Employee: Hey! I need to be physically present at home tomorrow for some personal reasons, but I can work from home. Could you please grant me the same?
Manager: No…no! we don’t work that ways. After all what are the offices meant for? Work from home is meant only for specific roles and in specific situations.
This used to be the conversation for many of us before the lockdown in March 2020. It all proved to be wrong, eventually. For those, whose work was not bounded by a physical workplace, work never came to standstill and continued as smoothly as it was ever. Gradually work from home became the new norm. Solutions were figured out and employees were enabled with the required infrastructure. With the passage of time, I had few questions in my mind and to fill in these missing links I spoke to a few people belonging to the corporate world. Their experiences and insights are quite intriguing.
Shweta, a Developer from the finance domain, living in Mumbai working with a global bank, says that she was happy about the travel time being saved. But her work hours got extended. Office work was the only thing that she was doing throughout the day. There was no physical activity and work-life balance was significantly impacted. Though she was able to live with the family, she was missing on the office chit-chats during the small tea breaks. She got enough support from the organization w.r.t. infrastructure, but the trust factor had depleted with her manager. “He used to keep me over-loaded with a lot of work on more than one project just to make sure that I am being completely utilized.” She also says that while she switched to another organization recently, there was no sense of belongingness during her online onboarding.
“I was actually invading my family’s space”, says Arjun, a Senior Sales Operations Analyst from the IT industry. He says that “while attending meetings online, we were not the ones getting disturbed rather we were the ones disturbing our families.” He also says that when you work from home, family sees you as available and expects you to spend time with them even during office hours. Even though productivity and efficiency did not suffer much, physical presence and team bonding was still being missed. He feels that office is better place to work because that helps you keep your work life balance sorted. In fact, we even learn a lot from our workplace apart from all the technical learnings.
Sophia, a Corporate Communicationist working with an Automotive Components manufacturing company, says upfront that “to each his own but I simply hate the concept of work from home. There is no routine, and I cannot create a sense of urgency when I need something.” She believes that office gives you a designated focus area and you also feel relaxed when you are back home. Change of place actually helps!
Mayank, a Lead Business Analyst from the financial sector feels that even though work from home has worked well in his case, still there are extended working hours and co-ordination-based challenges even for discussing trivial matters. He strongly believes that company should realize that targets can be achieved from the base location itself and the expenses over travel etc. were unnecessary.
During these conversations, I realized that people do talk about some benefits of work from home but at the crux of it, they wanted to get back to the office space with a flexibility of work from home. A lot of talk is going about this and there is a mix trend emerging w.r.t. to their views and opinions but there is unanimity about one thing and that is working from office should continue.
The kind of life we have lived during lockdown was absolutely unimaginable before it actually happened. But gradually things are settling down and a lot has already come back to normalcy. As this too shall pass, when we will look back at it, we will remember it only as hard time. Having a separate workplace is a wise concept, as it helps not only in clearly defining boundaries of professional and personal life but also in improving team bonding, social life and understanding human sensitivities.
This is my take on the topic. Please do share your views in the comments box.