Tyre-maker CEAT has introduced a ‘work from remote location’ policy, one that permits its employees to work from anywhere—cafes, home, mall, or whatever they deem fit as a place they can work from. The company, three months ago, scrapped mandatory attendance recording, allowing its employees to operate on a flexible timetable. The management at RPG Enterprises, which owns CEAT, believes this motivates employees enough and drives up productivity. CEAT/RPG are not the only ones that are tweaking their workplace policies, including on attendance, to give employees more freedom. Mahindra, Cipla, Godrej and ICICI Bank are doing this, too. The question, though, is: Is such flexibility good in the long run?
To be sure, the ‘work from home’ option lets employees have sense of control on their lives and time-tables. They can arrange their daily schedules to fit in non-professional work/activity during lean hours. This, according to a study conducted by Stanford University, leads to higher morale, lower stress levels and lesser absenteeism rates. Not only are employees happier, but they are also getting more work done, thereby providing additional incentives for corporations to implement and institutionalise such practices. Developments in communication technology has also made connecting in real-time over remote locations far easier than before. This leads to another significant advantage—with seamless, real-time connectivity, the need to have a brick-and-mortar set-up to accommodate employees is dispensed with. This benefits both companies and workers. Costs go down for a company, given the need for renting or owning real estate—particularly expensive in metros—is erased. The pressure on urban centres and resources falls as employees can remain dispersed. Commutation, often translating into lost productivity because of the time consumed, is no longer necessary. All this has a positive fall-out for the environment. If, a piece of work benefits from many minds coming together or requires real-time supervision, remote working could fail. Taking the workplace out of the picture also means eroding the opportunities for workers to develop professional networks that go beyond just calls or teleconferencing. Also, regulating delivery in remote working is definitely a challenge, one that prompted Yahoo and other companies such as Best Buy and Reddit to end ‘work from home’ policies. Thus, not all industries/sectors can pull off a CEAT.