Work from home – a new norm or not?
Work from home (WFH) is currently known as an alternative to working to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.
During the lockdown, the Indian IT industry made employees “Work from Home” (WFH) as per the government’s mandate. As a result, about 90% of employees worked from home with 65% of them from homes in metros and the rest 35% from homes in small towns.
Some business leaders are considering WFH a permanent feature and have started evaluating its merits and challenges. One large company announced that they will shift from the current 100/100 model to 25/25. They meant that 25% of employees will attend office at any given time and overall employees will spend 25% of their time in the office. The main challenge of WFH is to derive the same performance levels in terms of quality and productivity from the employees continuously.
Whether you are going to work or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has probably changed the way you work. Fear and anxiety about this new disease and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout.
Working from small towns offers these advantages:
WFH has beneficial effects for both employers and employees. The advantages include and are not limited to reduced commuting time, avoiding office politics, using less office space, increased motivation, improved gender diversity (e.g. women and careers), healthier workforces with less absenteeism and turnover, higher talent retention, job satisfaction, and better productivity
Reduced operating costs: It can be demonstrated that the operating costs of people and infrastructure can be reduced by 50% to 70%. For example, there will be no transport costs and real estate costs will be lower and salary levels are low. It is estimated that if one-fourth of employees work from small towns, the gross margin can be around 5%.
People: It is estimated that about 100K students graduate every year from small towns employable by the IT industry as per their current recruitment standards. This gives an ability to diversify talent risk away from large metros. Attrition levels are very low ensuring talent retention and domain knowledge preservation.
Infrastructure: Communication infrastructure is available from many small towns. This has been demonstrated during WFH during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Quality processes: The IT industry has internalized quality processes from its inception to do remote development and this will be useful to transition work to small towns. Can take care of regulatory requirements for healthcare and banking to protect personal data.
Business Continuity Program: BCP during another disaster or c post-Covid-19 lockdown period, which may go for several months, small towns are better equipped to handle the situation.
Societal Impact: Enables equitable distribution of wealth, better inclusivity (more women employees), reduction in migration to metros, etc.
Top Struggles of remote workers:
⦁ Collaboration and communication
⦁ Unplugging after work
⦁ Distractions at home
⦁ Different time zones from team
⦁ Taking vacation time
⦁ Reliable wifi
⦁ Staying motivated
The top issue faced by remote workers was “unplugging” from work. Without the clear-cut change of location and defined office hours, many people had a tougher time dividing their personal and professional time.
As well, the lack of person-to-person communication can be a challenge for some people. One-third of people were concerned that the full extent of their professional efforts wouldn’t be appreciated because of a lack of in-office contact.
Barriers to implementing a remote work policy
Despite the popularity of remote and flexible working, not every company has embraced the concept. Here are some of the reasons why.
While there can be technical or security-related reasons behind remote work resistance, a major barrier is a simple resistance to change. Over 50% of companies that didn’t have a flexible or remote workplace policy cited “longstanding company policy” as the reason. In other words, that is just the way things have always worked.
Here are the reservations managers have with remote work:
Managers are worried that productivity and focus will be diminished if people are working in more informal locations, such as home or a cafe. Also, if people aren’t working in the same physical location, managers feel that team cohesiveness and company culture could suffer.
On the flip side, the cost savings associated with remote work may win over many companies. Research has found that a typical employer can save a lot per year for every person who works remotely half of the time. As well, switching to virtual meets in some instances can also be significant cost savings.
Attracting talent and remote work
Having a choice of work location is:
⦁ A key factor in evaluating opportunities.
⦁ More important than having an increase in holiday allowance.
⦁ More important than having a prestigious role.
⦁ More important than working for a prestigious company.
If many 100 candidates were asked whether they would be comfortable accepting a job without meeting any of the team in person (only via remote video calls) 73 candidates would accept the job immediately.
If they were asked how open they were for being remotely onboarded to a new company if provided the right support and resources, 64 candidates would strongly agree to take up this opportunity.
Lockdown measures have highlighted the value of workplace flexibility – particularly for people with kids. A total of 86% of parents now want to work flexibly, compared to 46% pre-coronavirus.
Reasons to consider WFH:
⦁ Employees Working Remotely Can Reinvest Their Commuting Time.
⦁ Distractions Go Down, Focus and Productivity Go up When Working Remotely from Home.
⦁ Remote Workers More Productive When It Comes to Meetings.
⦁ Working From Home Work-Life Balance.
⦁ Working From Home Means a Healthier, More Comfortable Life (If You’re Proactive).
⦁ Introverts are more productive while working from home.
⦁ Cost Saving: Benefits of Working from Home for Employers.
⦁ There Are Great Remote Workers All Over the World.
⦁ Temporary Staff Tends to Work Remotely.
⦁ Well, Why Not? Remote Working Works a Whole Lot Better Than It Used to.
As the economy slowly begins to reopen, whether or not COVID-19 accelerated inevitable trends in workplace culture remains to be seen. If so, taking Zoom calls in sweatpants may become the new normal for millions of workers.
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