Article (June-2020)

Articles

Redefining Workforce

Ranjan Sarkar

Designation : -   Director HR

Organization : -  Eptisa India Pvt Ltd. Kolkata

01-Jun-2020

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A decade ago, working from home seemed like a dream especially in India where we neither had the infrastructure or the corporate practise to support it. Working from home attracted many,especially the ones living in the cosmopolitan cities as you could work out of your bed or you didn't have to pack your lunch, or drive for hours in traffic rush. Ask a millennial today and we learn that remote work is not really a dream anymore as organizations have become more flexible in allowing employees to work from home.Many young professionals are also choosing to work from anywhere because they work on freelance mode or as outsourced employee on assignment basis.

Apparently Work from home (WFH) looks great, until personal obligations gets in the way. While in office, you don't have to deal with distractions like getting up to answer the door for an Amazon delivery, playing host to a visitor who pays a visit or pausing work to prepare your next meal and probably support your family with daily chores. At home, it can be difficult to draw the line between personal and professional time and many professional struggles to decide when you're 'on' and when you're 'off'.

Professionals who have been successfully working from home for many years, and would possibly continue to do so, had effectively set up boundaries for themselves to actually get work done. Some of the productive WFH guidelines :

Define a schedule or create a clear workday :

It is important to schedule choices up front - whetherone decides to work for certain specific hours in the morning and in the evening, or in a time block between 9am to 6 pm - it is always better to stick to a pattern. This is more critical as with the lack of commuting, the work and time at home can get easily combined.

Establish rules for everyone around :

You cannot assume that everyone around you would be highly disciplined around you and therefore it is important to establish rules with your family or other roommates as applicable. It is significant that you clearly indicate to everyone around youthe work schedule which is followed and therefore shouldn't be disturbed with home chores during those hours.

Get dressed and take pauses :

Yes, it is important that you still need to take a shower and dress like you would do while going for work. To be more productive, it is crucial to avoid the temptation to "go to work" in shorts and a vest as your attire may not make you feel as determined to get work done. Some people may worry that they may not be seen as productive from home and therefore not disconnect as often. However taking short breaks can be more productive in the long run and hence should be practiced.

Identify a dedicated work area :

Make sure you create an adequate place to work at home. It is critical for your state of mind, both in terms of being in "on mode" at work and being able to disconnect at the end of the day.Make sure that the designated work area doesn't overlap much with your personal space and surely doesn't remind you that you're at home.

Have the right equipment :

While working from home, you would need to have quality equipment in terms of computer, printers, copiers etc and there won't be backupswhich we are used to in offices. Even the desktop support will be limited and on remote and hence need to be sure on the backup storage options, cloud services or hard-drives as appropriate for business continuity. It would be important to get yourself a good chair with great back support to be more productive and keep yourself healthy.

Stay in touch :

It is pertinent that we keep in touch with our supervisors and colleagues through voice and video calls. While at work, the interpersonal connection which we have is necessary to have a good engagement with the team. Make it a point to call at least one person every other day so you stay in touch with them and are up to date on what is going on at the office.

However the recent lockdown announced by the Government of India to stem the spread of COVID -19 has forced employers to ask their employees to stay at home and work. This exception might just become a standard practice, at least for certain section of the employees considering their nature of work, even after the current health crisis is resolved.

Referring to a recent report on work from home in Economic Times and sharing some key relevant excerpts - About two-thirds of the 4.3†million IT&BPO workforce across the country have moved to a work-from-home model to keep services uninterrupted during the lockdown. Experts say some companies are likely to move to WFH permanently.

Nasdaq-listed BPO and analytics firm EXL Service, which has about 70% of its 32,000 employees in India, expects some of its staffers to work from home on a long-term basis. Insurance aggregator PolicyBazaar.com also sees a similar trend. CEO Sarbvir Singh says, "The current situation has paved the way for a paradigm shift. It will allow us to distribute workforce across the country."

WFH will encourage more women to join the workforce as the hassles of travelling daily would disappear and shall a go a long way to bring back a large productive and skilled section who had to drop out of regular employment due to marriage or motherhood. This will help companies to have employees at a competitive market price thereby contributing to their profitability.

Other big reasons why the Corporates is also seriously considering WFH as a new constant, is because it involves cost savings, convenience and productivity gains, if the same is implemented correctly. Rental is a huge component, in addition, the cost of staff transportation, air-conditioning and ventilation, furnishing and cafeteria apart from the relevant Insurance cost for the workplace which is mandatory as per statute and also in line with the client's contract.

WFH will give companies more flexibility to move according to†business needs. Employees could be compensated based on transactions. "The more productive someone is, more they will be compensated," adds Kapoor of EXL. The average cost of an employee in analytics & BPO companies is $24,000 in office, which could decline to $18,000-20,000 in WFH, reckons Kapoor. Singh of PolicyBazaar.com says, "WFH has worked brilliantly for our employees. We plan to make it functional for at least 20-30% of our staff once things normalize." The fully loaded cost for PolicyBazaar.com, which has 13,000 employees, tends to be around 1.25-1.5x of the employee's salary. This money can come down drastically if WFH is implemented.

However, not all companies are bullish and realistically optimistic about implementing WFH at large for their employees across locations. At least the heads of two of the largest technology services players in the country have flagged up an issue.

The CEO and MD of Tata Consultancy Services, Rajesh Gopinathan, highlighted the need to restrict WFH for those who support critical and†confidential functions of global clients. On a LinkedIn post, he said: "We power financial backbones of several countries, support some of the largest healthcare and pharmacy companies in the world, run technology for governments and public services organizations." Infosys' CEO Salil Parekh also shared a similar concern, adding that "we continue to be guided by advisories from local†governments in the 46 countries we†
operate in."

Apart from security and regulatory issues, WFH also has a human challenge in terms of informal conversations, impromptu meetings, brainstorming and mentoring session which goes a long way to make the team productive and creative apart from imbibing company culture and practices which is critical to create an overall work ethics which†identifies companies at large and†
thereby help create a brand which sets them apart from their competition.

There could be challenges on the home front also. Many employees may not have a spare room at home for long term WFH, or, millennial living in†paying guest accommodations may not have the space or freedom to install the required infrastructure, such as a†broadband line or a power back-up†system which is essential to ensure†hassle-free WFH on long term basis. Power glitches, unstable internet†specially as required for the BPO†services is an area of concern, to add to this many companies are also skeptical about the outsourced work which†happens at odd hours and the†productivity of the team, if it is being delivered on long term basis through WFH model without direct supervision, considering strict TAT.

Delivering value from home will also have some other dimensions and more complications will possibly arise in the absence of clear WFH guidelines in statute, says Raman Roy, CMD of Quatrro Global Services. "Electricity companies might charge commercial rates for residences where office work is going on. Telecom permissions will be needed for better connectivity."

However it is true that the Covid-19 situation has made companies more accustomed to remote working. A complete evaluation of the pros and cons of remote working is needed with time and the current learningis testingof our resilience and capabilities to continue to deliver value while working remotely and keeping everyone safe. This will redefine workforce in near future and shall be a big driver to get people to work from the comfort of their homes!!