Working From Home – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

6 Minutes

2020 was a difficult year for everyone, the impacts of which we are still feeling 18 months ...

By Gaurav Yadav

Director

2020 was a difficult year for everyone, the impacts of which we are still feeling 18 months on. The Covid-19 pandemic didn’t only change the world, it changed the people in it. During this time, many of us had to wave goodbye to work-life balance, as both these worlds merged.

Although the operational cost of running a business decreased drastically during this time, another headache arose for HR teams; ensuring the productivity of the organization's human resources. Managing employees working from home and ensuring expected performance with projected revenue was met. No one was sure how long WFH (yup! That’s what we call it on text messages) would last. It was important to align all the business processes, adapt to new technologies, conduct training, and ensure team cohesion virtually. Bringing us to the present day, I’m very pleased that we are now fully open again in India and as we continue to slowly move towards normalcy, offices are becoming busier with the usual chatter of colleagues and our calendars are full of back-to-back in-person meetings.

However a lot of the candidates we speak to still ask for fully remote positions as they have found this way of working suits them and they feel it does not impact their output. As with most things, there are always pros and cons so today we are contemplating the good, the bad, and the ugly of working from home. The Good! Let’s start with the good (my favorite part), working from home has allowed us to be closer to and spend more time with our families. Virtual meetings from the comfort of our own homes while our furry friends laze around our feet are a blessing. No traveling for meetings means that negotiating rush hour traffic becomes a thing of the past. Which during the pandemic, improved the air quality in India. Apart from saving some extra bucks, employees enjoy flexibility and independence.

For employers, it broadens the scope of available talent and lots of organizations are now looking at Tier 2 & 3 cities for roles that can be fully remote. The Bad!! Many of us took the time at home during the pandemic for granted. Not just employees, but managers too. Line managers started believing that since their teams were WFH, they should always be online and available to them, sometimes beyond their core working hours. Respect for time became an alien concept. An issue still lingers today for remote workers. With this increase in screen time, fatigue is becoming an issue for even the most productive members of staff. Hence, what was supposed to be a boon for the employees is turning out to be a bane for both them and their organization. HR is continuously looking to find innovative ways to keep employees engaged, and motivated and encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle.

We are also seeing the impact of proximity bias. When it comes to personal growth or promotions, it’s important to be seen on the ground, not only by your direct managers but by the leadership team and your peers as well. While ‘Working in Isolation’ makes you independent and flexible, it takes away physical presence and can hamper or delay promotion opportunities. The Ugly!!! Life is not as simple as good or bad. Sometimes, it can be ugly too. Many businesses didn’t survive the pandemic and had to shut down. Those who managed to survive had another dilemma waiting for them, when their employees came back to the office they were not the same people as before. From casual dressing to an unkempt beard to a Friday beer belly. HR had the tricky job of reinstating the culture of working in an office environment, with many employees not wanting to change their relaxed habits. For me personally, the ‘Ugliest’ part of working from home is the lack of collaboration and missing out on the learning environment being in the office creates.

When I graduated (more than a decade ago), I had the pleasure of working with a number of colleagues and superiors who shared their experiences and gave me the opportunity to work at their side. That molded my younger self into who I am today, with ‘WFH’ we are missing on ‘Work Friendships’ and losing that human touch. This especially impacts new graduates who have a long journey ahead and will miss out on so much if they confine themselves to four walls. I worry that we are slowly becoming a highly transactional, task-driven, and burnt-out workforce. Even though we’ve already dealt with a lot of reintegration issues when returning to office life, HR has a long road ahead to make office buildings their employees go to the workplace. In their heads, many employees are still working from home whether in the office or not, and most now want a hybrid or work-from-home structure permanently and are not willing to compromise on that work-life balance.

Which environment do you prefer working in; home, the office, or the best of both worlds?

Let me know at gy@elliottscotthr.com, I would also be very happy to discuss the current market and HR opportunities with you (including any flexible working opportunities!) or if you are hiring for your HR team we can chat about your talent acquisition needs too.