If someone had told us six months ago that we would be observing a shift in the office work culture, many of us would have found it hard to believe. Even though work from home culture is not new and many companies allowed their employees to work from home occasionally, it was hard to imagine it to an extent where the entire workforce would be working remotely. The situation does not seem to be relaxing soon as most of the IT companies have asked employees to work remotely till the end of this year.
This COVID situation has helped in breaking many myths related to working from home. Many of us can relate to the time when managers or senior officials dreaded the question of working remotely. One of the primary concerns of companies and organizations was a negative impact on productivity. Employers were concerned that there could be a drop in performance. However, the statistics have shown the effect to be quite the opposite, and the results are more favorable. Organizations that were earlier hesitant to adopt this idea are now finding it more comfortable to continue with this way of working. It is quite evident from the fact that giant firms like Google, Facebook, TCS, Twitter, among others, are planning to allow almost 50-70% of employees to work remotely permanently post the pandemic.
Apart from a shift in the mentality, working from home also provides more flexibility to the employees. On the one hand, employees find it more relaxing to work in a flexible environment while, on the other hand, this also benefits in terms of cost-effectiveness. A surge in the remote working would automatically result in the reduction of infrastructure costs for organizations. Also, both companies and employees save in terms of transportation costs as well as commute time. Remote working can also reduce the overhead costs, and increased productivity helps in reducing losses incurred due to low productivity.
How to make things work?
Since the work from home culture was new for many companies as well as the employees, both the parties faced initial challenges of “how to make things work?” Many companies helped their employees in tackling stress and maintain mental wellness by organizing sessions of ergonomics, yoga, and counseling. Setting up the remote working infra for the employees was itself a difficult challenge; VPN issues, high bandwidth utilization, frequent disconnections are some of the common problems that many organizations/employees initially had to face, which gradually came to stability.
However, there are certain measures that have to be taken to ensure a smooth working experience. Employers should check, review, and update their work from home/ remote work policies and employees should know and follow the same. With remote working the risk of cybercrimes against industries has also increased. It becomes essential for organizations to provide mandatory cybersecurity training to their employees and make them aware of the general DO’s and Don’ts and best practices. The “Security is everyone’s responsibility” practice should be introduced and rigidly followed.
Though the employers and employees were able to overcome the initial challenges related to remote working, some issues cannot be overlooked if the trend is to stay. Though flexibility is an advantage, employees have to ensure that they separate their work and personal life. Organizing and time management becomes an important aspect. Working from home has also resulted in extended working hours. Both employer and employee should set a boundary and keep into consideration when the office time ends and personal or leisure time starts.
Another significant implication is the disconnection from human contact. Earlier, when employees faced any issues with their machines, they could directly go to the local IT. But now, as the direct access is not possible, resolving such issues could take longer. Companies should recommend their employees to stay in touch with their IT teams and not try to implement solutions on their own unless they have complete knowledge about it.
Remote working can also take a toll on collaboration and team management. Unlike in the office environment where updates and information, team meetings, and one-on-one discussions could be easily held as everyone was in the same room/building, the way of communication changes in remote working. Social interaction among colleagues, discussing work and non-work-related things help in creating team bonding, which may be an issue in the case of work from home culture. These things have to be taken care of to maintain productivity.
Although sectors like IT, finance, media, etc., can think of deploying the work from home culture, there still are other industries like manufacturing, Data Centres, production houses that would have to continue the office culture. It can be said for sure that the office culture is going to see a shift post the COVID crisis, but a complete transition is still a long way ahead. We can more or less expect a hybrid working culture to emerge as a result of this pandemic.