The second wave of COVID has proven to be far more deadly than the previous one. The havoc of job losses and pay cuts happening all over again has affected the life of every Indian. And so, the employees, most of whom have been working remotely since March 2020, had to evolve according to the changing demands and needs of the market and consumers.
This became especially crucial for consumer staple companies that manufacture essential items. Even amidst the crisis, FMCG companies had a huge responsibility to cater to approximately 1.38 billion people and could not afford to shut down. In fact, with the increasing demands of hygiene and personal care products, these companies had to ensure that the employees are more productive than before.
But, with the increasing number of cases and a nationwide lockdown back then, it was near to impossible. How could the employees work efficiently while constantly worrying about the virus?
WFH: The solution or a new problem?
In March 2020, after the announcement of a nationwide lockdown, multiple companies opted for Work from Home (WFH) - almost like a mass remote working experiment. Initially, employees were skeptical of this ordeal. But, from an employer's perspective, the WFH concept seemed like a brilliant idea. The employers could save on real estate and other resources that they usually provide, while the employees can get more free time to spend with family.
The WFH culture has become a norm, but both employers and employees had to face many issues for the initial two months. Following are a few examples of the problems faced by the market while evolving into a more adaptive and productive ecosystem:-
Unavailability of IT infrastructure
It is no surprise that an average Indian household doesn’t have sufficient IT infrastructure to support long periods of WFH. The biggest problem was that most employees had no laptop or desktop at home. If they had, those resources were usually being used by their kids for school or college purposes. Then there exists the issue of insufficient internet bandwidth. So, gradually the companies started providing ample IT infra to their employees, and things started working out.
Laptop, Desktop breakdowns
Now, in a typical office environment, you can simply call someone from the IT department to fix the computer or laptop, but how do you deal with hardware problems at home? Of course, gradually, the employees started taking care of minor hardware issues with the IT department’s assistance, but initially, these breakdowns were a significant source of frustration, delay, and decreased productivity.
Big families + small houses = No privacy
For every phone call, you cannot go on your terrace that too with the scorching heat. In an average Indian household, it is not easy to find a corner where you can take a call in complete silence; it is just not possible. With prominent families and small houses, finding that secluded space is a luxury that the employees couldn’t afford more often than not.
The chaos surrounding video calls
A lot of employees were hesitant about doing video calls. Maybe because of their private space, there were various reasons. The employees also sometimes felt added pressure with video calls, which obviously wasn’t positive feedback. However, now the infrastructure has improved and employees have become more adaptive towards video calls and remote working.
Work-life vs personal life
Maintaining a work-life balance has always been an issue that an average Indian employee has faced. The WFH culture has undoubtedly pushed the limits of that balance. The flexible working hours sometimes became overtime working hours, which in the long term was not beneficial for either the employee or employers.
Kids being homeschooled
Despite the children attending regular online classes, it became crucial for parents to homeschool them. This clearly added more responsibility on parents, in this case, employees as they had to divide their working hours between office and home. This clearly impacted negatively on the mental well being of the employees.
The ongoing pandemic is the single most challenging fiasco that we have faced. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), over 75 lakh people lost their jobs in April 2021 in India. Not only the daily wage and blue-collar workers, but even the white-collar employees had to face multiple obstacles. FMCG companies, particularly those dealing in essential items, have left no stone unturned to support their employees by retaining talent, providing flexible hours, consensual meeting timings, and no pressure for video calls.
Furthermore, these organizations are also trying to lend an ear to employees with a professional or personal issue to help them tide through these trying times. The struggles the employees and employers have faced together in the past year have only made them more empathetic towards each other. And, as the Hebrew saying goes, "Gam Zeh ya'avor," which translates as, "This, too, shall pass."