India has been under lockdown from March 24 and suddenly corporates had to figure their Work From Home (WFH) strategy. None of them had time to plan on how to keep their operations going during a lockdown.
Technology companies are accustomed to their employees but not the entire company working from home. And not all companies are in a line of business that can operate from home.
While many are accustomed to working from home occasionally, very few of us have worked full-time from home with all family members at home.
All family members at home 24×7 for 40+ days is a “new experience” and they are getting to know their family better (at times more than required!). Jokes apart, I think it was time for families to bond. Digital distraction has been way too high, family members communicate more thru WhatsApp these days.
Corporates See Increase In Productivity Due to WFH
A few companies observed the productivity had increased. A few reasons could be,
- No commute to work has saved time & reduced stress
- Reduction in unwanted meetings (replaced by a few Zoom meetings)
- Extended coffee breaks which were nothing but a time to catch up rumours are gone. You need to make your own coffee, so many skip having coffee breaks!
- Increase in work hours (this is bad)
- With less distraction, you are able to focus on completing your task
- In-person harassment from bosses reduce but one could still get harassed & bullied.
But are our homes, social structured designed for work from home? The answer depends on the section of society.
The Downside of Work From Home
Affluent families may have a separate home office room/space. But that would be a small percentage of India’s workforce. For the rest, it is difficult to work from home because,
- Hostels, PGs (paying guest) are not designed for WFH.
- If you are single in an apartment, you could do a WFH but loneliness could kill you.
- People want social interactions which now has stopped. For many people, social bonding is necessary to feel good in life. Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. Therapists are getting 2-3 times more calls for help.
- For working couples without kids, WFH may work but each may need a separate room to take calls.
- For working couples with young kids, it adds to the complexity.
- Elders living with their working children in smaller homes will be unable to watch TV during work hours. Elders will go crazy without entertainment.
- Large size families in a small apartment had to adjust only during dinner & sleep times, never before during the day and for the entire day. Very difficult to work from home in such an environment.
- There are no specific work hours when you WFH. It can burn you out.
Work from home has its own advantages. Periodically to have your own space and thinking time helps. But too much of WFH doesn’t build your social interaction skills, especially in the WhatsApp era.
Will employers compensate employees for an increase in their power usage at home? Will a percentage of the savings from office rentals & opex be shared with employees?
Is the HR department equipped to handle WFH workforce? HR departments are rarely able to manage employees under the same roof, managing WFH effectively is a pipe dream.
Ministry of Labour in India defines home-based workers as those working at home in unorganized sector. This policy doesn’t extend to white collar workers. Time to update the labour laws in India.
How to Work Efficiently from Home
Since you are working on your own and there is nobody to look over you, it is easy to get strayed. It is best to follow your office schedule at home – breakfast, work, lunch, work.
- To avoid digital distractions I recommend an app like Freedom – completely block social media (which has a lot of fake news).
- Make physical notes or use Google Drive.
- Use Google Calendar for organizing all your calls. Truly a lifesaver.
- Use Google hangout for your calls. If you don’t care if a particular country is snooping, use Zoom (bug fixed recently).
- Add reminders (if you forget, add a reminder to add reminders!).
- Stay completely away from the TV, especially TV news.
- Stay healthy. Don’t eat junk food.
- At work, you might have been taking coffee breaks. Don’t forget to take breaks at home. Use a timer to limit your break.
- Measure your productivity every day (e.g. have a TODO list)
- Work-Life balance a must. Spend time with family during non-work hours.
- Don’t work from bed because work will never end
- Stay positive, very important not feel demotivated. This phase will pass.
These simple steps should work.
Getting Back to Work From Office
Post lockdown in India, Work From Office (WFO) will not be the same. Home Ministry of India has asked employers to ensure there are 6 feet of separation between employees, staggered lunch breaks, no meetings with more than 10 people. Not easy to put in practice.
The cost of running an office could increase,
- Elevator ‘safe zones’, which means the number of people using the elevator each time reduces drastically, your power bills will shoot up.
- Infrared body temperature scanners
- Contact-tracing apps for co-workers (most employees would worry about privacy)
- Sneeze guard partitions
- Introduce handleless doors
Many corporates are thinking of vacating their office space and move to 100% WFH. Employers love the fact they could save on rental costs.
- Gartner survey of CFOs found 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post covid-19.
- TCS, which employs about 500,000 people, says it is sufficient for employees to spend about 25% of their time in the office to be 100% productive. 100% of the workforce at the office for 100% of the time is ruled out.
- At Wipro, 93% of its billable employees have received client approvals to deliver services from home.
Such corporates may possibly use co-working space to have their weekly or fortnightly meetings in person. Commercial real-estate will take a beating.
WFO to WFH to WFO – this cycle will continue until we get a Vaccine. Preferably from India or from a “trustworthy” country.
Work from office is essential as it benefits from social interaction with the team (especially during planning stages).
Work from home cannot be seen as a one-size policy that fits all. Most homes are not suitable for WFH in India – due to size of homes and social structure.
- Architects, builders reworking floor plans for Work From Home
- More than 50% of the Indian corporate non-financial balance sheet is unable to hold its breath for 90 days
- Companies focus on tech spend on work from home
- COVID-19 And Your Mental Health – Chatbots And Online Counselling Can Help
- Only 12% of U.S. workers want to work from home full-time
- Social distancing is here to stay – MIT
- Buffer.com: Everything We Know About Remote Work
- How to Focus in Uncertain Times Using the Pomodoro Technique
- Forest Stay focused, be present