COVID-19 pushes for the WFH. Is it practical?
Imagine: Your office chair is your couch. Your commute is the length of your hallway. Your snack drawer is your entire pantry. Think it’s a dream? Not these days when we're all learning how to live with the reality of coronavirus. Work-from-home (or simply WFH) jobs are very much a reality, which just got a big push from the current global coronavirus pandemic.
But even before COVID-19 became a factor, increasing numbers of employees & employers have been saying goodbye to their onerous commute to work. In India alone, more than 65% of the workforce in IT sector is practicing it amid COVID-19.
Thanks to ever-evolving technologies like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, WebEx - for AV calls virtual meetings, and collaboration using Slack or Microsoft Office 365. In recent years, we also saw changes around Microsoft 365 & DevOps to support an agile work culture. Attendance management to complete HRMS (HR Management Solutions) which are based on cloud technologies, no longer requires many of us to be in office full-time and yet stay productive. Zoho People is one example in this domain. The majority of the work can be done just as effectively, if not more so, from a home, office, or even a coffee shop.
As of the last year, 2019, the number of companies with a remote workforce is getting bigger — 66% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote. A survey pointed out the benefits of employees working remotely — such as less time spent commuting, lower costs, and greater autonomy. Over the years, experts have advised on how to be more productive at home, and on remote work trends.
Guess what! At TPS Technologies, we shifted to this reality of today. We have some learnings to share. And maybe, it adds to this notion if WFH is really effective and thus practical?
At TPS, as on date, all of us are working remotely. After our government announced lockdown, the BCP (Business Continuity Plan) was executed - for the lockdown was already anticipated, there was a plan in place. It just had to be executed.
Virtual Tiffin Box - Connect
Despite WFH, we stay connected throughout the day. It starts with morning standup calls on Microsoft Teams, a virtual tiffin box event during lunchtime, and finally an evening call to proceed to call it a day.
Fun has got its own place. Even in WFH times. Actually it becomes even more important in these challenging times. We plan & follow fun Fridays to promote group activities, quizzes, pictionary – there are tons of ideas to borrow from the internet. We tested another platform (called Kahoot) for such team events. It worked just fine.
Another fact must considering is that we represent a diverse group – our working styles, our priorities in personal lives, our likes and dislikes, and so on - they are so different. Some of us find WFH more productive, compared to those with completely opposite view. It also depends on social factors – if you are married or bachelor, staying in shared accommodation or not, do you use helping hands from a maid or not, are you a male or female in your house, do you have kids to take care, are you open to flexible work hours – the mileage of productivity hence varies for all.
Let us face it. It is not easy for everyone. It is not for everyone. Even when your profile supports WFH scenarios – there are other points to ponder. We asked Amit, who is our Business Strategy and Operations Manager that if he is worried about his work amid COVID-19 situation. This is what he said:
"Yes, of course. Operational & logistics are severely impacted by the shutdown. It is going to be a big task to resume operations. COVID 19 is pushing some of us into helplessness. Safety is the highest priority at this time. However, it will have a great impact on our business even when it is BAU."
Amit Singh, Manager - Business Strategy and Operations
Naveen leads our Digital Customer Experience team, and he expressed his views on good things, and ‘not so good’ things about WFH:
“Well, everyone feels that when we work from home, we get to have more time, but this is the biggest realization that I had. You end up spending more time on tasks and there is something always happening around which ends up distracting you. You also end up overworking. The only benefit I see out of WFH is like, I can get up at 9:55 and log in by 10:00 and start work [he giggles]. No worry about having to get ready and everything. You do save time on travel and things but again. I have always liked traveling by buses minus the crowd.”
Naveen R, Digital Customer Experience Lead
The Convenience Quotient: Is it convenient to work from home? If you got the right setup (small home office) with required essentials then, ‘Yup definitely’. Essentials bare minimum means – a reliable PC/Laptop, a good internet bandwidth, a nice headphone pair with noise cancellation, a desk, comfortable chair, atmosphere at home that supports.
The Time Management Quotient: Someone who has more than 24 hours in a day exists on another planet. We have to manage time to work, play games, block those ‘only Netflix’ hours! We don't have any time boundaries and it is, therefore, ‘why managing time is a key skill’ to stay productive, effective & practical.
The Practical Quotient: As with 50% of us are working in some sort of telecommuting role and that majority of organizations are new to the idea of WFH, there are obvious hesitations and fears. The biggest challenge of WFH seems to be “the culture” and not the work profiles, or technology or budgets. As one of the founding members at TPS, Preeti Singh, said about WFH:
‘It is not if the industry is going there, rather if the industry is all up for WFH at the pace it needs. How agile our businesses are to the realities of the world today, and that of the future.”
- Preeti Singh, Founding Member
The Manager Quotient: WFH can be extremely difficult for many managers. As a people manager (or a team lead), you may feel like you have no control over the situation. You are right. And you aren’t alone.
WFH empowers the right amount of autonomy to everyone. Leveraging it as a strength is going to help managers. Recalling the basics of team management lessons, one may realise how important it is to establish a professional trust level. Here are a few points to help:
- Set clear expectations on goals and KRAs
- Embrace that remote is new local
- Engage regularly to keep each other informed
- Schedule video meeting when possible, relevant
- Trust your team, let data be the guide
- Coach more, Empathize more, Appreciate more
To conclude this post, we would just say this:
We are all together in the current crisis. There are still many opportunities for each one of us. We all must acknowledge to the realities of today. We must continue to make our business and processes agile. Technology is a great tool, embrace it to help each other – to make a better tomorrow.
How is your job impacted by the COVID-19 situation? Let us know in comments.