There are many things which this pandemic has taught and is teaching us every day. Some habits or ways-of-life have changed forever.
When the pandemic started last year, everyone was very enthusiastic as they posted pictures of cooking, cleaning and just spending time with family. 1.5 years into it, such pictures have all but disappeared and no one talks about family time any more.
This means that all that we started as a novelty last year has now become a way of life. We might not cook or clean forever but looks like Work-From-Home (WFM) is here to stay for a long time. And getting people to once again to office is going to be tough.
Two days ago, some 80 employees of Apple wrote to Tim Cook, urging him to relook at the plans requiring staff to return to office in September. Apple has planned a twice or thrice a week work from office plan but many employees are now rejecting this proposal, saying that they wanted an option for full-time remote work. They wanted Apple to let teams decide who could work remotely or in flexible locations. Twitter has already let employees work remotely as much as they want and Google has a hybrid return to work plan, which is like Apple’s three-day office schedule but will also include more remote-only positions and change depending on the needs of a given team. Apple might face pressure to adjust its policies, if just to reflect shifting attitudes toward remote work among other tech giants.
And what about here in India? At least based on the current environment, WFH is here to stay for a long time, especially IT companies and employees who are not customer facing. TCS, TVS Motor, HCL Technologies, Kimberly Clark and many other companies are considering a hybrid or a predominantly WFH model in the long run
Professional services firm Aon, conducted a survey, covering about 30 lakh employees in 248 companies and its findings revealed that 85% of the companies or 210 of them were planning to work either remotely fully or partially even post-pandemic. Only 36% companies are looking at bringing back 75% or 100% employees back and 34% are looking at a hybrid model.
While there is no denying that there are immense benefits to the individual, the company and the country when people WFH, there is an equally strong case to back people going back to work. Working from offices brings forth the value of meeting people, the ideas and innovations that make people come together. Currently, we all have faced situations where work which could have been finished within minutes takes hours because it all has to be co-ordinated over Zoom with many individuals. There is simply no substitute for people meeting together in person – it does bolster creativity and improve work efficiency. The ‘chai’ breaks, where one gossips and just “chills” for some time, are great psychological treats – this is probably what almost everyone misses the most. And that’s why a hybrid model is what most companies will work on – three days a week or 75% work force at one-time in the office on any given day while 25% WFH.
Thus what we could see in coming months:
- WFH culture to stay, with hybrid model becoming the norm
- More automation in business processes
- Adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing
- Higher spends by offices on hygiene
- Insurance costs on employees to increase
- New leadership practices to help managers support their teams and drive efficiency in a hybrid model
Every pandemic brings about major changes – the plague of the 14th century led to better living and working conditions for the poor; the 1918 Spanish Flu led to a serious rethinking of public health policies and put centralized healthcare systems in place. Maybe the pandemic of our times, will once again change the way we all work and live and hopefully overhaul the healthcare system for the good of all.