Work From Home is Awesome(pun intended)
I still remember the old DELL article of moving their workforce permanently to home. It did not happen. IBM also has policies for WFH, and of late, many Indian IT majors started leveraging this concept of 1 day per week as WFH. It was induced as an incentive. Mostly this was taken on Monday/Friday to coincide with the weekend. People coming in from distant towns can leverage this to be in their homes early.
Mostly everyone knew productivity gains on the WFH day were less than other days. Workers who know that they will slack on the day, tend to complete their weekly tasks in 4 days. They would keep that day as kind of legal day off and attend meetings, without much focus. Companies also knew this but kept this to motivate the morale of workers. This reduced employee burnout and also cut voluntary attrition.
I knew of client workers who permanently worked from home. One was in Chicago, and another in Dallas. Both of them happened to be women, who were technically and functionally very capable. They possessed deep knowledge about the system and could learn the new systems quickly. Meetings need not be co-ordinated for them. They could complete the tasks independently, and this helped the companies as well. Every time I worked from home, I used to feel stressed, completed more work than I would, skipped bathroom breaks, ate quickly, had no time for coffee, skipped bath, and slipped into indiscipline coma.
One friend of mine had a huge home in Dallas, set himself a home office. This was on the second floor of his home, had all equipment, large monitor, phone equipment, and a coffee machine. It also had a restroom nearby, and it lacked any distraction. He was able to complete his tasks seamlessly, and never felt the need to go to the office. He used to complete daily chores of picking up his kids, complete medical visits, all while attending meeting calls. Maybe he has become so capable, that he was able to multitask with success. Not all of them are capable of that.
The USA, Europe, and other developed nations have the infrastructure and capability of work from home. They boast of high bandwidth, affordable office equipment, choice of office chairs, big homes, more importantly understanding office bureaucracy. All the direct IT employees working in the USA, are by default clients, and they have an army of vendors servicing them mostly from India. If you are the client generating dollars, you can do work from your office, or from your sauna.
An employee from India, cannot afford those options. One, internet bandwidth is high across the country, and it is not cheap either. None of the companies reimburse the bill, and with low salaries, that is an additional burden. The average home size in India is not even 500 sqft, and many of them share their rooms with many other family members. The average family size in India is more, coupled with power outages in the part of the country. You have to invest in UPS for your router, and then there is no central air-conditioning even in many plush offices.
With hot, hotter, and hottest being the climate in India, IT employees working from home, will be fried physically and mentally by EOD(End of Day). But since the traffic is walking through hell in every part of India, work from home option is a breeze for many. But we have to be cautiously optimistic about it. Initial productivity will be more in these lockdown times since people lack any outdoor activity and workers are fearful of layoffs. But continuous “from home” options without any proper policies will lead to employee burnout. With work from home, people tend to take leaves less, which is good for companies, but bad on employees' health. Also commute time is replaced with working time, average bathroom breaks are reduced, eating time is halved. Office real estate rentals are saved, and so are electricity costs and lessening of vehicular pollution.
Compulsory work in the office at least one day of the week should be enforced. Employee coffee breakout sessions should be organized as meeting on a regular basis. Mandatory leaves should be enforced to employees for them to take breaks. Mental health support channels should be leveraged to pep up the morale of workers. Office equipment can be given to employees so that they can feel comfortable working from home. Productivity and employee satisfaction can be monitored periodically to mine improvement areas for the future.
Cheers to the future of work(from home)