Often, we hear the comments that work from home cannot work in the Indian Context to its optimal potential because of lack of infrastructure or nature of the industry or lack of discipline among our workforce. At times it is even brushed off as a passing “Fad” of some of the new-age companies with western counterparts which we are trying to emulate.
For good or for bad, in the last few weeks (courtesy COVID 19) all those options and opinions have gone to the back burner and most of the organizations have started learn-ing to adopt to this new reality of Work From Home in various forms and degrees, based on the Nature of Role.
An unbiased review reveals some heartbreaking scenarios of low productivity/output, lack of consistency, lack of any cutting-edge thoughts in contributions, and other aspects. So, what changed to cause this sudden dip? Well, the ecosystem of the work environment did.
Let us explore the Indian context-specific challenges and why it is still considered as an “Alien Concept” by many of us. Some of the challenges are as follows:
Conversations & Socialization are productive tools for us, not distractions: As a collective society, we are more productive when we engage in conversations and socialize. We need those intermediary breaks and informal chat & chai breaks to re-energize ourselves and this is infectious. We miss this element completely in WFH.
Our schooling and lessons of discipline thereof: Indian society during its formative years, outsourced the self-discipline role to our education system. We have been wired to this extent that we look for similar reinforcements at offices and ecosystems to stay disciplined, like policies, hierarchies, reporting structures etc. Home is a place we relax, which is why we are far more free.
Our locus of control is external: It’s like my belief that my success and failure is directly linked to my co-existence in my tribe. External locus of control again triggers the lack of self-discipline. We find it extremely tough to say NO, resultantly we are distracted and end up conversing with anyone and everyone during work hours else it will be rude is the assumption.
Lack of understanding of corporate work ethos: The percentage of the population which works in a formal corporate ecosystem in India is still negligible compared to the working population. Due to which players find it rather difficult to comprehend the rules of this game. For example, casual dressing is fine at home, can’t that call wait, have you been punished to sit at a place and work and so on.
So is WFH a doomed concept in the Indian context? No. The big change we are proposing is that instead of enforcing the concept of discipline from Outside, we should bring the awareness inside. Let us explore what this concept means and how to roll it out.
The New Journey from Outside to Inside
It is our innate nature to follow instinct and do our own thing which fills us with energy, opportunity, and excitement. And there is always a thrill in doing things of our choice. But then the moment it is made mandatory, a sense of resentment, aversion, and feeling different creeps in. We all like to believe we make our own choices and invest our time the way we like. But one can always break the conditioning and choose to take this journey inwards, to a new way of life. The onus of this journey lies on the individual.
The dual pillars on which we can build a New Way of life are OM (Overcoming Guilt and Mindfulness).
Some of the insights to cultivate among ourselves and employees through programs are as follows:
- Being joyful is critical to the growth and to life. Working from home is neither an entitlement nor enforcement, but the demand of an unforeseen situation and crisis. So, for that, if you take a break for lunch, or decide to respond to a few work calls/emails late, you need not feel guilty.
- Similarly, while working if you are not able to pay attention to your loved ones or other stakeholders, do not get into guilt mode.
- Maintain a structure to set boundaries for both work and home, as work has blurred the boundaries.
- During these times, both work and home ecosystems, tend to consume a lot of your time, energy and take you for granted. En-sure, you start early, prioritize, maintain a schedule and stick to it.
- Guilt is often a result of our lack of understanding the social ecosystem and a belief which propagates an emotion to only negate self. To avoid this confusion, have healthy conversations around these at home.
- Learn to appreciate the context and be ok with not being OK.
Mindfulness (Self Awareness)
To simplify the concept, mindfulness is a deep dimension and a state of being in the present moment. In the current ‘knowledge economy’, intellect is disproportionately magnified, resulting in a divide of self, experience, and life.
It is important to remember that comprehending ‘self’ is key. A process of existence and inclusiveness is possible at our very home. This happens when our body, mind, and energy are aligned.
Awareness exists at different levels based on our experiences, making it paramount to be able to balance that working from home in the current scenario is not really a personal choice but a need of the hour for mankind. An aware-ness on this magnitude helps appreciate this fact.
- Create a ‘me’ time wherein you can reflect, introspect and calm the mind in the chaos. Make your ‘25th Hour’.
- Work has come home so the home cannot lose its significance. Be mindful of the overlap as the coexistence of Work and Home is new. In a Video call if your baby shows uptake it in your stride with pride.
- Feeling extremely due to a bad conversation, insult or being yelled at work is common. However, the informal setting of Home where the naturally defined power structures (like the office) do not exist, chances of getting into these moments unintentionally are high.
- Feel free to engage in anything that comforts you, walk alone, listen to music, meditate? It only reduces stress and anxiety.
Being mindful needs preparation at three levels- the mind, the heart and the gut. To get the best out of it, 1) Prepare your physical body for it. Practices like yoga help gain the ability to sit for long hours, straighten your body posture, help relax your breathing, get your focus back and notice your thoughts and emotions. 2) activate your mind and muscles towards synchrony and harmony - riding a bike, a treadmill, as workout, swimming, etc. 3) Self-discipline helps get regulated and a happy lifestyle. These steps enable and make life even more nourishing and satisfying.
In conclusion, we need to reorient WFH and become Work From hOMe, where the onus shifts from being an organizational driven structural intervention to an individual adopt-ed behavior for the betterment of self and others. This shift is titanic coz individuals can become aware and awake ‘only what they are aware of exists, else it does not!’