Waking up in the morning, getting decked up for work, navigating through the shortest route to the office beating the city traffic seems like a dream now.COVID-19 has brought in an unexpected change in our personal and professional life in the last few months. Organizations across industries were forced to shift their gears and embrace remote working culture quickly. The transition to the new working eco-system did see initial hiccups in streamlining the infrastructure and processes. But businesses have promptly responded to this unprecedented change to ensure high productivity and business continuity.
Now, the question that lay in front of us is, how long are we going to work from home? Though the government has relaxed the lockdown rules for companies in many states, businesses continue to raise the guard against COVID-19 by continuing to work-from-home.
"A National Bureau of Economic Research paper found that more than 35% of firms think that 40% or more of the current switch to remote working will be permanent."
However, organizations are analyzing the pros and cons of continuing WFH from various perspectives. But unfortunately, there is no clear consensus around this. Many organizations are considering resuming their on-premise operations from the last quarter of 2021. On the other hand, many others plan to bring back employees to the workplace in phases and shifts.
Sarthak Raychaudhuri, Whirlpool Corp VP (HR) for Asia, said: "We will encourage people to come only when the situation improves. While the offices have reopened, less than 10% employees are in office."
Employees are also finding it increasingly taxing to work from home for an uncertain period. Working in isolation with no physical interaction with peers and colleagues is slowly taking a toll on mental health, which can directly affect productivity. Employees are missing "water cooler conversations" and impromptu discussions on tea-breaks and eventually getting fatigued of being socially cut-off from the rest of the world. But the fear of exposure to the virus will hold back employees to venture out workplaces any soon.
In this trying time, amidst all the ambiguities and speculations, WFH has helped many companies survive their businesses and have saved many professionals' jobs in this trying time. It may not be a practical and long-term solution for industries like hospitality, manufacturing, performing arts, etc. but has been a temporary savior. Many PSU's and Government sector units have also embraced WFH (which was otherwise an alien concept for them) for the greater good.
Reduced Operational cost- After almost half a year of working from home, businesses today have positively accepted this remote work culture as a way of life. Companies now believe that a remote workforce can help them substantially save on infrastructure overheads. Maintaining office furnishing, running the cafeteria, transportation, housekeeping, etc. are now off the expense list. The financial rationale has played in favor of work-from-home to convince organizations to consider this from a long-term perspective.
Increased Productivity- Companies are accepting WFH as a new constant since productivity has seen a remarkable spike during this period. Even small-sized companies have streamlined their processes with various project management and communication tools to bring in efficiency. The productivity is being measured in a fair and transparent process where the calculation is done based on deliverables and not the time spent at work.
Increased employee retention- Work from home has dramatically contributed to employee retention, one of the biggest challenges faced by small companies. Now, employees working in SMEs and MSMEs can avail the same amount of flexibility and work-life balance as any big company. Saving time and energy in commuting long distances in another incentive for employees to stick to their jobs.
Companies now see a wider pool of applicants. Workplace flexibility is one of the critical drivers for the young age group to choose a job. The new tech-savvy generation looks out for a secure borderless workspace that gives them space and convenience to perform. The current work-from-home situation helps organizations attract skilled resources that might have otherwise not applied considering the commute, working hours, etc. The shortlisting criteria for companies have also widened as they can go beyond the average commuting distance. Companies can now select candidates only based on their skill sets regardless of location.
WFH has given the flexibility and convenience to the working parents to juggle between work and kids more proficiently. With online classes being added to the task list, parents now need to support their kids to understand and cope with this new concept while delivering their professional commitments. Being at home helps them to be around and balance their daily obligations in a better way. This situation is also working well for new mothers who are getting back to work after their maternity breaks.
Young professionals living away from home for jobs can now stay with their families without worrying about food and other necessities. WFH has helped people sail through this Pandemic with a feeling of togetherness and bonding.
Work from home complies with the WHO guidelines on social distancing by keeping a safe remoteness from the rest of the world. WFH has minimized the individual exposure to the virus to a remarkable extent, which would not have happened otherwise.
WFH is not a new concept. It always existed but was limited to specific industries and organizations. However, this is a new concept for many organizations who were unsure about the productivity of WFH. The outbreak of COVID-19 left no choice for organizations to adopt remote working as the new normal. The productivity spike during this period has convinced the organizations about the fact that productivity increases when employees are given the required flexibility.
WFH may not completely replace the age-old culture of working from the office, but it can complement the organizational operations in a meaningful way. Building an adequate communication flow and investing in good project management and productivity tool can go a long way in making WFH sustainable and efficient.
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