Did we ever think that words like “Social Distance”, “Lockdown” and “Quarantine” will become such an integral part of our lives to the extent that these words govern it. And then there is “Work from Home”. Till, early this year, it was an option exercised as a luxury. In a span of a few days, it became everyone’s reality. The lasting effect of these cataclysmic changes will, probably, be felt once we come out of this situation. Right now, it is all about adapting to the current circumstances. And I believe that going forward Work from Home will be a part of our work culture - The New Normal.
One thing this pandemic has brought into focus is the need for a well-appointed living space. By that, we mean a home or a room that is equipped to enable us to spend a big chunk of or lives in it. And fortunately, creating an efficient home environment is not as complicated as it sounds. It boils down to figuring out our essential requirements and giving them the due importance.
One of the upsides of the current lockdown was the visible positive effect on our environment. The air above most of our metros cleared up to rarely seen levels. Flora and fauna have flourished. This has shown us that if the human race wants, it can make a positive impact. Let us start with the basic problem of traffic. In January this year, Bangalore was given the dubious epithet of “Most Traffic Congested City’ in the world. Not the competition we wanted to win. On average, Bengalureans driving during peak hours spends an extra 243 hours, i.e., 10 days, 3 hours in traffic each year. If the organizations plan well, this mammoth sized problem can be tackled by having more people work from home. The 10 hours we waste stuck in traffic can be utilized more productively. Imagine having never to hear the excuse of traffic hindering deliverables.
“Work from Home” lets an individual have a more balanced life which is required for long term sustained success. The extra time that you save from travel coupled with the flexibility of staying at home can give an employee an opportunity to take care of their health, contribute to household chores and get some “me time”. If you are running a startup or a small company with less than 10-20 employees, you are better off building home offices than spending working capital on paying office rents and going through the commute hassle.
COVID-19 Pandemic has proved that the “Work from Home” is not only a necessity at times like these but will become the norm. However, there are some critical factors that Companies and Individuals will have to ponder upon to make it a success.
It all starts with a “Good Home”: The starting point is to have a safe, secure, and comfortable home. With Work from Home, we will use our abode for more than just a place to sleep. Hence it is important to have a place with a regular supply of basic amenities like power and water. People staying in high-density homes like PGs have to bear with sketchy supply of basic amenities, loud noise, unsanitary conditions, etc. A good option is to share appropriate accommodation with a few like-minded people in a safe locality.
Get the basics right: Now that we have spent a considerable amount of time at home, we have begun to see the importance of getting our basics right. These basics can be a designated study/work area with a comfortable desk and chair, a comfortable bed, an organized storage area etc. The emphasis should be on function rather than form. To get the most out of these areas we should keep it organized, clutter free and as tidy as possible. This will also help us in feeling calm, in control, and productive. Adding a green footprint has also become almost essential and will also go a long way in making our house a home. This can be done through a bright plant on our desk, few flowers scattered around to cheer us, plants in the balcony etc. It will create a sense of outdoors and nature always comes to our rescue when we are out of sorts.
Productivity is directly linked to Digital Infrastructure: Our productivity at home is directly proportional to the Digital Infrastructure we have. This includes our laptops, strong Wifi connection, decent phones, printers etc. There is hence a need to get reliable and faster hardware.
High Level of Personal Discipline is required to increase productivity and win employer trust: One of the most challenging aspects of working from home is self-motivation. Building a structure is imperative in this scenario. It is freeing to set our own schedule, but if this aspect is ignored, it will be easy to get distracted or complete tasks at odd hours and derail the whole day. To keep our motivation up, we can create our own reward system. It is also a great idea to break tasks down into smaller, workable steps. Another big requirement for making this practice sustainable is to have a strong governance. This can be achieved with daily calls, daily reports tied to results etc.
Staying connected with colleagues: Working from home can very quickly lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from the rest of the team. We need to actively stay connected. This calls for daily scheduled calls, virtual meetings. One unorthodox way is to create a support group of colleagues. Constant updates are confidence-building measures that are required to give confidence to your boss and peers that you are on top of your work. One optimal solution is to make work from home a part of the work culture rather than the only way to work.
“Work from Home” will be institutionalized in the next few months. Companies and Individuals will explore a hybrid model which will include working on designated days from home. It will be more prevalent in certain jobs like IT, BT, ITES, Startups, Consulting etc. Companies will implement solutions to strengthen governance and employee engagement. We have probably reached the point where we are feeling too cooped up to feel good about WFH. But if we can combine the above factors with our regular office work, then we get the best of both worlds. However, wake up to the new reality where Home is the defacto workplace and “Work from Home” the new normal!