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Work From Home for Now or Future?

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Joshua Varghese Thomas,HR Manager

The recent turn of events has forced tech-savvy IT firms and non-IT firms to work from home or face lockdown. Although technology and internet connectivity has made work from home possible, ironically it took COVID-19 to implement this digital transformation. While some struggled to adapt to this change, others made sure that it works right for them. At SayOne, we had our own set of challenges and inhibitions when we planned the WFH option for all our employees but we could announce this option a week before the nationwide lockdown which helped our team to adapt seamlessly. 

Even before this crisis, the idea of transferring workspace from office to home had triggered a lot of discussions in the HR community across industries. A few months back I was part of a discussion on ‘The future of HR’ in one of the HR communities in Kochi called HR Shapers where many eminent speakers pointed out the possible rise of the gig economy and flexible work options for future generations. Can we expect this transformation to be a reality soon? Let me share my thoughts on the same.

History has proved that a global crisis responsible for destroying the present can also bring progress and opportunities for the future. Every world war and pandemic that took away thousands of lives also gave mankind the opportunity to progress in technology and medical field. I believe the current global crisis also brings out an opportunity for us to transform our work culture and the way we live. 

The nature in her rights has pressed the reset button to prove us that the hours in traffic, tons of fuel wasted, greenhouse emissions could have been avoided if we had changed the way we lived and worked. However, many frown upon this idea because it seems not practical. But, flexible work culture is more efficient and has proved to be a success for many GPTW companies. A  good example is Dell, a major computer company, which began building its flexible work culture in 2009. Since then, they have been offering a variety of flexible options allowing their employees to work remotely some or all the time, at variable hours. 60% of employees working remotely reported a Net Promoter Score 20% higher than those who didn’t. And with fewer people in the office every day, Dell doesn’t need as much office space netting the company $12 million in annual savings since 2014. 

Flexible work culture can be implemented in different ways based on the nature of work and industry. Some companies in Scandinavian countries could effectively keep one out of their five day week as work from home to give more flexibility to its workforce. Some organizations have tried rotating this flexible option among their employees to ensure that they do not require a big office space.  If there are four teams with 100 employees each, you will not need a workspace for 400 employees with such an option in place. This not only reduces the cost for the employer but also makes the employees happier at work since they feel more flexible. Work from Home on Wednesdays is a noble thought that has enabled women and people with high dependency in their families to get back into the formal workforce. It improves the quality of life for employees since they get to have a better work-life balance. It makes their work more sharp and efficient when engaged since they won’t have other things to get distracted while at work. The attrition rates also come down considerably because of employee satisfaction. I am sure that many of our employers in India would be very interested to reduce the hefty office rents by considering this as an option and also it improves the capability of an organization to tap the potential of  the gig workforce. Instead of implementing a total work from home for all employees, employing flexible work options suitable for your organization should be the way forward.

But still, many employers stick to the idea of traditional office space because they feel it ensures better supervision at work. For such thoughts, my answer is that we should try improving our focus on work instead of considering supervision at the office space as a solution. The flow of work and process should ensure focus on work instead of the office space. I am not advocating complete work from home for all factories and businesses, but it is a fact that a considerable percentage of the workforce across industries can be considered for a flexible workspace for reduced cost and better efficiency. I want to stress that a lot of man-hours and productivity gets wasted because of insistence on the traditional idea of working at the office.

A flexible work culture for a human resource-rich country like India would ensure better efficiency with less strain on the infrastructure and nature. While we keep fingers crossed to get over this epidemic, why not use our little grey cells to engineer a better work environment and flexible workspace for our future generations.


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