The key side effect of social distancing emerged due to Covid is that it has also distanced people from their workplace. In current circumstances the concept of 'Work from Home' (WFH) is very much instrumental as it is the only viable option for several organizations to mitigate the loss of work.
Both the concepts, 'work from home' and 'work from office' have thrived well together because human beings are opportunistic by behavior as well as choice. This is why with the advancements in information and technology (IT) science the WFH is again a popular practice.
My job profile has always allowed me to become a potential member of the WHF community. Not all, but many employees like me, are used to doing WFH on leave days and after office hours, either voluntarily or out of some commitment to submit a deliverable within a given time. But doing work from home during complete lockdown of COVID-19, I am going through varied experiences where not only I can see myself but also visualize others in the same frame of WFH. Now within WFH, I can compare two different situations. One when one works from home in normal times and now during COVID-19 lockdown. In normal time, one follows the 'Self Imposed Social Distancing' to concentrate on work and but doing WFH in COVID-19 one has to follow 'Mandatory Social Distancing'. COVID-19 lockdown has given me an opportunity to understand the WFH with a new approach because the situation that emerged after COVID-19 lockdown is different, what we usually experience in normal days.
Starting with work ethics and values, it looks as WFH in COVID-19 lockdown may affect some of them. All types of work cannot be done alone and all types of work don't want a team always. Still in office setting the credit is duly shared in the team by acknowledging everyone's minor or major support in the accomplishment of the task, irrespective of whosoever has led the task. Inside an office everyone is motivated to work as a team. But if a person is completing a task alone at WFH then the 'we' feeling of the team will be compromised. Responsibility sharing is easier in an office rather than in WFH, where the process of getting support may require more explanations. There can be refusal and avoidances by colleagues on the other side, who can also be busy with their priorities. Besides that, the human values of compassion can also be hurt because working together in office also gives rise to some sort of bonding among the teammates. Their official discussions are inclusive of personal matters and knowledge as a means to satisfy internal urges of sharing wisdom, or seeking guidance or showing prudence or providing psychological support. In an office set up the anxiety, fear, and tension on the face are more obvious to colleagues, which make it easier to earn their sympathy and support. Such features of working in an office are hard to achieve in case of WFH because technology can never bring those emotions. In an office every achievement is celebrated as a success and each failure is discussed not just to fix the responsibility but for the learning of all.
Office also gives another advantage of 'Task monitoring', which is an important management aspect. Traditionally as well, the supervisors have mental conditioning that work can be effectively done if staff is sitting in front of their eyes. The role of IT too, is very crucial in monitoring. IT has now provided different human friendly choices to monitor every action of any person from anywhere by remaining in constant touch. 'Social distancing' is overruled by 'IT enabled contiguity'. On the other hand, frequent official calls for deliverables and reviews with the bosses ultimately create an inside feeling of being in office. Although, the embarrassment of being monitored has also been moderated by replacing it with the word 'handholding', but surely this type of handholding can also be very exasperating because how long one would like to be in touch and at what frequency, might not be researched so far. Moreover, at office the disturbances due to 'boss callings', 'official meetings', 'chatting' and 'gossiping' are somewhat acceptable for the delay in completion of tasks. But the disturbances during WFH hours can neither be shared nor will be considered. Even the long potential hours consumed in frequent official calls, discussions, counseling, reviews etc. are difficult to adjust in the time based accounting of WFH daily deliverables.
Although, home is the best place to get peace and rest, all homes cannot give the same level of mental and physical comfort for a longer period like one gets in a well-furnished office. In urban India about 35% of households have just one room or no exclusive room and about 47% families are living in a joint family system (Census 2011). The average household size in India is 4.9 (Census 2011). So the presence of other family members is surely a nuisance in†concentrating on work. Many of my colleagues, who are living in flats, are going through issues like suffocation, claustrophobia due to limited movement and lack of access to open sky, sunlight and moon. They don't have extra space to release the double stress of WFH and social disconnect due to lockdown. Work is worship but unlike worship, one doesn't need to do work every day. When we feel exhausted, we like to take a break from work to relax ourselves for a change. In the mandatory WFH during COVID-19 lockdown how long a normal person would like to lockdown in home, if people like me, who enjoy WFH, are also now feeling annoyed. Those employees who feel themselves more productive in a peaceful environment of office can never like it.
The war against COVID-19 is getting extended and with that the situation is also getting tensed and worrisome. WFH now seems to me not just the case of an individual but a whole family. Being at home, living with family cannot allow a person to play a dual role of 'an employee' and 'a family member'. Totally locking oneself on the laptop by completely ignoring family members can give birth to new tensions. It is difficult to always remain humble to kids who want to play with their parents available at home throughout the day. Just imagine, what is happening to those couples, where both husband and wife are doing WFH and nobody else in the family to take care of kids. Children's mismanagement can destroy the whole management of WFH. The domestic help by maid and services from vendors and delivery agents is also†discontinued due to lockdown. Distribution of household chores is necessary to show gender sensitivity and to prove sharing of household†responsibility.
WFH during COVID-19 has given rise to a lot of new thoughts, which will be†certainly researched once this pandemic is over. Researchers would like to know how many families or how many members in how many families worked from home during COVID-19? How the couples managed their children during WFH? How the social and family life of people was affected? How employees and organizations were able to meet each other's expectations during WFH in COVID-19? How WFH has helped organizations to compensate for the loss of work hours? Whether the†workstation really matters in terms of quality, time and amount of work? There can be surveys to understand the†psycho-social impact of WFH on people and their coping mechanism. Revision of Human Resource policy or†creation of WFH guidelines by some organizations can also happen. Organizations may like to know the preference about the work station of employees.
One can analyze the merits and demerits of WFH. But it cannot be denied that WFH in lockdown condition is the best gift for the employees to†maintain the flow of payment for their work.
(With additional Inputs from CEO Sh. Rajesh Ranjan}