January 2, 2023
Before 2020, the word “Work from Home” was an exotic word in the workplace. It was supposed to be requested by employee and “granted” by the Manager, as if it was a favour to the employee, or, was given to pregnant women or nursing mothers as a gesture. For others, it was an exception, that is, until the (Chinese?) virus took the centre stage on the earth and dictated terms. “Work From Home” became a serious necessity to prevent spread of virus in overcrowded transport, and the crowded office. Companies had to shut the workplace and request the employees to start “working from home”.
The virus reigned supreme for close to two and a half years, by which time, the institution of “work from home” was well established and taken for granted by employees as well companies and the wider society as well…so much so that, when the virus seemed to have taken a long break, many companies and employees were dithering to go back to the outdated and “backward practice “of going office to work. WFH had won over many champions, fans, votaries, and proponents.
What IT tools for remote work, crowded offices, crawling peak hour traffic and vehicles packed to the brim with office-goers could not do, the invisible deadly virus did. WFH has come to stay, virus or no virus. The virus wrecked the haloed, centuries old institution called “office.”
Now let us see how “work from home” impacts the employees and companies (i.e., employers).
Benefits of ‘Work from Home’ to employees
1. Employees need not cut short their sweet early morning sleep and rush to office in overcrowded vehicles during peak hour traffic, many a time skipping breakfast, foregoing grooming up for office, and reaching the office dishevelled and drained out, further taking 30 to 45 minutes to recover from the strain and pain of travel and to gear and groom up to office atmosphere and the day’s work (In many companies, employees used to change to formal clothing in the office).
Similarly, they need not tidy up the desk in the evening in a jiffy and catch transport back to home, facing again peak hour traffic. Effectively in “work from office,” employees had become machine-like, coming to office in half sleep, and going back home sleepy, not left with much time or energy to relate to other family members nor to unwind after work.
IN WFH, the idle and unproductive time, and the money and energy spent on travel is eliminated.
2. WFH facilitates working without the distraction of office chitchat / gossip. “Work from home” has also toned-down office politics.
3. No overcrowding as in the office premises. Office often has more employees than what is suggested as optimum by productivity experts (number of employees in the office far greater than the “ideal “).
4. At home, away from the watchful eyes of supervisors and colleagues, employees have flexibility to organise and complete the work as per their convenience, subject to the overall deadlines. They can work when they are in the right mindset to work, e.g., early morning or late evening. Some employees find WFH more conducive to concentration and focus.
5. Employees can tailor their work place in their homes by choosing the most suitable room or space of the house, giving due to consideration to outside view, ventilation, and lighting in the selected place. They can also choose the furniture (chair, table, storage cabinet etc.) for work as per their personal comfort.
6. Expense on formal wear and personal accessories (e.g., phone, office bag) is less in WFH. WFO was encouraging the employees to dress up and to look impressive to build “image” and stand out among the office crowd. Similarly, expense on travel and food is less (in cases where employer does not provide perks such as food or travel allowance or re-imbursements).
7. WFH enables employees to give more time to other family members, neighbours, and the community around.
Drawbacks of “WFH” to employees
1. Lack of support from colleagues and supervisors which was available in larger measure, when the workforce used to work from the same premise. Some employees might feel isolated while working from home.
2. WFH deprives employees of amenities available in offices, such as canteen/pantry, recreation room, better quality AC and Lighting and other facilities provided as part of employee welfare. Home office may not have facilities such as xerox/scan, printer etc.
3. Employees working from home do not develop bonding with colleagues beyond the requirements of work. WFH might also put an end to office romances (sometimes resulting in colleagues becoming couples!!).
4. Work and life overlap each other, constantly pulling the employee in different directions. That might lead to loss of productivity, quality of work, and focus of the employees, especially female employees, struggling to juggle between two roles at the same time and in the same place. In WFH model, there is no segregation of office and home, allowing the employees to concentrate on work when in office and to focus on domestic chores when at home.
5. In case of electricity failure or network / workstation problems, employee himself may have to the do follow-up required to get them fixed and up and running.
Benefits of WFH to employers
1. Less administration and establishment costs, less spending on employee amenities and welfare activities
2. Since travel to office is not required, productive hours and energy level of employees increases.
3. Downtimes due to power / network failure, stoppage of transport / natural disasters is less. In WFH, disruption is limited to individual work desks, or to some localities.
4. Employers can scout for talent in a larger geographical area, i.e., talented people who are based in locations distant from the company’s office locations.
5. Cases of inter-cultural issues, misbehaviour or harassment in the workplace is less in WFH.
6. Employees may not take leave of absence frequently, but rather prefer to encash or accumulate their leaves.
Drawbacks of WFH to employers
1. Employees might secretly work for multiple employers, or engage in private business, without being loyal to their prime employer.
2. Physical presence in the office induces competition among employees to express new ideas, leading to innovation at work, which is lost in WFH.
3. Collaboration in work may not be optimum. Working from office builds personal rapport amongst employees and discussion across table is more effective.
4. Employers find it difficult to enforce discipline, code of conduct, ethics, work place policies.
5. In WFH, companies find it difficult to comply with employee protection and welfare laws.
Whether one likes it or not, the number of employees working from home will only increase. WFH may transform into “Work from Any(where)” and “Work for Many (Companies)” in the coming years. Companies will increasingly look at productivity of the manpower rather than where they work from. They may not even bother about employees simultaneously working for many companies as long as the targets set by the company are met by the workers.