In WFH mode, employees are sorely missing across-the-table mentoring and grooming session. Problem-solving is quickest when everyone in the team put their heads together—ditto for creative brainstorming.
By Sanjay Muthal
Big supporters of work from home (WFH) ought to be mindful of the challenges this system has thrown up for the white-collared workforce—especially in the IT sector.
Just the other day, during a team call on one of the popular apps, a colleague pointedly refused to be on video mode. He later confided that he had taken the call in his car because the home environment was just not conducive to attend an office call. “Online tuition of my two teen-aged children was on. Plus, my wife had her own office call at the same time. You could describe the situation as ‘Pandemonium in the time of Pandemic’,” my colleague said in exasperation.
Soumita Mukherjee, another colleague, shared how she found the first month of lockdown as “pure bliss”. According to her, since the pressure of commuting to work from Thane to SEEPZ wasn’t there, she could spend quality time with her husband and 6-year-old son. However, with extended lockdown and WFH regarded as the ‘new normal’, mounting work pressure with tighter deadlines has upset her life-work balance. A small apartment with sporadic internet is adding to her stress, she confided.
I feel my young colleagues in the technology sector have been the most impacted during the lockdown. These techies are a large young m/zillennial talent pool, who after migrating to metros from different parts of the country, typically live in shared apartments. For a business where data security is key, this translates into a big security threat. Just imagine a young techie working out of a shared apartment with three other techies—all servicing competing clients!
Sarbjeet Sharma was working out of a plush business park before the lockdown. Living all by herself in a small rented apartment in Mumbai during lockdown was pretty tough on her. So, the moment airlines resumed operation she rushed back to her hometown, Bhilai, to be with her parents. But she rues her decision now because internet connectivity is an issue there, and sometimes, there are power cuts as well. To top it all, she has zero privacy. “After any call—be it professional or personal—one of my parents will invariably ask, “Kaun tha beta?”, and follow it up with countless other questions. Privacy is an unknown concept outside our professional sphere! I can’t wait for my office to resume and to return to Mumbai,” she said.
She’s not alone. Many are yearning to come back to the office. An office, for them, is not about workstations. Instead, it represents a place where co-workers socialise. In WFH mode, employees are sorely missing across-the-table mentoring and grooming session. Problem-solving is quickest when everyone in the team put their heads together—ditto for creative brainstorming.
Another scenario that is emerging during this WFH scenario is losing personal space. According to Anuradha Podar, WFH isn’t smooth sailing. She mentions, “I got married only last year. Pre-lockdown, I think I had a fairly okay work-life balance. Going to work, hanging out with friends and office colleagues, going out for lunch, etc. Now, with zero private space in our 1BHK apartment, the home is 100% claustrophobic. I have had so many fights with my husband over trivial matters during this lockdown. I may be acting hyper, but I think I am going to see a marriage counsellor, once the containment period ends. I can’t wait for my office to re-open.” But then, I also know of two colleagues—both young mothers. They are pleased about WFH as it has extended their maternity leaves. For the rest of us, as soon as the vaccine is out, we will love to return to office. I have a feeling that face-to-face meetings will be far more valued.
(Names changed for confidentiality)
The author is CEO, Kontempore Leadership and Business Solutions