“A Week in the Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
What’s it like to be a receptionist in Lagos? It involves a lot of patience. In this week’s “A Week in the Life”, Ogechukwu Agwu, a receptionist who works at an FMCG company in Lagos, tells us about dealing with snobbish callers, reporting co-workers who come late to work and why she’s grateful for her job.
I never use an alarm because my body just knows I need to get up and chase capitalism. Every morning, I wake up at 5 a.m., and then, I join my family’s morning devotion for 15 minutes.
For the next 45 minutes, I prepare lunch for my family, have my bath and dress up. By 6 a.m, I’m ready for work, but I don’t leave the house until 6:30 for security reasons and because of my eyesight, as I have myopia.
I must be early to work because, as a receptionist at a fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company at Abule Oshun, Lagos, I’m the face of the office and the first person anyone meets when they step into the building.
I arrive at 7:45, and when I step into the office, I wash my hands and feet from the dust of public transport and bad roads. I also wash my face and hair, top up my moisturiser and sunscreen, and mentally prepare myself for the day.
On Mondays, the sales teams and company affiliates come in for several back-to-back meetings, so there are always so many people around. As I brace myself and mentally prepare to attend to many people today, a salesman opens the door, comes in and says hello. I look at my watch and see it’s ten minutes to eight. His arrival is my cue that the first day of a long week has started.
Apart from the very many salespeople, the rest of the week follows the same pattern: take calls, meet people, take records and help them reach solutions. If a driver comes in and needs to deliver a package, I’m the person they turn to. If an order for a shipment comes through and the driver needs to pick up their products, it’s me they’ll meet.
This also means I have to deal with all kinds of people, both well-mannered ones and the ones with attitude. The “do you know who I am” energy around here is insane. Someone can come in and want to walk straight into the offices, and I’m like, “Hi. Good morning. Who are you here to see?” and they’re looking at me like, who is this crap?
Such is the life of a receptionist.
On a normal day, do I like meeting or talking to people? No. But I like this job. This is one of the best companies I’ve ever worked at, where what they promised in my job description is what I’m doing — not much extra work. And even the extra work sef, it’s beg they’ll be begging. So when I’m at work, I give 100% and feel fulfilled.
Some days, I just come to work, sit down and go home. But there are days when I have to be on my feet, running around and trying to sort out issues here and there. A big part of my work is attending to the drivers moving products, and they give me serious headache.
Like a driver today, he came to carry 100 cartons of products, but the vehicle he came with couldn’t possibly contain everything. Man just came to sign. I looked through my window and asked him, “Wait o. Is that your vehicle?” In cases like this, the warehouse may have documented for him to carry 200 cartons first and come back for the remaining 300. But these drivers won’t inform me. So when it’s time to balance the books, my own documents won’t correlate with the warehouse people’s.
I spent the rest of today fighting fires — calling people up to balance out documents, a driver’s diesel finished and needed money, another person needed money to replace truck tires.
By the time I got home, it was almost 8 p.m. I was so tired, I didn’t even do my full skincare routine. I just took my micellar water, cleaned my face, had my bath and closed my eyes to sleep.
What I dislike most about work isn’t work. It’s the process of getting to work. Even though I’ve been working here for a year now, I’ve still not gotten used to the daily commute. I’m not an early morning person, so it’s always a struggle.
One time, I had to squat in a bus carrying pineapples and other farm produce because there was no danfo on the road. The bus didn’t have any seats, so I squatted all the way from Volks to Abule Oshun. By the time I got to the office, I was already tired.
One of my duties as a receptionist is to check the roster for arrival times of co-workers and mark lateness. In this company, lateness starts at 8:30 a.m. Anyone who comes in by 8:31 gets ₦500 deducted from their salary per late day at the end of the month. Anyone who arrives after 9 a.m is minus ₦1k, 10 a.m is minus ₦2k, and so on. At the end of the month, I draft an Excel sheet to report defaulters.
When I joined the company last year, the lateness deadline used to be 9 a.m, possibly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but human beings know how to misuse grace. People started coming by 10, 11, so my boss pushed the deadline back to 8:30 a.m. and imposed the fines. People sat up immediately. But it pained me because now, I have to rush to the office before eight o’clock every morning, especially as I’m the first point of call in the company.
I’ve only ever come late to work once — around to nine — and of course, they reduced my money by ₦500. I couldn’t even disguise because, as I entered the office late, I jammed HR. But no wahala sha. Never again.
It’s TGIF today, but not for me because my Saturdays are to chill. I also have time for my side business selling frames for eyeglasses.
When I left my office today at 4:30, it hit me that for once in a very long time, I’m actually enjoying my day job. Because me, I’ve seen shege.
In my previous job, I was both receptionist and cashier at a lab on the island, where I worked six days a week. I was also an errand girl they sent to the bank. It was a horrible place to work, and I barely had personal or family time. But I now have time to do things like chill with family and attend choir rehearsals and still run a side-hustle without stress.
As I board the danfo, I know I’ll get home before 7 p.m despite the rush hour traffic, and cook dinner for my family.
If you loved this receptionist’s story, you may enjoy: A Week in the Life of an NCDC Call Centre Agent