Things changed almost overnight when the Corona virus broke out and called for a complete lockdown. It’s been six months now but the biggest change for many is still the concept of Work from Home (WFH).
For some, the situation is confined to – ‘No rush to get ready and catch a metro to work or scramble for keys” or for a paranoid manager to imagine its employees slouching on the couch, with loose T-Shirts and eating Doritos in a work from home environment. But, the concept has made room for a lot of research and debates and it suggests that working from home actually makes you better at some tasks, and worse at others.
Is WFH possible everywhere?
While professionals like engineers, information technology employees, some HR managers, and consultants can work from home. Some other organizations have had reality checks during this lockdown, some roles aren’t compatible with Work From Home- like people working as delivery executives, or those working in salons or cafes/restaurants. Some organizations even had to transport desktops to their employees’ homes.
The feelings about WFH
Though the biggest advantages have been the flexibility in work hours, saving the workforce travelling time, and most importantly homemade food, it has been more of a blessing in disguise. One problem that has arised is the increase in work. Employees say that their working hours have increased significantly and they spend around 12-14 hours in front of the screen managing team meeting calls, sudden client changes, and abrupt timelines. For some, the lack of infrastructure and high-speed internet is a big hindrance.
So, while some love to work from home, others miss the professional working space where the rhythm and pace is different, and a value-based culture is lost.
A Global Workplace Analytics report has reported that employers who allow their staff to work from home part-time, save close to $11,000 per year, per employee. And a company cannot ignore such huge cost savings.
PRODUCTIVITY BOOST OR PRODUCTIVITY DRAIN
Previous research shows that work from home leads to more productivity. Even CARS 24 reported a tremendous hike in the Happiness Index as well as the productivity matrix of its employees during the lockdown. But a recent survey by real estate advisory Knight Frank (India) Pvt Ltd. of 1,600 technology professionals in India found that 30% of them reported diminishing productivity and work performance while working from home. Glenn Dutcher, assistant professor at Ohio University who also has studied the effects of telecommuting on creativity and productivity and tells CNBC Make It- “If you’re in a less-structured environment, and working on a boring assignment, then ordinary distractions (like walking your dog, doing your laundry or watching TV) seem more fascinating.”
SO IS IT REALLY THE NEW NORMAL?
In India, companies are filled up with older-generation leaders who love control. This is one of the reasons why many companies feel WFH will remain a slow-starter. The recent Maint-Bain survey of 100+ CEOs of India shows a very different result, i.e. less than one-third of the CEOs see over 25% their workforce continue to work from home, post COVID-19. However, some companies believe that WFH brings in a factor of convenience since location is not anymore a boundary while looking at talent. (TCS is also looking at an organisational structure in which only one-fourth of its employee force will be required to come to office by 2025).
Many companies are working on a model where the social capital remains intact even as people WFH. They are identifying roles where the working personnel can work remotely but visit the office one or two days a week for face-to-face meetings. Infosys COO, UB Pravin Rao also said that Infosys is looking at a hybrid mode.
With so many contrasting views, it would be difficult to come to one conclusion. But one thing which I am sure of is that if the world starts playing “Never have I ever” today, and a kid says “Work from Home” and the entire workforce has a sip at once!