How the ‘goblin mode’ has impacted the Indian workforce

Will it be easy for professionals to switch off the goblin mode and shrug off their ‘sloppiness’ and return to office?

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Image Credit - William Tung

As a working professional, is your wardrobe full of clothes that you haven’t touched in the last two years? Have you been spending more time in your pyjamas and shorts than in formal wear? Do you no longer feel the urge to ‘dress up’? Are you no longer ridden with guilt if you skip a bath or have lunch after sunset or make yourself a sandwich at dawn? If your answer is ‘yes’ to all or most of these questions, chances are that you have settled into the ‘goblin mode’.

What is the ‘goblin mode’?

It is the tendency to avoid or shun anything that is aesthetically attractive. It is the urge to ‘just be’ and find comfort in one’s own space, in a laid back way. Basically, it describes a state of mind where people do not feel the desire or the need to dress up. Instead, they choose to be sloppy and lazy the whole day, and even exhibit anti-social behaviour, trying to avoid long conversations with each other.

As Dave McNamee, a self-proclaimed “real-life goblin” aptly tweets, “‘Goblin mode’ is like waking up at 2 a.m. and wearing nothing but a long t-shirt and shuffling into the kitchen to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines.”

“Freshers who joined the workforce during the lockdown may find it harder to get rid of the habits they developed during the pandemic once they begin working from office”

Jai Balan, head-HR, Bharti AXA Life Insurance

Why was the ‘goblin mode’ switched on?

Over the past two years or so, having been trapped at home for a significant period of time, most professionals have resigned themselves to this mode. And they cannot be blamed for this. After all, mobility was restricted. People could not travel much and there was less interaction with the outside world. So, they were able to go casual 24×7 within the four walls of their homes. They could sleep and wake up at odd hours, eat at will, dress as they preferred, or skip showering. Nobody came visiting and nobody noticed or even cared. The sloppy lifestyle thrived as there was no pressure to follow any norms.

Now that many companies across sectors have announced their intention to re-open their offices, they obviously expect their employees to return to working from office, albeit in a hybrid mode in certain cases. Most importantly, they expect their employees to switch off the goblin mode.

Twitter, which had announced a full-time remote-work policy for its employees, is now requesting them to come back to the office, although they still have the option to work remotely if they wish to. But do people want to?

“During the work from home regime, colleagues blocked each other’s calendars, discussed work-related topics and moved on for other calls at work,” says Jai Balan, head-HR, Bharti AXA Life Insurance.

Many experts around the world believe that it will be difficult for people to quit the ‘goblin mode’ now that it is time to return to office.

“Companies will have to make their offices more attractive by ensuring a homely environment that allows people to take power naps. They will have to be tolerant towards employees wearing casuals frequently to work. Firms that can do it, will win the talent war”

Mahipal Nair, CHRO, South Asia, Africa & Middle East, NielsenIQ

Are Indian professionals affected by the ‘goblin mode’ phenomenon?

Since the term has emerged from the West, we need to first understand how it has impacted the Indian workforce. Is the Goblin Mode even relevant in India?

Aversion to commute: Talking to HRKatha, Mahipal Nair, CHRO, South Asia, Africa & Middle East, NielsenIQ, does agree that there is definitely some reluctance in today’s workforce about working from office. “People have become used to the lifestyle and flexibility offered by the work-from-home model. That is why, they stop and ask themselves, ‘If work can be done from home, why travel to office every day?’” states Nair.

Demand for family time: Balan also stresses upon the fact that working from home allowed employees to easily attend to their domestic and family needs along with work. This flexibility will definitely be missed when work-from-office resumes.

Teething problems for freshers: The goblin mode may have impacted the younger generation more. “Freshers who joined the workforce during the lockdown may find it harder to get rid of the habits they developed during the pandemic once they begin working from office,” shares Balan.

Casual dressing: Kamlesh Dangi, group head-HR, Incred Financial Services, does not see the impact of the ‘goblin mode’ on his workforce. However, he does mention that employees at Incred come in dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts on some days. This was uncommon at Incred in the pre-pandemic days. Whether this is the impact of what the world is calling the ‘goblin mode’, is difficult to say.

“The company has not introduced any policy regarding casual wear. People have just started this trend of dressing casually on their own. However, as a company, we do not really mind this behaviour,” admits Dangi.

“The ‘goblin mode’ phenomena may have been more prominent in the West as people are more individualistic there”

Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm

Reluctance to work full time: Many reports and researches show that people feel reluctant to take up a full-time job, while there are also some people who are very happy working from office.

“In my office, I see that people are rather happy and joyful to start working from the office, including myself,” declares Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm.

Employees at Jio Infocomm were working from home for more than two years and have started working from the office this week. Bhide does not notice any major discomfort amongst people when it comes to reverting to a work-from-office culture.

“The ‘goblin mode’ phenomena may have been more prominent in the West as people are more individualistic there,” points out Bhide.

Even Balan agrees that people who enjoyed meeting others and worked in client relations or customer-facing roles are really happy to return to office.

Nair believes that going forward, companies will have to adopt a hybrid model to attract talent and offer a home-like environment to draw people to office.

“The company has not introduced any policy regarding casual wear. People have just started this trend of dressing casually on their own. However, as a company, we do not really mind this behaviour”

Kamlesh Dangi, group head-HR, Incred Financial Services

“Companies will have to make their offices more attractive by ensuring a homely environment that allows people to take power naps. They will have to be tolerant towards employees wearing casuals frequently to work. Firms that can do it, will win the talent war,” asserts Nair.

“As an organisation, we will have to decide whether the attire of the employee is more important or the output,” adds Nair.

While the ‘goblin mode’ may not be as pronounced in the Indian workforce as in the West, HR heads are certainly finding that people are reluctant to work from office every day. Either they want a hybrid model or a remote-work culture, whichever suits them better.

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