Monday, March 27, 2023
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Not a win-win situation — why we should not work from home after the Covid-19 lockdown

Companies adopted work-from-home policy to contain the spread of coronavirus but the lack of a boundary between work and home can impact family dynamics.

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Working from home these past few weeks as the coronavirus pandemic rages on outside hasn’t been hunky-dory. Yes, physical distancing is important and I absolutely wouldn’t advocate otherwise, but having my bed just inches away from my workstation hasn’t been the win-win situation I thought it would be.

It wasn’t long after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak was a pandemic, companies around the world took their work home. In India, Cognizant, Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Uber, Ola, Swiggy, Paytm, Wipro and Tech Mahindra were among the first companies to institute the work-from-home policy.

This measure became the need of the hour for other companies in India too as the nation went into a 21-day lockdown. Reports have since come out that say this policy will lead to a seismic shift, “ushering in a new era of work from home”.

I hope this is not the case.

In 2014, Harvard Business Review published a study conducted on two groups of call centre workers at a company, with one group working from home and another commuting to office over a period of nine months. Although the survey found that the former group was more productive and even happier, the researchers were still in favour of employees working only for one or two days a week from home.

This is mainly because a perpetual state of work from home poses a host of challenges to both employees and employers.

Also Read: Shops open on alternate days, schools shut — states want to phase out lockdown after 14 April

Working from home blurs role

With the domestic space now also functioning as a workplace, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a work-life balance. The lack of physical boundaries between the two otherwise separate environments impacts both the work as well as family dynamics. Experts have described this phenomena as “role blurring”, which is “the experience of confusion or difficulty in distinguishing one’s work from one’s family roles in a given setting in which these roles are seen as highly integrated, such as doing paid work at home”.

Researchers Paul Glavin and Scott Schieman studied workers in the US and found that higher levels of “role-blurring” was associated with more work-life conflicts, especially among those with high job pressure. This claim is difficult to dispute. Working from home in a constantly demanding job, I’ve had a difficult time completing tasks outside of my work since I have to remain available all the time. This has also led to higher anxiety and more sleepless nights.

But the “role blurring” has consequential effects if you are living with your family. Recently, a friend who works in a consulting firm told me that several women employees were especially more concerned about the work-from-home set-up because it posed a hindrance to their work. Researchers Heejung Chung and Tanja van der Lippe in their study on Flexible Working, Work–Life Balance, and Gender Equality’ show that at-home women workers are expected to take up more domestic work than men. In a rigidly patriarchal society like India, this could have a drastically regressive effect on gender roles and lesser women would then perform well or even continue working.

Also Read: Central govt staff can work from home during lockdown, but will have to follow these rules

Indian infrastructure an issue

Indian companies are not built to adapt work-from-home policy, particularly because of their infrastructural costs. A large number of employees don’t have proper workstations at their homes, let alone WiFi. This is why the lockdown left companies scrambling to provide resources to their employees. In fact, internet service providers witnessed a major spike in the demand for dongles as companies made bulk purchases. Several also had to rent out laptops for their employees and there was an increase in sale of laptops since more people started remote working.

While companies had to account for such unexpected costs, its employees now have to pay more on electricity and even food in some cases. What otherwise would fall within the infrastructural cost of the company, now has to be borne by employees like me who are confined in their houses. And if you’re worried about your diminishing net income, the perpetual tech problems that could follow because of this crude setup might make a pay hike or promotion all the more elusive.

It’s a difficult truth, but one that had to be told. India Inc. is not ready for a work-from-home model. And any plans of extending it beyond the current situation would only result in severe societal and economic implications.

Views are personal.

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  1. Ha ha very funy , article is written by a traditional Indian management mentalist who don’t even know M of management!

  2. Ha ha very funy , article is written by a traditional Indian management mentalist who don’t even know M of management!
    He has same sickness which makes people like him feel that until people are infront of your eyes they are not working 😂
    The people who don’t want and wish to work they find there ways right seating in the office and I guess you are among one of them that’s why you think so!
    It’s very unfortunate that people like this become manager in our country and hence talented people and companies finally suffocate and die rather than being successful and becoming a big umpire like that of other multinationals!
    And the organizations who have managed to curtail such mindsets to a extend have managed to achive success here in our country there are some good examples as well , I don’t wish to name them but anyone can google and find out 😃

  3. WFH is not workable solution in India in its current state. Infra has to improve significantly. In places like Mumbai, people do not have space to sleep , how come they will have space for work station. Most of the BPO workers in India work in night shifts so it is more difficult. Everyone calls it new normal, I see it as new evnormal.

  4. If this is what journalism has sunk to, it is quite depressing. These are the opinions of one person masquerading as an article.

  5. I some what agree with author. Because Infrastructure in India is not suitable for WFH. My team is facing many network related issues. Also had seen productivity impact in last 2 months. Many of them don’t have suitable work environment causing distraction from work. As said this is more impacting women’s as they have to handle domestic work and office work. Balance is not maitained. As said this not total win win situation and is somewhere impacting social and professional balance of people working from home. In country like India companies need to understand this is not normal BAU situation.

  6. There are lots of advantages of WFH than it’s disadvantages. Less pollution, clean area, less traffic thereby less chances of accidents, more flexibility so that we can focus on other activities whether going to gym or even participating in social activities etc. Mothers can take care of their babies, men can focus on their children’s study as well sharing household work. Companies can benefit by reducing their rental cost which is one of the major.
    There will always be Pro & cons but the focus should be on how to make it practically successful.

    • This is not an article but a confusing rant by one person.
      The benefits of WFH are so many. People will live better lives, real estate prices will not be concentrated to gentrifications, standard of houses and roads will improve when people are spread across City and not in a particular business district. Commute times is a big win in WFH. The benefits far outweigh the cons

  7. May be the author is missing out on some hidden unmentionable benefits (in his office) , to camouflage which he is making up all these ill researched concocted logics .

  8. What an absolutely ill-researched, biased and myopic article. I don’t blame the author as much as the newspaper for printing this garbage – even under an”opinion” column. It is irresponsible and insensitive to print in current times. Please leave your paper blank. It will still have better value than this

  9. Work from home can reduce population in metro cities. My personal view is by increasing traffic in cities like Mumbai and Delhi because we have to commute to office makes no sense. We waste almost 3 hours everyday, and that is not productive.

  10. There are big companies like Basecamp, Invision, Gitlab, Buffer, Chartmogul and many more which work remotely full-time. They do not have an office and none of their employees face the issues you have mentioned because they have a better understanding of their work and transperancy in their team. This is s poorly written article with a lack of research and no facts, I just hope it’s not blamed on remote working.

  11. The article doesn’t reflect on many circumstances and I dnt think it has been written with right survey or due diligence.. no wonder work from home has impacted author’s analytical skill.

  12. Just consider. The roads are free. The air is clean. That should be enough. And you write that the productivity also went up in the pilot study.

  13. Sounds like this was written a micro manager who can no longer micro manage now that all his employees are WFH.

  14. Role blurring is the main reason for increased productivity. And it’s good.

    At home there are host of so many advantages that you ignore in this write up.

    And women having problems at home is a generalisation. In fact a lot of them have problems in workplaces. They cannot even stay away from home late due to security and societal barriers.

    You’re ignoring the convinience where young mothers are eased up to take care of their children.

    About the infrastructure you even mentioned the solution for that problems that companies are comfortable with. It also enables proper access to a lot of low income families.

    And in a family with a strong patriarchal mindset either ways the women has to do all the work. During office hours or after office hours. Infact they feel tired all the time due to which they leave their children at crutches and day care homes without work from home offers

    A lot of women are financially dependent due to unavailability of companies to offer work from home options. Even though the work from home option is totally doable

    Also on “high pressure jobs” where you are required “all the time”. Doesn’t change anything if you are at home or in your workplace.

    And hugely you’re ignoring the environmental benefits which is evident from this lockdown. We are pointlessly wasting a lot of money on transport that’s not required.

    In conclusion am I saying to make the work from home model enforced on everybody ?


    But I definitely think it should remain a SERIOUS option for workers at least wherever possible.

    And you should stop speaking for a small percentage of people who actually love their workplace considering most don’t or are harassed there on a daily basis.

  15. In managenent they say extra ordinary situations need extraordinary situation. Unfortunately those who are handling in many cases have failed to think and act. There are many employees working in different locations leaving their families and stay PGs. A top leading company packed the system and made such employees to either move into the hotel which they regularly for those who need temporary place at the time of joining and also gave them option to work from PG. Obviously they did not probably had enough lap top or did want to make investment. For these guys instead of wasting on hotel stay, probably a lap top would have been cheaper so that they could joined their family and thus need not have to bother about food.

  16. This is preposterous to assume that Indian Companies are not having infra to support wfh. This was already part of culture of lot of companies including BPO. With widespread awareness of cyber security, we werr better prepared than rest of the world.

    Please do your complete reasearch as the article does not states any fact. It’s your personal opinion if you are unable to define work and home boundaries while working from home.

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