2020 – the year that has been no less than a roller coaster ride. The pandemic has affected each individual. Wearing a mask, social distancing, virtual classes, are some of the things we never thought would become a part of our life. This is what crises do. Life may get normal once again but some of the things might remain unchanged. The impact that it has left on the economy will surely need time to recover. Right from a small entrepreneur to a big industrialist everyone is facing some of the other challenges in their business/organization. One of them is – Work from home. Yes, Work From Home – The New Normal. People around the world are doing this. Leading companies across the globe are embracing this practice. Twitter, has recently announced that their employees can permanently work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic get over. CEO of Google extended remote work policy till 2021. Nobody would have ever imagined that work from home will be exercised to this extent. The thing that comes in my mind is for how long this is going to be the same. Will people again get back to their workplaces, or Work from home will be the new reform in society?
Firstly, I believe offering remote work options can help industries pool competitive talent. You would be free to hire people from anywhere around the world. Geographical boundaries will no more be a restriction. Recently I was going through a study, which stated that people are willing to give up 8% of their pay for the opportunity to work for home. Some people have the potential to do a lot but are somehow bound to their home towns. Work from the home option will attract this section of people.
Secondly, the time spent in commuting to the workplace can be utilized constructively. People spent a really good amount of their time traveling to the workplace especially in the traffic-congested metropolitan area. I read in an article, that on an average 28 to 50 working days of an individual are spend in traveling to the workplace every year. This is equally beneficial for the firm as well. The expenses incurred for the same can be utilized in a better way. It will also contribute to reducing carbon footprint due to regular commuting at the workplace.
Third, as per my view, real estate is something that amounts to a huge expenditure for any enterprise. Whether it is a personal property or a hired one. During such crises, it has become extremely difficult for many organizations to cope up with these fixed and floating expenses. The huge amount of money that is being spent in these can be utilized on employees, technology, research, and building relationship with customers.
Fourth, work from home is a perk for employees and during a pandemic; it is no less than a privilege. People are safe and working with peace of mind. People who are working remotely have extended their working hours. A study based on the Chinese travel agency found that the productivity of their employees increased by 13% when they were shifted to work from home. One of the reasons for being a reduction in break time and sick days. It will also reduce the need for vacations. I feel a proper work-life balance is the need of the day. The happier the employees are, the more productive they become.
Although there are numerous rewards of work from home at the same time it’s quite challenging for any organization to completely shift in a new domain. Many companies have already started working on this. But still, some factors need to be considered.
· Communication Barriers
Work from home acts as a barrier to proper communication. It results in reduced transparency, confusion, and conflicts. Face to face discussion, in-person meetings, informal brainstorming are all part of workplace communication. The bond between the staff is developed by this communication only. The PR of a team altogether gets affected by this. Using online platforms like WebEx, Slack and Workplace can bridge this communication gap.
· Departmental interdependencies
In an organization, all the departments are interconnected. When working at a commonplace it becomes quite easy to share information, define roles, inform about changes, policies, new reforms, etc. Many issues can be resolved then and there itself. Now due to remote working, this seems a bit challenging. Here the person who is coordinating amongst these departments plays a major role. It’s very necessary here to timely check that proper communication is there between the departments. The flow of proper information between the departments is a must to reduce chaos and confusion.
· Distractions at home
Adjusting to a new workspace that includes kids, pets, snacks, TV, etc. is quite challenging. Regularly going to your workplace and knowing this is the time allotted to complete a task makes a difference. Staying on a strict schedule becomes quite difficult when you are not in a habit of working from home. Distractions often hinder the timely submission of assigned tasks. This may lead to low morale in employees. I feel to overcome this one can make use of an online calendar and reminders to stick to the schedule.
· The Tech Headaches
At home, you are all on your own, with your tech problems without any I.T. department. There is sometimes a lack of devices, network issues, software breakdown, low-quality video calls, and unreliable internet connections. The problems are even bigger with people from small towns and cities. All these tend to slow down our productivity which altogether affects the complete business cycle. In such cases, I feel it is the responsibility of a company that its
employees can access the best available tools. This includes providing laptops, computers, UPS, broadband connections, and reimbursing their internet bills.
· Feeling Isolated
On average, an employee spends 40 hours a week with co-workers. Missing your coffee breaks, informal chit chats, sharing lunch is quite obvious. Work from home might create a feeling of isolation among employees. Prolonged social-distancing can even result in mental health issues; after all, we all are social beings. I feel this too can be overcome by virtual informal meetings once a week. Conducting games, competitions, events virtually can be very effective in maintaining the social bond between co-workers.
· Exaggerated working hours
Work from home might seem like having a laptop with you, lying on a couch, taking snacks, listening to music. But the picture is not the same. I have observed when people are working from home they tend to forget where to stop. At your workplace, you have fixed working hours in which you have to complete a given task. While at home, the hours get exaggerated. At times due to distractions and at times willingly. So there is a need to draw a line here. You should not start feeling burden and at the same time keep an eye that it should become too casual.
To WFH or To Not
As every coin has two sides, the same applies here. Work from home has both pros and cons. It depends on the organization’s organization. During the lockdown period, 70-80% of BPO companies and almost 90% of the IT sector moved into remote working. The transition in the IT sector is quite smoother than others. While the nature of some businesses does not allow remote working. Still, many tasks do not require physical interactions with the team or client. Now it’s the time for firms to reinvent themselves, how can they reinvent themselves without affecting productivity? I strongly feel companies need to show empathy and prioritize a positive mindset for employees wellbeing. For long term sustainability, providing this flexibility and independence is need of the day. Yes, it might be difficult but it’s not impossible. Changes will occur from right from policies, reforms to infrastructure. Changes initially cause discomfort but with the time people tend to become used to it. So let’s welcome the new normal with open hands and see positivity in whatever you do.