Coronavirus Outbreak: When Indians Work from Home

Sudhanshu Ramteke
Sunday, 22 March 2020

“You know, you’re living the life.” I woke up late in spite of it being a weekday, and this was the first thought that came to my mind. Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, I was finally getting to work from home (WFH). My happiness lasted exactly 20 minutes, and within the first hour of this much-awaited occasion, I realised three important things about working from Indian homes:

“You know, you’re living the life.” I woke up late in spite of it being a weekday, and this was the first thought that came to my mind. Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, I was finally getting to work from home (WFH). My happiness lasted exactly 20 minutes, and within the first hour of this much-awaited occasion, I realised three important things about working from Indian homes:

1. Trust issues: If you’re working from home, Indian parents will never believe that you’re “working”. They’ve seen their grandparents fight in the wars; parents toil in the fields and peers labour tirelessly to earn their daily bread. You sitting inside an air-conditioned room fiddling with a toy box isn’t going to fool them. Just like they never considered solving mathematics questions while listening to music as studying, they’re never going to classify WFH as working.

2. Respect: You know how everyone treats you with respect when you go to work? Well, that special treatment is reserved for people who actually “go to work”. People who WFH are treated like scripts in Tiger Shroff movies, like non-star kids in Karan Johar movies and like science in Rohit Shetty movies; low priority.

3. Being the Boss: You may be bossy around your colleagues, but at home, you’re just another Indian kid. And God forbid if you raise your voice to express your opinion, they’ll hit you with guilt that’ll stay with you till your last breath.

Several debates later, I was confused about what was happening. In my head, I should have finished my work by now and started binge-watching Netflix. But I hadn’t even started working thanks to all the distraction. I decided to focus on work for the next couple of hours but instead made some more enlightening observations about WFH:

1. When you’re in the office, you only worry about your work and nothing else. However, when you’re working from home, you start thinking about pending household tasks as well. Therefore, your mental list of unfinished chores haunts your peace every second. In fact, you can no longer stare at things blankly because ‘hey, that fan needs to be repaired’ and ‘that corner needs to be cleaned’.

2. Internet speed in India goes from “wow, this is quick” to “the attachment isn’t loading” real fast. If you’ve opted for WFH, keep message templates such as “Sorry, slow internet”, “My bad, connection lost”, “Apologies, my father switched off the Wi-Fi router instead of his mobile charger and is now shouting at me for using a cuss word” ready.

3. Fifty per cent of WFH involves talking to your colleagues on the phone and trying to sound as professional as possible. The other 50 per cent involves trying to find network signal and shouting “can you hear me now?” multiple times.

I was so busy with my own thoughts that I didn’t realise that it was almost noon. I joined the scheduled video conference call with my team, and that’s when we all realised why Indians don’t deserve WFH. During our 30 minutes call, we spoke to the background score of a pressure cooker, mixer grinder, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, singing kids, sulking elders, hungry pets, shouting news anchors and mothers randomly entering the room to offer refreshments. It was so noisy that at one point, I even started playing a mental game called ‘Guess what’s the manager having for lunch’ based on the sounds that were coming from his kitchen.

After the call ended, I even confirmed with him to know if I guessed it right. I did.

I was sent to buy groceries soon after my call ended because according to my brother, I was the only person in the family who they wouldn’t miss in case anything happened. When I returned, I couldn’t work for another hour because of unscheduled power cut in our area. Post that, lunch was served, and between all the negative vibes, it felt like the only advantage of WFH.

Had I wasted so much time while I was in the office, it would have been okay, but at home, I felt guilty. I began working in full swing after 3 pm and ignored all the distractions. I think everyone smelled this dedication from afar and started coming up with new methods to distract me. In the next two hours, I helped my mother with her YouTube recipes, my father with his WhatsApp update, my brother with his resume, my neighbour with his dog and my ex-girlfriend with her latest crush. 

By 5 pm, I had the good karma to save me from the deadly virus but zero completed tasks in my work list.

A Bengaluru company recently received a lot of backlash for allowing employees to work from home only on the condition that they remain in front of the camera for nine hours. After spending an entire day unproductively and yet feeling more tired than going to an office, I started feeling that maybe they were right. Sitting at home, working in pyjamas is overrated.

I started slogging, and by the time I finished my work, it was late in the night. I got up from my bed cum workstation, stretched out a bit, went to the drawing-room and finally switched on the TV to watch something on Netflix. My brother came out of the kitchen, gave me a judgmental look and commented something that made me throw the TV remote at him.

 “You know, you’re living the life,” he said.

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Here’s the other side: Six effective and healthy tips to work from home

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