Post the pandemic, will offices be like restaurants?

Will working from office become a once-in-a-while activity? Many HR leaders feel that there is a likelihood of the same, provided the industry or sector offers flexibility.

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Often people wish to escape the ordeal of cooking at home and prefer to dine at a restaurant for a meal or two. The urge to eat out for a change on certain days is mostly born out of a need to break the monotony of eating at home daily. Will the same happen with offices?

Will people work from home on most days, but go to offices once in a while, just to break the monotony, or as and when required? May be just for a meeting or discussion? Just as people also visit restaurants on special occasions or for a personal / business interaction?

Kamlesh Dangi, CHRO, Incred, agrees, “Organisations are likely to become the new restaurants that employees will not visit as regularly as they did when remote working was not even an option. Earlier, employers did have reservations about work-from-home, but by compulsion they were forced into the structure.”

As productivity has clearly not suffered much, and remote working has promised a lot of growth on the work front, employees will have the flexibility to choose the work structure when offices reopen.

Kamlesh Dangi

The pandemic has surely moved the needle towards work from home, but there are very limited jobs where this arrangement can be followed

 

Although Dangi isn’t confident about work-from-home being considered efficient, he is certain that people will not be as apprehensive as they were of the concept before it came to be considered normal.

“Most of the organisations will agree to the remote-working structure, and the possibilities of working from office twice a month or once in a week can come true,” Dangi adds.

Rohit Kumar, CHRO, Kelloggs, has a different take on this. “While it is the individual who is the deciding factor when it comes to grabbing a meal at a restaurant, organisations work differently. It is the organisations that decide whether employees will work remotely or from offices, and ultimately, employees will be faced with an organisational need to come to work,” he explains.

Unlike workplaces, nobody can dictate individuals to have a meal in a restaurant or cook at home. “I will decide whether I would want to go to a QSR, or a fancy dining place or eat at home,” Kumar adds.  The way organisations are structured, Kumar continues, whether employees really wish to or not, they will have to work from offices on most occasions.

Normally, one goes to a restaurant, orders a meal, eats and returns home. In Kumar’s words, what makes this exercise different from going to office for work, is the fact that one has to work from office, whether one likes it or not — the decision doesn’t lie in the hands of the employee.

Rohit Kumar

The way organisations are structured, whether employees really wish to or not, they will have to work from offices on most occasions

In an organisation, largely, there are different kinds of job roles and responsibilities. Some roles leave room for an employee to work from home most of the time and work from 0ffice occasionally.

The customer-facing employees will mostly be clearly required to be present in the office. Also, most of the collaborative jobs are best performed in the office, while individual contributors are able to work fairly well from home.

The question needs to be narrowed down to, ‘Which industry is this in?’

Unlike manufacturing companies, most product-based IT companies, Dangi feels, can work in a structure where the flexibility of work is much more as compared to other sectors.

“In financial services, we will fall somewhere in between. Few of the offices will still require the physical presence of employees in the office, but at the same time, a lot of work can be done remotely, provided the employee has a laptop,” Dangi adds.

If regulatory issues can be addressed, companies that see work-from-home as a viable long-term option, will provide flexibility to employees to either work from office or remotely.

Dangi also agrees that the number of such organisations, where employees can work from office once in a week is less. “The pandemic has surely moved the needle towards work from home, where there is flexibility and biases people about not working from home properly have faded away. But,  there are very limited jobs where this arrangement can be followed”, he adds.

Kumar agrees that there are certain activities such as collaboration, conversations on appraisal and career guidance, which are best performed in person.

As offices reopen and employees begin returning to their workplaces, they will have to brace themselves for changes never imagined before. No longer will they be able to stroll into the cafeteria at will, or get together with their peers for an informal chat. They can only look forward to a socially-distanced meal with colleagues, and that too if it has been planned in advance. Just like in restaurants, companies have come up with initiatives where employees can book their desired slots at the cafeterias and pre-order food, based on their schedules.

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