WFH… A Leapfrog into Future

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Sujoy Banerjee
Work From Home (WFM) conditions have increased the productivity of the employees by 25 % and this is to prevail even after the pandemic dies down.

What has long believed to be the future of work as per theories has abruptly become a reality, thanks to something called COVID–19. This word has been creating a sense of dread, anxiety, fear: all sorts of negative feelings in the hearts and minds of people all over the globe. A mysterious virus that has infected more than 2.5 million people all over the world.

COVID-19 has affected companies and taken Industries off-guard, with a ripple of tremor distressing the backbone of the economy, supply chains, and business models.

“The challenges faced by the workplaces have become a new front in the battle over coronavirus. We are all experiencing unprecedented challenges to personal and working conditions in our own unique way. When ‘Where should we go for dinner?’ has been swiftly replaced with ‘Zoom, Google Meet or House Party?”

While the ‘work from home’ concept has been popularised by many Silicon Valley tech giants, it has yet to catch on in India as a regular feature, even in the more agile start-up space. In its current form, the option to work remotely was largely being offered to gig workers; it was unavailable to most full-time staff unless the location demanded it. But India Inc had to change course almost overnight: The coronavirus infection was beginning to spread across cities in the early days of March and going to work, which would often involve taking public transport and passing through crowded, communal spaces, quickly became contentious.  

Times Ahead…

Covid-19 forced work-from-home on companies. WFH may stay even after the pandemic scare fades. HR heads of major companies say WFH is a “trial run on a big scale” and a “silver lining in the whole calamity”. Employers and employees benefit from WFH even in normal times, they say.

WFH lets employees stay at home, maintain social distancing, and work in a relatively safer environment. Some of the leading companies are going on record to say that these conditions have increased the productivity of the employees by 25 % and this is to prevail even after the pandemic dies down. An employee may have to report to the office once or twice a week and log in through secured home networks during other days of the week. That would enable companies to have more compact offices and workstations because at a time the entire strength of an organization won’t be present in the office.

  • For employees, benefits include saving on the commute (during which they can exercise, practice yoga, mindfulness, read, listen to podcasts, etc.) and more flexibility when it comes to work-life balance.
  • For employers, the pluses are establishment cost-saving and enhanced productivity if implemented correctly. Then comes the cost of staff transportation, air-conditioning, and ventilation, furnishing and cafeteria.
  • For Environment, Much fresh air, less air pollution hence greener surroundings.

Current Scenes of India Inc.

HR heads from a dozen leading corporations said that virtual workplaces are the future of work.

About two-thirds of the 4.3 million ITBPO workforce across the country have moved to a work-from-home model to keep services uninterrupted during the lockdown. Experts say some companies are likely to move to WFH permanently.

Running up to 2025, an Indian IT major has advised its vast majority of 75% of its 4.48 lakh employees globally (including 3.5 lakh in India) to work from home, up from the industry average of 20% today. The new model called 25/25 will require far less office space than occupied today.

If we divide the entire workforce throughout the globe into 2 major categories:  White collared office goers and the Blue Collared Workers / Field workers, it’ll be easier to discuss the points.

The primary focus has to be enabling work from home for white-collared employees and extending this model of working post Covid-19. Many large corporations have put their Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place at a tremendous pace to safeguard their employees as well as for the security and continuity of services and data available on the cloud.

Some benefits of WFH can be discussed as follows

  • With no geographic boundaries, employers can reach out to candidates with unique skills, backgrounds, and education.
  • Round the clock coverage when the customer expects services and expertise to accomplish a goal at any time especially during peak business hours.
  • Virtual training can be leveraged moving them from the physical confines of the classroom/office space to video conferencing that is not restricted by space limitations.
  • While working from home is easier on some functions than others, it can greatly benefit a company’s talent pool.
  • Having the option open for those who might need it, and still be committed to the workforce, could be vital for the future. For instance, it would open up jobs for parents with small children, persons with disabilities (PwDs), or those who cannot shift locations for familial or financial reasons.
  • WFH will encourage more women to join the workforce as the hassles of travelling daily would disappear. This option will also help women, especially mothers, a lot as it will make it easier for them to join the workforce.”

Now talking about the other set of the workforce: the workers engaged in manufacturing: ranging from a simple pin to big aircraft. How is this “new norm” as we call it going to affect them? We’re at a brink of economic crisis, where production has almost come to a standstill. We’re looking at a huge number of job losses for these daily wage earners because working from home is an absolute no-no for them. In order to keep the production and manufacturing up and running, they have to report to their bases and work with the machines and technologies at their disposal. But, special care has to be taken so that they maintain their distancing while working, strict vigilance has to be in place so that they don’t form groups and use hand gloves and eat properly cooked meals. We’re looking at automating most of these tasks that are still being manually done, in order to bring manual intervention to a bare minimum.

Management Roles

A shift in such a policy would mean that managers will play a key role in defining work culture and will need to be trained in dealing with remote teams. Companies will have to form different HR policies and systems —the leaves, allowances, work hours, dress codes can be different.

In such situations, workplace collaborative tech tools such as Slack, Flock, Google Meet, MicrosoftTeams, Cisco Webex Meetings, etc become vital for managers, say, experts, to keep track of productivity.

Getting Geared-up

It is also very much critical to Plan for how you can build capabilities now that will enable you to thrive in the future, the four-step process below to help you maintain your wellbeing, focus, and productivity in times of crisis…

1. Prepare –We should take the time to set ourselves up to be as effective as possible. That includes our mindset, environment, and wellbeing.

2.  Connect – How we engage with people within and outside of our team during these challenging times will be moments that matter. We in Gainwellare planning “Virtual Town Hall Meetings” to make the employees feel connected and engaged with the organization.

3.   Perform – To navigate the speed and scale of change in such uncertain times requires an agile approach. Continually evaluate your personal effectiveness and experiment with new ways of working. Ensure you are clear on current objectives and the right priorities to add value.

4.  Thrive – Aim to combine positivity with realism. How we perform and manage ourselves in a time of crisis can present new skills, behaviours, and opportunities to be successful in the ‘new normal’ of the future. Presently at Gainwell our Technical Training team and HR has launched a programme on Interactive Distance Learning b by virtue of which sales and product support personnel can attend a myriad of training programs through the digital platform. The Training Team is also playing a leading role to establish closer ties with our esteemed customers during this period. Going ahead this “Virtual Instructor-Led Training” to take precedence over the face to face physical classroom training.

This vast remote work experiment in India due to COVID-19 is also ‘a great opportunity to prepare for the future’. According to its recent research, by 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30 percent due to the Generation-Z fully entering the workforce; it adds that 64 percent of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere and remote work policies are in place at 71 percent of organizations. It is really a sudden inadvertent journey to the future. 

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