Self-Quarantining With Work From Home
The idea of a hybrid workplace (mix of physical and remote) is gaining traction and changing of policies is already underway. Businesses have started thinking about alternative workforce models and leveraging the gig economy.
There was a world before COVID-19. There is a world after COVID-19. What began as a relief with the beginning of the crisis has quickly progressed into a state of uncertainty? As people continue to balance out incessant streams of audio/video calls, domestic chores, home schooling, there is a continuous challenge of keeping oneself motivated with home confinement.
No doubt, there were conversations around Work from Home (WFH) earlier. How it would benefit and provide a flexible work schedule, save commuting time and, given the flexibility to work from any location. With the millennial and Gen Z workforce already inclined towards an unconventional learning approach which is more micro, mobile-first, innovative and on-demand prior to COVID-19, the crisis seemed to have answered their prayers. But the question remains since they often hop-on and hop-off often and give preference to their ‘me’ time, will they be willing to take the additional stress in these times and with WFH?
As corona cases surged, the number of companies asking their employees opt for WFH also increased. The pandemic saw offices, both big and small, shutting their doors making the transition towards this concept with an accelerated vigor. However, as months pass with no signs of respite soon, the WFH syndrome seems to have gone beyond the anywhere to anytime. With reduced work force absenteeism, nearly 90% leaders agree that workforce is putting in more working hours during the crisis. In fact, individual employee productivity has in part, increased due to remote working. 1 But, at what cost?
‘Unplugging’ work, being able to split personal and professional time; the increased need to prove oneself ‘indispensable’ to the organization; the fear of losing job are some of common issues being felt across the board. Hit harder are the women work force, who have to juggle between both home and office. As per International Labor Organisation (ILO), the crisis is disproportionately affecting women workers in many ways and, there is a risk of losing some of the gains made in recent decades and exacerbating gender inequalities. To top it all, being confined and isolated during the lockdown, along with added stresses and financial insecurity, could also lead to or increase violence against women. Working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic has made reporting and seeking help even harder, particularly if a survivor is unable to leave the house to go to work or carry out other routine tasks.
While many may argue that WFH can liberate one from a routine that feels confining and, offer flexibility often dictated by personal body-clock, a recent UN study across 15 countries including India found that 41% of "highly mobile" employees (those who more often worked from home) considered themselves highly stressed versus 25% who worked on-site. Working under a stressful atmosphere not only creates panic and causes headaches but can also lead to insomnia, hypertension, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, etc. To quote Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, WFH is not just going to cost us our mental health but also a chance to connect with people. A study by the Indian Psychiatry Society reported that within a week of the start of the nationwide lockdown, the number of reported cases of mental illness in India rose by 20% which could have been due to a fear of job loss, salary cuts and unemployment, indebtedness and so on.
So, what is so stressful about WFH?
· Lack of Structure - When to Start and When to stop!
· Too many distractions and interruptions
· Galore of responsibilities - You may feel pulled between competing organization loyalties and overwhelmed by the responsibilities of your various roles
· Lack of motivation
· Gradual cultural dissociation with the organisation
· Social isolation
We now know that WFH is the new normal. The idea of a hybrid workplace (mix of physical and remote) is gaining traction and changing of policies is already underway. Businesses have started thinking about alternative workforce models and leveraging the gig economy. Companies such as Accenture have worked out on new rules and regulations to ensure that its employees are not stressed. Some of these perks include ending conference calls by 5.30 pm IST, reducing the number of meetings and so on. The crisis also presents an opportunity to learn and reskill yourself. With technology as the key, machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles as per a WEF 2018 Future of Jobs Report which would allow meeting demands of the current demographic shifts more swiftly.
COVID-19 may have given us “a perspective on slowing down” as we spend more time with our families, but it has also added to our responsibilities. While it is imperative to stay calm, equally critical is to have a judicious balance between work and home. Taking a cue from economics, increasing the factors of production (in our case stretching long hours) may increase the output in the short term (for us productivity) but can lead to flattening of the curve over a period of time (full capacity utlisation) with a baseline assumption that with more screen time ‘the eyes have it ``all!’
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house