Work From Home (WFH) – boon or bane?

Following the pandemic, there has been lot of discussion on remote working. Some are predicting end of office working culture while others are arguing we shall be back to offices once lock down is over.

Let us examine this using an analytical perspective.

In most IT organizations, work from home (WFH) is already common. Many workers work at least 1 day/week from home already (pre-pandemic). So we can say 80-20 office:home culture was already there. Now the big question is, post lockdown whether it would be one of these:

[1] 80-20 i.e. pre-pandemic level commute
[2] 20-80 i.e. 4 day WFH + 1 day office
[3] 0-100 – WFH = current lock down model

There was a pre-lockdown perception that WFH model is not efficient for productive working. However, the forceful adoption of WFH has proven it wrong. More or less people’s productivity remained the same in 100% WFH model. Businesses have adopted very quickly to the new model. IT industry is no stranger to remote working, especially those with large offshore teams for last 20 years.

There is no research showing people work less productively when working remotely. In fact, not having to do a long commute (either driving or using crowded public transport) makes employees more charged up. The 8-hour work day was based on industrial age. In current service based economy, it is the outcome that matters – whether someone produces it in 4 hours or 8 hours is irrelevant.

In fact, WFH may increase productivity. While working in offices, employees often tend to show off work. A lot of time is wasted in schmoozing in kitchen area. People stay late to feign being busy. Hang on too long to submit output even when done, because they don’t want to show it delivering before deadline as next plannings would be based on current delivery timelines.

WFH is very different. Since no one is actively watching employees, if one can finish the work off in 6 hours, s/he would get 2 hours spare time to do his/her own work. As long as output is of professional and acceptable quality, employer has little to complain if workers are working less than 8 hours. This would drive employees to be more productive.

In many cases, one simply wait while waiting for feedback on previous delivery. While sitting at office desk, this time could be hardly used productively. While WFH, employees can do lot their own stuff and then get back to work once the feedback lands on their inbox.

Some employees prefer to work from office because they are better at climbing corporate ladder easier by just being there. Many employees want to be in the forefront of decision makers/higher management so that they are in the front line for promotions. In general, it is harder for remote workers to get appreciations. This is because decision makers tend to believe (not always a logical thing) those whom they can see are working harder. So in short term, this will cause some impact. However, once WFH embeds in culture this issue will diminish over time.

From employers’ point of view, an immediate cost saving is not having to maintain large offices at expensive cities like London. If WFH becomes mainstream, workers do not need to live near to offices as they would not commute during rush hours any more. This can help them moving to country side where they can afford larger homes with gardens – thus improving overall well-being of their families.

Some people might miss the after work hang-around-to-pub culture though – but that varies from person to person.


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