing are largely influenced by individual day-to-day experiences with family, neighbours, vendors, colleagues, and superiors. These negative or positive feelings affect how they carry out their tasks and interact with different teams that make up the workplace. 

Key factors to consider in employee well-being

Nancy Reardon, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at Maestro Health, believes that employers need to look at a more holistic view of their employees’ well-being, including mental/emotional health, stress management, preventative care options and more. 

She highlights three key areas of employee health and provides some well-being strategies leaders can implement to achieve a more thoughtful approach to employee well-being.

Physical Health.

Employees must have the health and energy to be productive and get things done regularly. While this is the most obvious component of employee health and well-being, Reardon says it’s these traditionally healthy choices and actions that help employees avoid chronic conditions that can ultimately affect their emotional and financial health (medical bills/debt).

“Employer-sponsored benefits and wellness programs that drive education and engagement are critical components in driving physical health,” Reardon explains.

“Employees need to understand how and when they should access healthcare to ensure they remain on track to achieving their health,” adds Reardon.

For some employees, it may be hitting 10,000 steps on their Fitbit, while, for others, it may mean seeing a decrease in their A1C levels, to decrease the high risk of developing diabetes.

Financial Health.

Reardon stresses the critical link between physical health and financial health and vice versa, and how one affects the other.

For example, an employee — even one with a moderate salary and benefits – may be unable to afford or access care, healthy food options and more. Similarly, says Reardon, “an employee who can’t cope with financial pressures at home may develop health issues down the line.”

Reardon advises employers to offer their workers access to financial services and resources to help them understand and overcome financial obstacles and empower them to effectively manage their economic lives.  

Emotional Health.

Emotional well-being is impacted by both financial and physical health. Yet not all employees have the capacity to emotionally cope with the ups and downs of life without it impacting their day-to-day work lives.

When crafting their well-being programs, Reardon says employers can offer mental health services like mental health days, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and even mindfulness incentives to encourage employees to take care of their emotional health. 

As earlier stated, employers have a crucial role to play in the well-being of their employees. When employers invest in the health and well-being of their employees, they come across as caring, humane and considerate, which serves as an effective motivation to the employees. 

One of the most effective ways for employers to show they care is to make the health and well-being of their employees a priority.  

SOFT SKILLS

The modern workplace is a living organism that is constantly evolving, and the only way to stay relevant as an organisation is to keep abreast of industry trends and implement programs that promote growth and efficiency within the organisation.

We have been looking at 2020 workplace trends, three weeks ago, we considered Trend #2, Remote work. We determined that remote work is rapidly gaining acceptance in workplaces, especially in Information Technology companies. We concluded that promotes work-life balance and increases productivity while cutting cost for employees as well as the organisation. 

The third 2020 Workplace trend we want to consider is the development of soft skills.

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, 2007, Soft skills are a cluster of productive personality traits that characterize one’s relationships in a milieu. 

Soft skills include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits. 

Soft skills cover three key functional elements: 

  1. social skills
  2. people skills 
  3. personal career attributes 

These skills are crucial for today’s workplace as they complement hard or technical skills. Soft skills have become a major criterion for employment as well as advancement in an organisation.  

An employee’s soft skill is a crucial part of their contribution to the overall success of their organization, especially if such an organisation deals with customers on a face-to-face basis. A critical success factor for an organisation like this is the ability to promote activities that help employees develop these skills through team-building activities and wellness enhancing programs. 

Soft skills

The following is a top ten list of soft skills compiled by Eastern Kentucky University 

  1. Communication – oral speaking capability, written, presenting, listening, clear speech & writing.
  2. Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful.
  3. Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable.
  4. Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values, does what’s right.
  5. Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humour, friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
  6. Positive attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
  7. Professionalism – businesslike, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
  8. Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, conscientious, common sense.
  9. Teamwork – cooperative, gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative.
  10. Work ethic – hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.

Although difficult to quantify, soft skills play a critical role in employee performance and productivity. They help facilitate human connections needed for high-performance and efficiency in the workplace. 

Remote work

2020 Workplace Trends #2 Remote Work

Some weeks ago, we talked about training and upskilling as 2020’s #1 workplace trend. We also highlighted both micro and macro upskilling and concluded that talents remain and are loyal to organizations that take their training and development needs into consideration and make adequate provision for it.

This week, we are looking at the second workplace trend for 2020 – Remote Work.

Remote work is on the rise.

You may have heard some people refer to themselves as Digital Nomads, or mention that they are working or would be working remotely. The idea of working at a location other than one’s corporate office has been practicable since the last decade but is only recently becoming pervasive and 2020 will see it in the mainstream. 

The substantial advancement of multiple facets of workplace technology has given remote work an upper hand. Besides, the rise of new generations is impelling firms to redefine the modalities of work, and the odds are clearly in favour of remote working.” – Finance Online, 2019.

What is remote work?

Simply put, it means working at a location that isn’t your office, it is a work style that allows people to work outside a traditional office environment or corporate office setting. Remote work hinges on the notion that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be carried out efficiently.

Remote work eliminates productive time wasted commuting to and from work every day to sit at a designated desk or workspace to work; Instead, individuals can execute their tasks, smash their targets and exceed expectations from any location at all. 

Remote work gives professionals the flexibility to order their days in such a way that their professional and personal lives can be meaningfully experienced while coexisting in a way that one complements the other instead of impeding it as popular opinion erroneously suggests.

How to work remotely

“There has been a cultural paradigm shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace – and remote work has capitalized off of that newfound freedom.” – Finance Online.

The beauty of remote work is being able to choose from a wide range of options, the one that makes the most sense to an individual and aids their personal and professional goals. It also gives individuals the freedom to set their schedules to work at a time they are most productive.

Professionals can work remotely on workdays and only visit the office to attend in-person meetings and strategy sessions. On the other hand, certain days of the week could be set apart for talents to work remotely, maybe two or three days a week.

There is also the option of working out of coworking spaces which essentially act as hubs of technology, productivity and community. Coworking spaces provide a platform for networking, learning, sharing and business opportunities.

Benefits of remote work

Remote work offers professionals a more flexible lifestyle in which they can maximize every moment they have to do better. It also promotes better health and well-being; commute to work and back could be exhausting, to say the least, remote work provides recourse for exhaustion brought upon by daily commute and time spent in traffic. it saves money, especially because you no longer bear the cost of commute. It encourages employees to be resourceful, proactive and expand their knowledge base. It provides escape from office politics as well as a toxic work environment.

Remote work does not only benefit the employees; it also benefits the employer as it saves cost by reducing company overheads leading to more revenue.

2020 WORKPLACE TRENDS

The modern workplace is not static, it is in motion, constantly evolving and expanding to accommodate emerging technology, digitization and globalization. These incessant changes reflect in the way organizations engage and retain talents.

It has become imperative to look closely at workplace trends in a bid to understand the different initiatives that are creating significant disruptions in workplaces all over the world; in the next 12 weeks, we will be considering 12 workplace trends that business leaders, as well as professionals, must be abreast of in order to redefine workplace ethos and create a positive, flexible, and collaborative culture tailored to the needs of the modern worker.

TRAINING AND UPSKILLING

The provision of programmes through which an employee can learn, upskill and advance on the job is what determines whether or not, or how long that employee will stay with the organization. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that training spurs personal development and plays a fundamental role in retaining top talent which is why the first 2020 workplace trend we are looking at is training and upskilling.  

The importance of training and upskilling cannot be overemphasized, it is what nurtures top talents and help maintain high-performance teams.

We know what training is, but what exactly is upskilling?

On the micro level, upskilling describes the process by which individuals learn new skills, but in the macro context, it refers to a paradigm shift in the workplace caused by the introduction of technology. As we all know, technology has created new possibilities that can be fully realized only by a trained workforce. This development has necessitated the acquisition of new skills to engage with the technology.

Why is upskilling suddenly taking centre stage?

Digital transformation is largely responsible for this. Technology has transformed business operations by providing tools that make it easy to transact, and at the same time created a skills gap; some technologies have a steep learning curve while others are user-friendly. To thrive in the modern workplace, talents need to acquire technical skills regardless of their discipline or industry.

Beyond a great welfare package, conducive work environment and fat paycheque, one way to retain competent employees is the prioritization of training and upskilling of the workforce.

workplace-trends
workplace-trends
Emotional outbursts happen when someone is triggered by a statement, action or treatment doesn't sit well with them.

Dealing With Emotional Outbursts in the Workplace

Apart from churches, market places, public events, the workplace is the only other place where you can find a great number of individuals from a different ethnic, socio-political, religious and educational background in constant communication and contact.

Although diversity in the workplace inspires team building, productivity and knowledge sharing, it is not without its challenges – challenges such as flaring tempers, hurt feelings and random outburst.

Each organization has its own set of criers, the ones who wear their hearts on their sleeves and respond to frustration, sadness, or worry through tears. There are also those who scream at the slightest provocation, table pounders who are aggressively invested in every decision. These kinds of emotional outbursts are not just uncomfortable; they can put a team in jeopardy, stall productivity and limit innovation.

According to Team Effectiveness Advisor, Liane Davey, an emotional person should not be allowed to postpone, dilute, or drag out an issue that needs to be resolved. Instead, the outburst should be taken for what it is: a communication; because emotions are clues that the issue being discussed is touching on something the person values or believes strongly in. Davey maintained that the outburst gives three sets of information: emotional data; factual or intellectual data; and motives, values and beliefs.

Davey adds that Managers get stuck when they only focus on the first two — emotions and facts; which is easy to do. For instance, when someone starts yelling, people might think they’re insane (emotion) because their project had just been defunded (fact). Many managers stop there because they find feelings uncomfortable or aren’t sure how to deal with them. That’s why the first step is to become more self-aware by questioning one’s mindset around emotions. There are several myths that often get in a team leader’s way:

Myth #1: There is no place for emotion in the workplace. If you have humans in the workplace, you’re going to have emotions too. Ignoring, stifling, or invalidating them will only drive the toxic issues underground. This outdated notion is one reason people resort to passive-aggressive behaviour: emotions will find their outlet; the choice is whether it’s out in the open or in the shadows.

Myth #2: We don’t have time to talk about people’s feelings. Do you have time for backroom dealings and subterfuge? Do you have time for re-opened decisions? Do you have time for failed implementations? Avoiding the emotional issues at the outset will only delay their impact. And when people don’t feel heard, their feelings amplify until you have something really destructive to deal with.

Myth #3: Emotions will skew our decision making. Emotions are already affecting your decision making. The choice is whether you want to be explicit about how (and how much) of a role they play or whether you want to leave them as unspoken biases. With your beliefs in check, you’ll be better able to get beyond the emotion and facts to the values the person holds that are being compromised or violated. This is critical because your criers and screamers are further triggered when they don’t feel understood. The key is to have a discussion that includes facts, feelings, and values. People will feel heard and the emotion will usually dissipate. Then you can focus on making the best business decision possible.

Here’s how.

Spot the emotion: If you wait until the emotion is in full bloom, it will be difficult to manage. Instead, watch for the tell-tale signs that something is causing concern. The most important signals will come from incongruence between what someone is saying and what their body language is telling you. When you notice someone is withdrawing eye contact or getting red in the face, acknowledge what you see. “Steve, you’ve stopped mid-sentence a couple of times now. What’s going on for you?”

Listen: Listen carefully to the response, both to what is said and what you can infer about facts, feelings, and values. You will pick up emotions in language, particularly in extreme words or words that are repeated. “We have a $2 million budget shortfall and it’s our fourth meeting sitting around having a lovely intellectual discussion!” Body language will again provide clues. Angry (leaning in, clenched jaw or fists) looks very different from discouraged (dropping eye contact, slumping) or dismissive (rolling eyes, turning away).

Ask questions: When you see or hear the emotional layer, stay calm, keep your tone level and ask a question to draw them out and get them talking about values. “I get the sense you’re frustrated. What’s behind your frustration?” Listen to their response and then go one layer further by testing a hypothesis. “Is it possible that you’re frustrated because we’re placing too much weight on the people impact of the decision and you think we need to focus only on what’s right for the business?”

Resolve It: If your hypothesis is right, you’ll probably see relief. They might even express their pleasure “Yes, exactly!” You can sum it up “We’ve talked about closing the Cleveland office for two years and you’re frustrated because you believe that the right decision for the business is obvious.” You’ve now helped your team member articulate the values he thinks should be guiding the decision. The team will now be clear on why they are disagreeing. Three people might jump in, all talking at once “We are talking about people who have given their lives to this organization!” Here we go again…Use the same process to reveal the opposing points of view.

Once everyone is working with the same three data sets — facts, emotions, and values — you will be clear what you need to solve for, in this case, how will we weigh the financial necessity with the impact on people. Although taking the time to draw out the values might seem slow at first, you’ll see that issues actually get resolved faster. And ironically, as you validate emotions, over time people will tend to be less emotional as it’s often the suppressing of the emotions or trying to cobble together facts to justify them that was causing irrational behaviour.

If you’re leading a high performing team, you better be ready to deal with uncomfortable, messy, complex emotions. If there’s a situation you have failed to address because of an emotional team member, spend some time thinking about how you will approach it and then go have the conversation. Today. You can’t afford to wait any longer.

Culled from EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Handling Emotional Outbursts on Your Team by Liane Davey, Author, Leadership Solutions.

Fatigue refers to the feeling of exhaustion, drowsiness, or weariness that is brought upon by a lack of sleep, stress resulting from long periods of mental or physical activity, repetitive tasks or anxiety

FATIGUE IN THE WORKPLACE

A lot of organizations invest money in creating a conducive workplace for their employees, making available to them good seats, tables and computers too. They go as far as providing dining areas furnished with microwaves and refrigerators so that meals can be refrigerated and microwaved during lunch breaks, they do this believing that a conducive and work environment will bolster productivity.

However, there are some issues that the ambiance of the office is unable to shield employees from; one of such issues is fatigue in the workplace.

Fatigue refers to the feeling of exhaustion, drowsiness, or weariness that is brought upon by a lack of sleep, stress resulting from long periods of mental or physical activity, repetitive tasks or anxiety.

Causes of fatigue

The primary cause of fatigue is lack of sleep, but other factors such as long work hours, exposure to high temperatures and loud incessant noise have also been known to cause fatigue.

Types of fatigue

Fatigue can be acute or chronic. While acute fatigue occurs from short-term sleep loss, such as not getting enough sleep before going off to work the next day, chronic fatigue on the other hand results from a rather prolonged absence of sleep.

How does fatigue present itself?

Tiredness

Drowsiness

Memory lapses

Attention deficiency

Combating fatigue in the workplace

  • The first step is to create a work schedule or rota that give workers enough time to rest and recuperate between shifts.
  • For jobs that require employees to work long hours or overtime, consider that your workers will need enough time for other daily activities, such as commuting, preparing and eating meals and relaxing; And provide such amenities as meals, on-site accommodations and facilities where workers can nap either during the shift or before their commute back home.
  • Provide a work environment that has good lighting, comfortable temperatures, and reasonable noise levels.
  • Have your staff collaborate with different teams on a variety of projects to curb boredom arising from repetitive tasks.
  • Be flexible when assigning tasks.
"People who dress better are typically treated better at work," says David McKnight, a New York City-based image consultant. "They are usually given more responsibility and are shown much more respect."

THE RULES OF WORKPLACE STYLE

In today’s business-casual workplace and organizations operating from co-work spaces, suits and ties and formal dresses no longer seem to be the standard, not even in financial institutions; however, the way a person dresses to the workplace still matters and to a large extent determines how they will be spoken to and treated.

“People who dress better are typically treated better at work,” says David McKnight, a New York City-based image consultant. “They are usually given more responsibility and are shown much more respect.”

Here are tips on what to wear and what not to wear — so you can make the best impression on your boss, colleagues and clients.

Business casual isn’t a fashion free-for-all,” says Susan Bixler, president and founder of the Bixler Consulting Group. The Atlanta-based consultant has created guidelines for business-casual dress for those just starting out, workers at mid-career and those eyeing the executive suite.

The “baseline” look starts with the three Big Nos

  1. No flip-flops
  2. No jeans
  3. No visible tattoos

Yes to:

  1. Tailored trousers
  2. long-sleeve shirts or tops

The “midstream” look is similar but with an emphasis on higher-quality fabrics while the executive version ups the sartorial ante by recommending jackets for men and trouser-style suits for women.

“Any time you want to add authority, put on the jacket,” says Bixler, the author of seven books, including The New Professional Image: From Business Casual to the Ultimate Power Look.

The General Rule:

In journalism, the editor would always as you “leave out”, if you’re unsure; the rule is different when it comes to dressing and style. If you are to attend an interview or a business meeting and are unsure about the dress code, you should ask in advance, then again, you can’t possibly be faulted for appearing in a jacket or suit. Wearing a suit to an interview, meeting or work is a nonverbal way of communicating the fact that you are in for serious business.

Curb excesses.

Clothes that are too tight, overly generous makeup, too much jewelry, and accessories as well as ‘loud’ fragrance.

Never show up to work in shorts, ripped jeans (not even on a Friday)

Avoid wearing dusty, unpolished shoes to work.

When it comes to dressing, women have more options while the playing field for men is quite narrow and straightforward.

Too Much Skin

“Edgy looks, especially those involving the baring of cleavage, skin or tattoos, rarely cut it at the office, unless you happen to work in a trend-conscious field like advertising or fashion.

“When you’re not sure whether something is appropriate for work, then there’s a 98 percent chance that it’s not,” McKnight says.

The Whole Look

Choosing the right clothing is just one component of your professional look, which includes good grooming and hygiene, as well as being well-rested and mentally ready to face the day.

“There are so many things we don’t have control over, but what we can control is the image of professionalism we show to the world,” Bixler says.

Choosing a career path As interesting as it may sound, choosing a career path can be daunting as well as confusing for some people. The endless ‘what ifs’ that accompany deciding which field to go for or against could sometimes be exasperating.

Choosing A Career Path

As interesting as it may sound, choosing a career path can be daunting as well as confusing for some people.

The endless ‘what ifs’ that accompany deciding which field to go for or against could sometimes be exasperating. However, choosing a career is one of the most important decisions any individual would have to make at some point in their lives.

To make the right decision, careful consideration and meticulous planning is required, especially if one desires to land the job of a lifetime. To help you chart a course, we have outlined several tips.

Tips for Choosing a career path:

1.    Determine Your Skills
According to Career Advisor, Shay Nolan, there is a four-stage model of competence that aids skills to determine a person’s skills.
•    Unconscious incompetence
When a person does not know what they are good at, this is mostly, because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their skills.
•    Unconscious competence
They are good at something to the point that they almost do it on autopilot. There is also a danger that they can become complacent here.
•    Conscious incompetence
They are not good at a particular thing and they know it! At the very least though, there is an awareness which can lead to skills development.
•    Conscious competence
They know what to do, though it takes some effort. This is where they want to be as there is both competence and awareness. This means that a person’s skills require a lot of consideration if they are to make well-informed career decisions. Ask some key questions:
What do I do really well?
What areas for development do I have?
What are the skills that I really enjoy using?
The final question represents an excellent starting point in terms of looking at how a person’s skills can help to inform what career path they should consider.

2.    Take Opportunities to Play the Field
A footballer who remains on the bench will never make a mark. Do not shy away from seizing opportunities whenever they present themselves, do not hesitate to participate in team-building activities that require you to put your skills to use.

3.    Aspire and Work to Reach Your Goal
Dream big, have confidence in your ability and constantly put your skills to work. Set goals for yourself – daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals and keep moving.

4.    Seek Career Contentment
When you love your job and work with a reliable team, you are more innovative and productive, your level of confidence soars and you are filled with a sense of purpose because you know you are adding value. This feeling of contentment does wonder for your morale, you will hardly get tired or bored with your job, instead, you will find yourself constantly exploring innovative ways to better your performance and outdo yourself.

The African Woman and her strength The African woman’s wrapper, this piece of cloth like a prized jewel encapsulates her feminine essence.No event – formal, religious, traditional or casual seems out of place for her to appear enveloped in her flowery wrapper.There is of course a variation to her appearance as dictated by age; while young and adventurous, she would wrap herself around with a single sheet of wrapper, barely covering her knees and revealing long, dark legs and beautifully shaped calf but as she gracefully ages, she would lengthen and double same fabric to show maturity and decorum

THE AFRICAN WOMAN’S WRAPPER

The African woman’s wrapper, this piece of cloth like a prized jewel encapsulates her feminine essence.

No event – formal, religious, traditional or casual seems out of place for her to appear enveloped in her flowery wrapper.

There is, of course, a variation to her appearance as dictated by age; while young and adventurous, she would wrap herself around with a single sheet of wrapper, barely covering her knees and revealing long, dark legs and beautifully shaped calf but as she gracefully ages, she would lengthen and double same fabric to show maturity and decorum.

The African Woman’s wrapper, this highly prized possession often serves as her lingerie.

If you have had the privilege of gazing upon her narrow waist, then you know how the wrapper flows and stretches to accentuate her broad hips and expands downwards to accommodate her round, protruding behind.

Have you seen her with her wrapper knotted at the middle of her chest? The way it hugs her firm, full, voluptuous twin mounds. Look a moment longer and you would see how the wrapper slightly parts around her knees to lend you a peek at fat chocolate thighs, unaffected by the sun or any harsh element. If you have been privy to any of these sights, you would treasure the African woman’s wrapper even more than she does.

The African woman’s wrapper is one subliminal wonder of a fabric that can be tweaked to offer a lot more than it was originally designed for especially with a creative owner.

It is not uncommon to see how it functions particularly for the market woman as a safe – yes, the ultimate safe.

At the right or left tip of her wrapper is a special knot which holds an unbelievably large amount of naira bills surreptitiously deposited there for contingencies. This safe is one that can only be ‘opened’ when all else fails as not even natural disaster, the threat of hunger or death can get her to unknot that part of her wrapper.

Trust me, it is almost impossible to get her to dip into that particular storage facility. The African Woman’s wrapper, this piece of cloth is highly sought after and can be used as a kerchief.

The African woman tormented by the heat of the sun would loosen one end of her wrapper, bend her head and use it to wipe the sweat off her face and that of her offspring.

Oppressed by the scorching heat, she would leave her bed, spread her wrapper on the floor, use her headscarf as a pillow and serenade herself to sleep.

With her maternal instinct in full swing, she would gently unwrap her wrapper from her waist and rest it on her sleeping child to shield it from the cold night air.

To refer to the African woman’s wrapper as a mere piece of clothing would be tragic for the culprit who dares… Her wrapper is not just an apparel, lingerie, safe, kerchief or blanket, it is the symbol of her femininity, versatility, pedigree, and belief.

George Wonah, Content Writer TWPC