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Working from home or living at work: How is WFH working out?

The CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, announced that both his companies could continue working from home ‘forever’.

Aashna Sharma | New Delhi |

The Covid-19 pandemic and the aftereffects of the lockdown have made ‘work from home’ (WFH) a necessity for many industries. Work from home or working remotely is the new normal and it looks to stay in practice for coming years due to the pandemic.

WFH is not a new practice as there are many freelancers who work for multiple organisations remotely. But now it has been adopted by the organisations for almost all of their employees.

Currently, WFH is the only option left for the organisations to ensure the health safety of their employees and abiding by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Do Gaz ki Doori’ call.

The deadly coronavirus has induced lockdown in most of the countries including India. But the containment of the virus looks far from done even after the series of lockdowns.  

Also, the Indian economy ($2.9 trillion) can’t handle such lockdowns for long period.

As the services industry generates half of India’s GDP, the construction industry remains suspended which added to the unemployment rate. According to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate has already increased by 20 per cent.

Over time structural unemployment will worsen. The pressure on the state to pay government worker’s salaries without any work being done will increase, this will finally lead to social unrest.  

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed that the lockdown has caused irreversible damage to the economy and she is open to the idea of deficit monetisation (printing currency). 

The CEO of Twitter and Square, Jack Dorsey, announced that both his companies could continue working from home “forever”. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook also made a similar announcement. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, have also extended their work from home option. 

There are both pros and cons of working from home and the question is “Can work-from-home become the new normal?”

Since working from home is now imperative, people are beginning to take advantage of the relaxation of the lockdown, by trying to resurrect their social lives, but companies are still trying to visualise the future with the potential of remote workers.

Many employees are embracing how convenient working from home is, it’s got perks like avoiding long commutes, flexible working hours, time to look after homebound children (as schools are closed). WFH is saving a lot of people time and now companies have realised the potential cost savings, as long-term leases for office space may not be needed any longer. 

“Work from Home during the pandemic is the safest tool for the working professionals but it is not as easy to apply as it sounds,” said Aditi Kapoor, Senior Editorial Researcher at Taylor and Francis Books Publishing. 

Aditi who is based in Delhi while sharing her WFH experience said, “There are many times when we need our team members physically during the work as certain things can’t be resolved remotely.”

“A few days back I encountered some technical glitches with the software on which we work. While being in office I could have contacted the technical team and gotten it resolved. But as it was from home so I struggled,” she said. 

“However, the tech guy gave me instructions to resolve the issue over the phone but resolving technical issues is not a ‘cakewalk’,” she said wittingly.

WFH might seem attractive at first, but making it the new normal will not be as easy as it seems. No social interactions can lead to loneliness and depression. A crucial part of the work-life is to build connections, talk by the water cooler, go out for lunch with coworkers.

Life at the office can be hectic and calming at the same time. It provides an ecosystem for teamwork, companionship, and brainstorming.  

However, all that will be absent in the new work environment. 

Gaining experience at a workplace cannot be matched to gaining experience over Zoom. The younger employees, in particular, are missing out on making new contacts and widening their scope of success. 

People are contemplating the post-pandemic environment and realising that things might not go “back to normal” anytime soon. Even once the vaccine is out (which according to experts could take another year), it will take a long time for a population of 1.33 billion to become immune. Since we know so little about Covid-19 we can’t assume that immunity to be guaranteed. 

“I thought I’d get used to working from home but it’s not happening,” said Sonali Sachdeva, Junior Account Executive at Avian WE. 

“I miss going to the office and seeing my colleagues, as I live alone, working from home does get to me sometimes” she added.

While sharing how she takes care of her mental health while working from home, she said, “Time management is important as I have to make sure that my work life is not taking over my personal life, I make time for myself, do yoga and meditate every morning for an hour.” 

“Initially I used to panic a lot because I was not giving myself time, I found myself thinking about work even before going to bed” Sonali shared. “I felt an obligation to get everything done, even if it was damaging my mental health.”

“Since I’ve started dividing time, it has helped me a lot. However, I am still patiently waiting to be able to go to work again,” she added. 

Many public and private companies are terminating services and reducing the wages of their employees as they try to recover from the loss of business due to the lockdown. 

The reality of this situation is that it is incredibly unpredictable, WFH is a measure taken to flatten the curve but Covid-19 is not like other viruses, there could be more waves of the infection. Recently, Singapore dealt with their second lockdown. Japan has declared a state of emergency to avoid another lockdown. 

“My work from home experience has been smooth so far. I have the liberty to set targets of my own,” shares Sai Mourya, Senior Business Development Manager at OYO. 

“Working from home is of course not as stressful as compared to working from the office, but at the same time, I think I’d be more productive working in a fast-paced environment,” Sai said.

While talking about how WFH affects the employees financially he said, “There was a salary deduction for everyone across all verticals and in fact, a lot of my colleagues had been sent on furlough. The percentage varied between 25%-50%.” 

Sai who lives in Millennium city, Gurgaon, shares how his WFH experience changed after adopting a puppy “Working from home every day and not being able to go out was taxing my mental peace. Adopting a pup distracted me from the constant thought of doing something productive.”

While some might love working from home, others miss their professional working space where they can interact with colleagues and also work in a more professional pace and rhythm. 

Working from home can be challenging, as there is less structure one may work too much and burn themselves out or the exact opposite, one may not be able to focus and not get as much done as they would at the office. The key to overcoming these challenges is to set boundaries around your time and space, so that “working from home” doesn’t become “living at work”.