Work from home forever?

Anugraha Rao
Thursday, 21 May 2020

Several industries are ready to adopt the WFH policy.While it should remain as an option, we cannot completely do away within-person meetings and human interactions in the future

In the month of April, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) announced that they are ready to allow 75 per cent of their workforce to work from home, by the year 2025. Recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that their employees can work from home (WFH) permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Tech giants like Google and Facebook have told most of their employees to keep working from home and they can continue doing so till 2021 if their work allows them to operate remotely. Amazon and Microsoft employees will stay home at least until October 2020.

WFH is an efficient work model and more and more organisations are realising it. We spoke to a few experts to know how adopting the work-fromhome policy even after the pandemic is over may work for certain sectors.

Hire anyone from anywhere

Pointing out a few benefits, Deepti Nanda, founder and head chef of Mom’s Kitchen, says that it is a win-win situation. “Employers do not have to invest in the infrastructure to support their workforce and this saves them a lot of money. Employees can save on travel expense as well.”

She adds, “Also, another great advantage is that talent hunting doesn’t have to be limited to a region or a locality. Recruiters can practically search for top talent all over the world and hire anyone from anywhere. This will certainly increase the quality of products and services provided by companies. Also, in the past, a lot of innovators failed to build a business empire because they never could generate enough funds to support an office infrastructure for the workforce. But now, as work-fromhome trend catches on, creating a new business will be comparatively easier, at least in some areas. Consequently, we should see a rise of new-age entrepreneurs.”

There are some businesses, of course, that depend highly on fieldwork, such as the commercial food business, where this model wouldn’t be feasible, but for those that don’t, WFH could be a great idea. Talking about WFH in the food industry, Nanda says that much of the staff in the food industry is always required at the site except for the ones developed, developing or updating their sites.

“We need chefs, assistants, delivery personnel and raw material procurers to keep our business running. The conditions inside a cloud kitchen are always in a state of flux – things change every minute. There’s so much going on, that even for someone in a managerial position, it would be difficult to keep track of things remotely. So, working from home isn’t much of an option for us,” she explains. WFH is also not a feasible option when it comes to the retail, manufacturing and healthcare sectors.

Increased productivity

Like many organisations, CARS24 also realised that most of their teams including marketing, product, tech and L&OD were able to adapt well to WFH. Their productivity remained intact and some even showed increased productivity.

“We have plans to adapt to a permanent work-from-home policy for our support teams depending on their nature of work. Although the staff will be required to attend the office for important meetings, paperwork and other formalities which require the presence of the individual,” says a spokesperson of CARS24.

Lockdown helped companies design a system to monitor process and progress of teams and track the productivity of individuals working from home.

Talking about the ideal situation, the spokesperson adds, “Ideally, I believe you need to have a dedicated workspace with a comfortable table and chair at your home which also keeps you away from any sort of distractions during video conferences. Otherwise, the major equipment needed for WFH is a laptop/ desktop, high speed internet connectivity, and an anti-glare screen, if the person’s work involves spending long hours in front of a screen.”

Preparedness is needed

Anoop Chaphekar, studio head, Toolbox Studio, says that opting for WFH is highly beneficial for both employees and employers in many different ways. “One can create website, write blogs or code on laptop and easily WFH, however, for people from the animation or VFX industry, it gets a little challenging. We work with a lot of heavy data, therefore, a person must have a good hardware and software, which not many people have at this point in time,” he says.

Addressing this issue, the studio has allowed a few employees to take office computer systems home and currently, 40 per cent of their employees are working from home. “We are planning to introduce a policy where employees will be allowed to WFH, though it is still in the pipeline. We can connect via VPN and the artists can access the files to work on,” he says.

The whole concept of introducing new models and policies is to be prepared for any future crisis. “Making the shift is to make sure that work happens flawlessly and we deliver the product to the client on time,” says Chaphekar adding that the current goal is to have 15 per cent of employees WFH and eventually, they are targeting to achieve 80 per cent.

Data protection

To be fully functional from home,  an employee working in the animation or VFX industry requires a few things. Chaphekar points out that they should have minimum 15-20 mbps internet speed, 16-32 GB RAM, and a good processor.

“For instance, if we hire anyone in future, these would be the basic requirements. Also, the most crucial thing is our data. We are ISO and TPN (Trusted Network Partner), which comes into the picture when we work on Hollywood movies or Netflix and Amazon series, and hence we have to follow data security norms to secure the content that we work on. Therefore, data protection would be the most looked after aspect while an employee works from home,” he says.

Work shifts can  be an option

Opting for WFH reduces operation costs for a company. “However, I think that there are a few people who get bored of sitting at home and working and need change after some time. What they can do is work in shifts. They can work for a month from home and the next one month from the office,” says Chaphekar. This concept can help them bond with their team from time to time and allow them some quality time with their families as well.

Recently, in an interview with New York Times, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out how working from home should not be a permanent option. He said that video conference calls can never replace in-person meetings.

“What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after,” Nadella said in the interview, adding further, “What does burnout look like? What does mental health look like? What does that connectivity and the community building look like? One of the things I feel is, hey, maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?”

Let us hope that WFH remains a viable option in the future but to stay happy and healthy, we need human interactions at the workplace post coronavirus.

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