‘Work from home’ (WFH) isn’t something new. For years, it has been an optional practice in many organisations, where people had the choice to opt for it whenever they needed to.
However, during the lockdown across the world, WFH became an enforced practice born out of sheer compulsion. In the last 50-odd days, many have started believing that ‘work from home’ is the new normal.
Some companies have even gone ahead and announced that they will continue with the practice for a longer period of time, given that the model has been quite successful during the lockdown.
While we do not disagree with the flexibility and other benefits of work from home, what we cannot ignore is the fact that WFH doesn’t have the potential to become a long-term practice. There are many limitations that come with it.
As Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, has said, “All-remote setup would be ‘replacing one dogma with another dogma’.”
What has changed now is that, there has been a sudden drift from ‘choice’ to a strict ‘mandate’, which is to be followed in a majority of cases
The first reason why people can’t work from home for ever, is because human beings are social by nature. They need to interact with each other. Even in the workspace, the interactions with colleagues are equally important.
Rajkamal Vempati, head-HR, Axis Bank, shares with HRKatha, “One of the critical barriers to working from home could be the loss of a physical social network. Socialisation has always helped us break away from the usual monotony of our daily workload. The informal interactions, corridor conversations – all foster creativity and act as a secret glue to cross-functional/cross-team collaboration.”
Not just creativity, but lack of socialising can have a serious impact on a person’s mental health as well.
if the places of rest become similar to the offices, then one can never learn the art of balancing the two, and there will be no ‘clock out’ time from work
“Even a mere walk with an office mate can help provide welcome distraction and release one from the usual household issues. Though the same can happen over zoom calls, people will still miss that personal connect. Besides, teaming up with the workplace from within the confines of the four walls of one’s own house, can cause a lot of mental tension,” points out Anil Jalali, former CHRO, Capegemini.
“Creativity too can get affected as there is no air of new thought touching people,” adds Jalali.
Even if individuals are able to overcome the mental health and creative challenges, they will still have to deal with a few others, especially the logistic challenges. Most Indian homes, particularly in the cities, do not have spaces that can be used as exclusive workspaces, and that is a genuine practical problem.
one of the critical barriers to working from home could be the loss of he physical-social network
Harsh Gupta, director, Anthurium, a real estate company which specialises in commercial office spaces, says, “Indian houses aren’t designed for people to carry on with their office work. An average Indian can afford a mere one-bedroom or max a two-bedroom house, where there are no studies for them to work out of.”
Besides, if both the spouses are working, then work from home can be really messy.
In addition, with ‘WFH, the entire work-life balance can go for a toss.
Indian houses aren’t designed for people to carry on with their office work
“Work from home may make balancing the work and home rather challenging. In the current scenario, where even the household helps are not available, the burden of house work also falls on the employee. And with schools closed, managing the children’s activities and their learning has only added to the challenge,” says Ramesh Mitragotri, CHRO, Ultratech.
He further explains that earlier if the complaints pertained to extensive meeting hours, which hampered productivity, now there are even longer and untimely telephonic and zoom calls the whole day. As a result, employees feel more exhausted than they would have felt from physical meetings, as the higher frequency of calls drains them out.
“The concept lays emphasis on how one needs to manage both the aspects, that is, work and home. But if the places of rest become similar to the offices, then one can never learn the art of balancing the two, and there will be no ‘clock out’ time from work,” points out Sunil Singh, CHRO, Cadila.
Work from home may make balancing the work and home rather challenging
Jalali explains, “What has changed now is that, there has been a sudden drift from ‘choice’ to a strict ‘mandate’, which is to be followed in a majority of cases. Earlier, working from home was a luxury employees could avail, but today it’s a compulsion and going to office is no more a choice.”
Rather than making WFH a compulsion, the HR fraternity should devise strategies to revamp the existing work policies.