Article (June-2020)

Articles

It will bring new work dynamics

Abhinanda Bhattacharya

Designation : -   HRBP

Organization : -  Asort, new Delhi

01-Jun-2020

50785 Total View        

How COVID-19 is going to impact the work of future and what can be the framework of work from home model?

AB Covid has established that efficiency can be achieved while working from home. Given the factor that employees can tend to their household requirements, somewhere WFH is more conducive to productivity.

If you speak of framework, I guess other than the IT sector we are not yet in a place to actually full-fledgedly adopt the same. But as crisis brings creativity, covid has pushed most major corporations to develop unique ways to accomplish the same.

One thing has to be understood that when we say work from home it is not home, it is working from anywhere but the designated office space. WFH is basically pointing to a mobile workforce who prefers working in their own time and from their preferred place.

Large organizations opting for a WFH policy would see a tremendous reduction in establishment costs (rent, electricity, housekeeping etc) and even training costs would reduce as the training medium would also go online. The reach would increase as remote employees means you are basically looking at a global workforce.

Going by the current scenario, I believe there would be statutes coming up in future to govern this group of workers. As let's face it, for sectors where it is feasible, remote working would be a reality post-covid and employees would prefer companies providing this option over commuting to a place to work.

Do you think that work from home has been a compulsive opportunity created by Covid for organisations during crisis? Can it be long term viable solution?

AB Absolutely. I believe post Covid we would be looking at new paradigm when it comes to workplaces. Earlier Contingency plans never included a situation like we are seeing now. Organizations are already building up on the current situation to be ready for the next one.

And a long term solution, I feel yes. While some sectors can do it beautifully, there would always be sectors with more challenges. For e.g. the manufacturing sector needs people on their assembly lines with a supervisor to monitor them. As well as other requirements as per statutes which actually brings about the need for more people to be physically present. And not just manufacturing but utility sectors like Electricity, Medical etc. These professions also can never ever Work from Home! But even in these fields while running an establishment there would always be profiles that can operate from home and pretty successfully. Organizations need to brainstorm on that.

How much remote working readiness has been achieved by Indian organisations and how workplace relationship will be redefined in such organisations?

AB So far it was few MNCs if service sector and that too mostly IT, that had the option for Work from Home. Right now almost all the sectors have implemented WFH wherever possible. This has already lead to a new relationship dynamics between pre-established teams. Firstly, the Managers now would have to ensure ways of keeping each member more focused and engaged in the job at hand. Meetings have to be shorter and more precise. Plus Managers cannot now completely ignore family of the employee as they are now right there in front of him. Employees on the other hand are showing more efficiency. As sectors not accustomed to WFH are facing an issue of timeliness towards meeting deadlines, with passing days this issue will only lead to better collaboration. Instead of fault finding we should now focus on playing up the strengths while covering up for each others' weaknesses to ensure we deliver.
I guess to some extent, the fall in profits being faced worldwide has brought everyone, from manager to the employees, in front of the question of survival. We are seeing much better collaboration from every remote team. Much more than we saw earlier.

What is important- 9 to 5 office work culture or work output? What organisations should do to ensure better productivity adopting work from home model?

AB Of course output. What is the use of having a team working 9 to 5 with zero output? I feel post-Corona if you are shifting to a WFH model you need to have ready in hand few things:

a) The deliverables with timeline: Ensure the employees know exactly what is needed and by when. A morning stand up should ensure everybody is on the same page for the day. If not possible everyday then weekly.

b) Internet devices with high speed plans as a part of devices being handed over in on boarding. This has to be looked into based on region and network availability as not all employees would be working from the same place.

c) A policy for calendar updation: This would ensure transparency. You would know exactly when your resource is available and when he is engaged in personal activities. For WFH, personal time has to be respected. You cannot expect to burden employees just because they are at home! This would backfire in a terrible manner.

d) Use communication tools like Slack/Taiga in place of mails. Mails would be there of course, but if an employee is working it's better to communicate via these and other mediums. And also in case of blocks, be proactive to sort them out.

e) An Induction or on boarding experience that covers basics of the remote culture and the behaviour/etiquettes expected.

What kind of problems and challenges will be faced in future and how HR should prepare to meet while implementing WFH?

AB I feel the challenges would be mostly related to productivity, lack of time management, remote connectivity issues and most importantly confidentiality issues. HR would have to step in to train employees in remote etiquettes, time management and most importantly communication.

The biggest role would be to establish the culture to task based. To ensure deadlines are met, employees have to know what is expected and by when. This role clarity requires HR intervention.

Next, a call has to be taken on clocking work time for remote employees, dealing with their benefit applications, compensation issues and other grievances. Maintaining clear connect with them!

Feedback from the teams and planning development programs, or trainings for these remote workers would be another challenge as effectiveness of these trainings has to be assessed.

Also, there have to ground rules about the home environment that has to be maintained at least when any employee, regardless of level attends a remote meeting. Basic rules like non-intrusive space, noiseless, etc.

What requires to be done in keeping virtual teams engaged and productive and bring sense of togetherness?

AB I feel more can be achieved by better communication. Maintaining a notice board in an online dashboard accessible to all employees with answers to FAQs.. The proactiveness shown during covid time, should be extended in all aspects when handling online teams of future.

They should have a clear idea of what is in offer and how to get them. The more you succeed in this aspect the more engaged workforce you get.

Another important program that we mostly ignore is the EAP program. Mental health issues faced by employees can be handled discretely and effectively through an effective EAP in place. This goes a long way in earning employee trust. Especially in the current scenario, EAP programs are thriving and being resorted to like never before.

And as HRs we need to develop a habit of speaking to them if not daily but on a regular basis. Stand ups, Skips, one on ones. these should be actively done and not always based on work. You have to look into the person first. If your employee is happy and trusts you, you will get work done.

What can be the positive and negative effect of WFH on company work culture?

AB Positives:

Work life balance, better time management; access a larger employee pool, reduction in establishment and training cost, retention percent increases while attrition and absenteeism decreases. The culture is positively boosted with the message that the company believes and respects personal life.

Negatives

All jobs like manufacturing and agriculture cannot come under this umbrella and the cause of biggest concern is confidentiality breach and threat to intellectual property. Excessive work load dumped as employee is at home.

Can use of excessive technology to make WFH workable also bring the cyber and IPR threats to business organisations and how to mitigate such threats?

AB Apart from a few IT based MNCs; we are not prepared to tackle security breaches that come with using online mediums for work. A few things can be followed:

  • Accessing internet only through company provided dongles and avoiding public wifi networks
  • Using only work computer for work
  • Disabling external device from accessing
  • Use VPNs
  • Strong firewalls and anti-malware

But we are still in the process of actually having a solid solution towards handling breaches and encroachment to our intellectual property by third party while employees are on WFH. Hopefully with time we would figure out better ways to handle this breach.