The lockdown has taught us many lessons and also transformed workplace practices like never before. Both the organisation and the employees have enjoyed the flexibility and have focused more on deliverables, while telecommuting.
Will India Inc. retain this flexibility at the workplace? Will it be less rigid on certain aspects and continue to focus just on deliverables?
HRKatha spoke to few industry leaders to understand the bigger reality of the current situation, and what it has in store for employees and organisations.
In the past, physical workplaces with rigid work timings were a matter of importance. However, with the advent of remote working—in the lives of many— the paradigm of the workplace is bound to change, for the good.
Earlier, a woman, post maternity leave, was no longer considered for a key position, owing to the several responsibilities that were already present in her life
Ramesh Mitragotri, CHRO, Ultratech Cement, holds a similar point of view. He agrees that once the situation is back to normal, the way we may work will be slightly different than before.
“With the shift from a physical workplace to a remote one, there will be several people who could deliver what they ought to deliver. For certain roles, as earlier, geography will hold little significance in terms of looking for the best talent or the deserving candidate, as this flexibility of work will fall in place in the near future,” Mitragotri explains further.
In the words of Joyeeta Chatterjee, chief people officer, Future Consumer, “Earlier, there was the notion that only the tech companies can work from home. Today, however, many companies have experimented with it. For some it has worked and for others, depending on the sector, it hasn’t worked at all. The experience has been a mixed one.”
Chatterjee continues, “We are into essential services. So we have had to work even harder to ensure delivery.”
Prabir Jha, a senior HR leader and an HR strategist, thinks it is too early to declare that the workplaces have become more flexible.
Although Jha agrees that the crisis has provided companies, leaders and individuals with a huge opportunity to flex their thinking and actions, he considers the decisive change to be more ‘hope’ than ‘real’ as of today.
“There are some job roles that will allow for more flexibility, while others just cannot happen from home. We truly have to look at ‘flexibility’ more comprehensively.”
Jha believes that flexibility should be more of a mind issue than the same beaten-to-death engagement issue for it to strike deeper roots.
Will flexibility clash with discipline?
Mitragotri believes that our concept of discipline is different. In a normal situation, discipline meant being physically present in the office premises, which is contrary to the remote working culture. As the latter requires no physical presence, managing the time is considered to be more critical and discipline comes after that.
Earlier, there was the notion that only the tech companies can work from home. Today, however, many companies have experimented with it
Jha is of the view that discipline has, for too long, been seen as physically constraining and flexibility was considered as being inbuilt in the definition of discipline. This notion, Jha feels, has destroyed a larger strategic intent of flexibility. And only when we bring flexibility to our thinking will we be able to truly practice flexibility in our doing.
Flattening gender disparity
In the past, many women were unable to join the workforce because companies were not flexible with regard to office timings. Also, physical presence at the workplace was priority. Will flexibility bring in more women to the workforce and flatten the gender disparity?
Mitragotri considers this flexibility in work to be a boon for the opposite gender as roles will be more defined and unbiased now. He believes, “Earlier, a woman, post maternity leave, was no longer considered for a key position, owing to the several responsibilities that were already present in her life.”
Continuing further, Mitragotri also throws light on the change in the concept of work, which will allow a female employee to break through the shackles and contribute flexible work hours at home.
There are some job roles that will allow for more flexibility, while others just cannot happen from home. We truly have to look at ‘flexibility’ more comprehensively
According to him, every organisation can leverage flexibility in the workplace once the situation is back to normal. “In the present scenario, when an organisation hires, the focus should be on an employee’s talent — who can deliver their best— given the flexible hours to operate.”
Chatterjee, on the other hand, feels that organisations are really being conscious and keeping their hiring decisions on hold, unless they are extremely critical. Whether the flexibility is going to change the diversity ratio, is still uncertain.
As far as hiring notions are concerned, Chatterjee opines that although we may see some gradual changes in some of the hiring notions and decisions, how soon this will be reflected in the hiring decisions is unknown.