Live Law | 28 July 2020 | Varsha Kripalani & Ajay Monga
Continuous lockdown across the globe pursuant to outbreak of Covid-19 have compelled organisations to calibrate their business operation strategy. Establishments are now gearing up to invent efficient systems for a non-traditional alternative workplace located at home. Home based workers operating from home based offices will be a new normal. Management’s attitude towards their employees will transform, work environments and culture will witness a paradigm shift.
Looking at it superfluously the ‘new normal’ concept of a home office sounds a favourable and an opportune proposition but a slight peep into it discloses numerous challenges that companies and employees will face.
Organisations will have to devise new mechanisms and systems for work from home. A analysis will be required in respect of infrastructure requirement at all such individual home offices in terms of the function which an employee has to perform. Evaluation by employer in respect of use of technology, need of direct face to face interactions with other employees, supervisors, clients, customers, timings of the job, will be a prerequisite for investing into infrastructure at each such home office.
Parallelly Organisations will have to reframe their corporate and employment policies to align with the WFH culture. Few of the areas which could be the prime focus in this regard would be: Re-designing of the employment terms, conceding to staggering work hours; floating new allowances; re-structuring policies relating to Sexual Harassment at work place, Data protection, Leave and holidays, travel policy; evolving new mechanisms of incentivization; monitoring, supervising and motivating an employee.
Even for the organisation to which it is most suited, work from home atmosphere is not an easy atmosphere to adopt, therefore readiness of employers to invest in tools for training to make the WFH efficient, interesting and lucrative will be critical. An insightful and discerning employer will be compelled to develop new ways of evaluating and monitoring the performances of its employees. Performance appraisals will be more result oriented and not efforts based which not only the new line mangers but even the employees will have to accustom themselves. New incentive allowances and reward policies will have to be disseminated by the management to keep the employees motivated.
It’s imperative that employers concentrate on reinventing their workforce, where managers supervisors should not only be tech friendly and comfortable with virtual office but also bear the skills of keeping the common identity and high morale of the team to avoid high attrition rate.
Technological assistance should be effectively used during this hour of transformation. Web based working is an option to have collaborative team-work across geographical boundaries, connect, chat while working on a Common project and also reduce travel costs and travel time and enhance productivity.
Obviously, WFH regime will not apply to all employees and operations of any business, and requirement of organisation to have physical offices will not die down completely. Practical hurdles to manage two dissimilar but comparable work cultures is going to be arduous task in as much as it would involve decision making process as to which category of employees can WFH and which cannot.
Adapting to a new way of working though from the comfort of an home office will throw new challenges before an employee as well. Adjusting to new work space, getting into work mode very day from home, not getting distracted by ongoing day to day activities at home, keeping a balance between work and home, honing new skills of working with a remote team, bridging communication gaps, getting used lack of face to face interaction with colleagues, line managers, supervisors, staying motivated but at the same time not over working. To maintain high productivity attribute in its employees and to make work from home a success, employers will have to provide a conducive atmosphere. Management will have to do handholding with an employee at a unique level and will be constrained to recognise some amount of flexibility and informality in work environment.
Be that as it may, this transformation would surely bring certain potential benefits to the employers and also to the employees. Employers can hire the best no matter where, organisational costs are likely to take a nose dive and a distributed work force, staggered work hours will help in keeping the operations running at all times. Employees can spend more time with family, spend no time commuting, increase work productivity.
We are standing at the brink of a shift, whilst it will be thought provoking to see how employers and employees adapt to this new normal, it is still advisable that employers adopt a phased approach instead of burdening the employee with a sudden change. Step by step processes should be implemented for all to gradually acclimatize to the new normal.