The global pandemic of Covid-19 has forced a large segment of the workforce to WFH. This crisis has, in fact, spurred the growth of online work. Even if the pandemic scare fades away, this could lead to a permanent shift in the working patterns of the employees. Large tech companies and start-ups that support WFH culture instinctively could sail through the immediate aftermath of lockdown. However, in the majority of corporations, systems are cracking at the edges. This is unchartered territory, and unprecedented steps will have to be taken to normalize the culture of WFH—both at an interpersonal and infrastructural level.
Nearly 4-5 million employees in India are currently working from home and around 30% of them may permanently be doing the same even after the pandemic is over. The stigma attached to WFHs is them being less productive to a less serious option. Now, when everyone is following this routine, a lot of people are embracing it positively. People work their best productive hours, virtual meetings are crisp and focused, no commute to work every day has given a chance to reset how we understand work. It has demystified myths that people are not productive while working from home. However, unfortunately, all the businesses may not be able to adapt this completely, given their operations and systems will require on-site resource requirements. These strong winds of change have reshaped imaging business processes and soon these shifts will be permanent.
We are preparing ourselves as WFH could be a more permanent way forward and here is how organizations may implement a well-rounded infrastructure and keep systems in place when the employees return. Some of the emerging trends as a way forward for WFH could be summed up as:
Remodeling office spaces:
The workspaces might have to be altered to address the safety of employees with proper seating distances and well-spaced desks. Remodeling and rethinking of the office spaces will be required to limit the close contact between employees and encourage social distancing even at work. The wide and crowded open floor may turn into smaller collaborative spaces to ensure productivity with safety. Biometric attendance systems will definitely see a change, shifting towards digital attendance on personal computers and laptops/apps.
Strong infrastructure to support remote working:
The necessity of WFH caused employers and organizations to think about providing strong infrastructure for remote working like video conferencing, laptops for every individual, etc. Some companies may already have it but these could be an entirely new set of investments for companies where working from home is a new development. Companies that are aligned and structured to support WFH will succeed more than the ones that were not prepared for it and will have to quickly build a strategy around creating the same.
Formalization and policies for WFH:
During the pandemic, the transition was so sudden that most of the guidelines were created while the companies worked on contingency and continuity plans. Some are also functioning on zero operations and hence, no revenues. Lack of remote working facilities will have to be relooked at the minutest details like, what should be an ideal response rate for every conversation so there is access to colleagues and employees while working remotely. Implementing tools for smooth communication across functions, building safe ways to access data, and planning to accelerate tools that enable smooth remote working.
Comfortable WFH spaces:
A good, comfortable working environment is very important for better productivity - both at office and home. Employees have done a make-shift arrangement currently to be working from home. However, this may not be a sustainable way and people will need to create a space and have adequate resources to work from home effectively. A corner created in the house with comfortable seating, spacious table - a basic requirement for a functional workspace.
RentoMojo saw a steep rise in these products for rentals as soon as the lockdown was implemented. Besides these, other products are laptops, mobile phones, ACs, and air coolers - some of the products that saw a huge demand. Things that were necessary to bring comfort at home.
Working from home has also moved the needle in relaxing the standards as usual meeting standards. A sight of your dog over a Zoom call or your kid doing their schoolwork sitting next to you, while you are taking a meeting is normal. There is an increased empathy, and it has brought people closer. Organizations will prepare themselves for healthcare policies and include pandemics like these for their line of employees. They should also plan empathetic policies to address mental and emotional health and stress levels.
Somewhere at the core, work from home has witnessed a slow adoption because of the belief that “work = hours clocked in”, somewhere this has been raising a question on the trust organizations have in people. This is also leading a shift from hours of work to actual productivity. A large part of the Indian work ecosystem will embrace the new norm of WFH and will see it in a whole new light. As individuals, many may continue to go back to the normal lifestyle we had before the lockdown, there will be a small percentage that will take learnings and evolve and that’s where the actual evolution will happen when we become better versions of ourselves by adoption and coming out of it stronger. Those will be the changemakers for a better society and a better future.