Portable Office: A Dream Concept to Reality

An article by Sujitesh Das, an HR professional and COO, HealthWorksAI

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Before Covid, the idea of work-from-home was a fantasy to many. With the onset of the pandemic, multiple businesses were forced to close their office set ups and operate remotely. This definitely accelerated the concept of work-from-home, beyond its discrete existence amongst the tech companies earlier. But a complete work-from-anywhere avatar was something, which almost no firm had executed on.

However, with Covid having receded and people immunised, it has obviously taken a strong hold, with many enterprises allowing their employees to choose their workspace – whether they want to work in the office, remotely, or in a hybrid work model – while few have opted to let their employees work-from-anywhere permanently.

According to PwC’s India Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, about 81 per cent of employees in India believe that their jobs can be done remotely. Almost 73% of the occupiers in India are evaluating hybrid working arrangements going forward, according to the ‘2022 India Office Occupier Survey’ by real estate consulting firm CBRE. Since the epidemic, the number of remote job posts on LinkedIn has also grown by over five times. Better frameworks and policies from the government are coming in place to properly regulate and make continued work-from-home feasible, while an area where planning and implementation is an absolute necessity is guidance for adapting to prolonged remote online work.

At HealthWorksAI, our mission has been to achieve productivity through engagement by employees regardless of where they operate from. The work-from-anywhere culture has benefited us as well as our employees. Companies no longer need to provide office equipment and physical infrastructure, which reduces the costs of maintenance or services and helps redirecting the operational expenditures to other strategic investments within the organisation.

When an employee works from home, she or he is in their respective comfort zone, which has several encouraging effects on the outcome. There is no need to leave home early with the intention of arriving at the office on time, packing office supplies such as bags including a lunch box, and even dressing up! Also, remote working for employees with physical disabilities or mental health concerns can drastically improve their lives. Not only are their own homes more equipped to help them thrive while working, they’re also able to provide themselves with adequate self-care as needed.

Work-from-anywhere culture promotes work-life integration to yield positive results. Our employees communicate with peers and supervisors electronically; holding virtual meetings helps protect the environment by reducing automobile emissions and carbon footprints. This benefits the environment and can help position companies as good corporate stewards.

But there are a few drawbacks too of virtual communication – one of the major challenges being collaboration – the key that builds a team on the foundation of relationship among the employees and ultimately an organisation. Groups and individuals are impacted by continued remote work that doesn’t offer or permit a setting conducive to camaraderie and partnership. In a world where everyone is connected through technology, it is difficult to disconnect both digitally and physically which, in turn, poses a serious issue of being overburdened with work and becoming burnt out. Doesn’t all work and no play make Jack a dull dude and Jill a gloomy gal?

But today’s youth is much more aware of their priorities in terms of mental health, work-life balance and social issues, and has a completely different working style than what existed even a decade ago. As a result, it has become critical for organisations like ours to adapt to changing times in order to focus on the employees’ needs while maximising productivity. During the pandemic, we too transitioned to an office-less model and then a ‘no-office-at-all’ version, leveraging the benefits of this growing work-from-home culture. We have always believed in employer-employee trust and mutual respect and hence the transition to work-from-anywhere has been smooth.

We have also come out with multiple democratised ways to ensure continuous interactions and team collaborations. One such unique and interesting concept is of the ’Portable Office’ that focuses on employee bonding through weeklong work retreats at different destinations like Goa, Mussoorie, etc, once every quarter! Our employees travel to the retreat location from more than thirty different home locations, be it a village, town or city, traversing states and districts, to socialise with the organisational herd, ultimately recharging themselves and cherishing the companionship of their colleagues, otherwise visible and or heard on digital screens!

These retreats involve working from a co-working resort or a bleisure hotel, aligning with one of our stated company values – ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’! A combination of slog and fun, these work retreats provide an avenue for employees to huddle face to face, addressing needs of socialisation and carrying our company culture forward in the physical format – from all hands meetings, OKR huddles, peer knowledge sharing sessions to sight-seeing and DJ nights – we have it all. To facilitate and promote the health dimension, we have baked in mindfulness sessions and fitness-driving games. And not to forget, the invitation to our ‘Portable Office’ is extended to those who have been offered by us and are yet to join!

The author Sujitesh Das is an HR professional and COO, HealthWorksAI

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