Is work from home permanent even after the pandemic?

Work From Home Remote Working Technology Hybrid Work Structure Gig Economy Contingent Workforce
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The year 2020 will go down in history for a number of reasons. As we grapple with national lockdowns, quarantine, and why to work from home, we are also evolving to make way for new norms and changes in the environment as well as in job markets worldwide. But as we adjust to these new rules and work-from-home setups, we can’t help but wonder if these changes are here to stay. Just a few months ago, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey released an official statement on reopening offices amidst the pandemic. The statement read - “If our employees are in a situation that enables them to work-from-home and they want to continue to do so forever, then we will make that happen.” The keyword used here was “forever” and that began the acceptance of this new normal across the world.

India's workforce has adapted to permanent remote working:

Since the majority of IT sector jobs in India require just a laptop and decent net connectivity, India's private sector has responded well to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Recent reports have shown that the IT industry in India enabled work from home for a whopping 90% of the workforce. This action was greatly applauded by the former CFO at Infosys, Mohandas Pai. The IT veteran also went on to say that around 30% of the employees will work from home in rotation even post the coronavirus outbreak. Similarly, Tech Mahindra’s CPO (Chief People Officer) Harshvendra Soin, also commented that there was a high likelihood that the future of the company would have a mix of physical and remote working post-COVID 19.

In another interview with Ramkumar Ramamoorthy and Ashwini Deshpande, the former chairman of Cognizant and the Indian Economist, verified the possibility that some kind of permanent remote working pattern is now definitely here to stay. Additionally, the BPO industry too, has adapted to wfh opportunities and virtual contact centers as the new norm.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies would have thought wfh opportunities would disrupt their daily operations, lead to reduced employee productivity and cause a breakdown in communication. However, the forced lockdown has compelled companies to understand why to work from home and proved that they can run just as smoothly - and in some cases, even better - with remote teams and permanent wfh.

Technological advances that facilitate 'work-from-home'

As a result of the pandemic, many companies have largely invested in new digital tools to facilitate their digital workforce and will reconsider going back to their previous physical setups. While many companies had already introduced wfh opportunities to their employees, the coronavirus outbreak has simply accelerated the concept and businesses that hadn’t even considered remote working are now accepting this as the new reality of the workforce.

Furthermore, according to many reports, empty offices are leading to a surge in downloads and usage of online collaboration tools such as Zoom meetings, Microsoft teams and Google hangouts. Microsoft Teams saw a massive 500 percent increase in calls, conference and meetings as of March 2020. The percentage is expected to be much higher in current times. Similarly, Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg stated that the company was on a run rate of hundred billion annual meeting minutes in the end of January 2020, and the number has been rapidly increasing ever since.

Google and Microsoft have both enabled their premium collaboration and conferencing apps (Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts) for free and these have been one of the top digital tools for businesses after Zoom (i.e. currently at the top of the App store).

Why working from home is good:

Working from home allows employees to achieve a better work-life balance. This is a key factor in improving employee satisfaction and can thus lead to higher employee retention. Once minor challenges like proper time management and planning are mastered, employees can work according to flexible hours and carve out personal time to spend with their family or on activities they love. This balance of both aspects of their lives will help them get a more positive outlook on their job, which can lead to better quality of work.

Additionally, with great job satisfaction, flexible hours, and reduced time spent in everyday commute, employees will show improved health and mental wellness - a trait extremely important to handle the workload and challenges within the company.

Potential challenges of permanent work from home for employers:

Some of the possible challenges of remote working can be as follows:

1)Overworked employees:

With no barriers between workplaces and homes, and many teammates located at different locations in different time zones, employees will find it difficult to shut work and unwind. This may result in overworked employees. The key factor here is time management and prioritization. Once employees master this, this challenge may not stand as a disadvantage..

2)Technological glitches:

Remote working may give rise to potential technological glitches in terms of laptops or internet connectivity. Without these two basic requirements, employees may not be able to to communicate or connect with the remaining team members.

3)Feeling isolated:

Permanent work from home setups with decreased physical human contact may emotionally drain employees into feeling isolated. A quick run around the block or even virtual games among team members will help employees lighten up and have a hearty laugh.

4)Security concerns:

With the majority of work online, and multiple files and documents saved on devices, confidential information may be open to potential hacking and other security concerns. Creating security policies, passwords wherever required, installing anti malware and anti viruses is an absolute must while practicing remote working. Another parameter for such security concerns may be including the availability of DaaS (Desktop as a service), which is a secure platform that offers secure and seamless work from home.

A move to a hybrid work structure:

Another change that is adapted by leading companies and businesses across the world is a new rota system. According to Jonathan Dingel, a faculty researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research, the transition from physical working to remote working raises big concerns for organizations on how to structure their workforce. While wfh opportunities are the need of the hour, employees wouldn’t want to live an atomized life that is disconnected from human contact. Many firms and organizations are now looking at a rota system that requires different teams alternate between workplaces and homes with regard to social distancing requirements. According to an economic research paper, approximately 40% of firms agree that permanent work from home is going to last.

Greater opportunities in the gig economy

As physical presence becomes less important a factor in putting together teams, more companies are likely to partner with freelancers and part-time workers. This opportunity also allows them to tap into a greater pool of talent and reduce their recruitment costs. Companies like Moonlyte offer an integrated dashboard where recruiters can sort through verified job profiles and identify freelancers that best suit their requirements. Engaging with freelancers through a trustworthy platform also ensures that recruiters access credible and reliable freelancers with minimum effort.

Work from home benefits both employers and employees to a very large extent. Even once the COVID-19 pandemic dies down, the above factors prove why working from home is good and hence, the new work-from-home structure certainly looks like it's here to stay.

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