Offices are the best place to work; they must exude a homely feeling, too
Many recent studies have examined the impact and effectiveness of WFH.
By Sahil Vachani
If, in the recent past, you’ve grappled with videoconferencing apps, dressed up especially for virtual meetings and lost track of your working hours, then you’re well aware of work from home (WFH). This term has assumed a new dimension since the pandemic hit us. WFH, which has existed for a long time but often looked down upon, has become the new way of working since March 2020. Months later, many employers are mulling over making it a permanent model, while others can’t wait to get back to the traditional office set-up. So, which one will it be—is WFH the new normal or do workplaces need to evolve?
Many recent studies have examined the impact and effectiveness of WFH. To cite one such by an Indian PR forum, among 300 practitioners 63% worked for more than eight hours every day during the pandemic. This was above their average work hours. What begins to happen then? As work and home lives begin to blend, there is a compromise on both the ends. A stressful environment at home compromises productivity, while heavy workload can lead to family members feeling distant. So, what’s the alternative?
As some parts of the workforce have started heading back to office, we must understand that leaning on either extremity isn’t suitable. What we need is the right balance between going to the office to instil a feeling of teamwork, collaboration and professionalism, while still working from home on other days to ensure safety, comfort and faith among employees. While these needs will vary for different industries and companies, here’s a model that has the potential to achieve this mix:
The 5 S Model: 1. Staying at home: Older population and colleagues with pre-existing medical conditions, who are highly vulnerable to the virus, must continue to stay at home. 2. Sanitation: Regular sanitisation of all office areas including door handles, common areas, phones, etc, to ensure employees who are coming to the office feel secure. 3. Social distancing: Adhering to the six-foot social distancing norm at work can ensure safety as well as a focused mindset. 4. Regular screening: Following government guidelines, all workspaces must ensure temperature screening of their employees before they enter the premises. 5. Staggering, even within an office environment: In addition to staggered entry and exit timing of employees, any conversations or meetings must be done in a smaller setting and/or spread out to multiple meeting rooms connected by technology for the times to come.
This 5 S model incorporates Max Estates’ WorkWell philosophy, which ensures that we provide a culture that is conducive to our employees’ well-being, in turn increasing their productivity. While WFH is the need of the hour, employees thrive on collaboration, change of setting and social interaction. I also believe that going to office—right from dressing up, to the nature of interactions—pushes employees to embrace a persona that is integral in maintaining professionalism and ensuring efficiency. This persona isn’t necessarily achieved in the WFH model.
Hence, workplaces that want to survive in the times to come must think from the perspective of their employees or occupants. While WFH must remain an option in times of distress, office spaces must feel safe and prioritise employee well-being. This can be done by ensuring isolated areas within the office to limit interaction. Companies must also make efforts to have regular conversations around the importance of mental health and work-life balance. Most importantly, a disproportionate focus should be on maintaining health and hygiene standards.
A section of the workforce has begun going to the office, and sooner or later we all would. These measures, hence, are vital in ensuring that the return is smooth and gradual. Offices are the ultimate place to work, it’s time they exude a homely feeling, too.
The author is MD & CEO of Max Ventures & Industries Ltd, and a commentator on the future of workplace