THE PARADIGM SHIFT FROM “WORK FOR HOME” TO “WORK FROM HOME”

Being associated with the software industry and remote working experience for a long time, I would like to shell some light on how perspectives changed with the pandemic. 

Prior to the pandemic, I would choose to work from home only if I am sick or just wanted to concentrate on work a little more. During the day, at work there are usually some distractions that could be avoided in an isolated space like home. After a couple of days in a row, it starts to get uncomfortable to request for more days of work from home because there are people around in office who would think that I am working for home than working from home :). That has never been true, but there is no way we can prove the other wise. Apart from these, there are a few stereotypical managers who think folks who are working from home are not working. They would call every hour or deliberately schedule some meeting just to feel good by making sure we are working. I am sure some of you would totally echo the same thoughts as me. I have also seen managers who think people who are sitting for a long time in office are more dedicated. I won’t say all these are myths, but it depends on the person. Some managers totally don’t care about where we work from as long as the deliverables are meeting the timelines. 

One of my colleagues had a baby girl with some medical condition and the baby needed constant care. She requested for working from home for a period of six months and considering her situation that has been granted. It used to be difficult and needed lot of approvals even when a family member is suffering from terminal illness.  Later on she opted only for 50% work as she was unable to concentrate on work. So, this carried on for almost two years, and I heard so many people judging her. Many wondered if she ever works or just wants to keep the job.  As fellow humans we have to be more considerate, but hello! she is getting to work from home for months together and we don’t get to do that even for a couple of days. 

It is indeed convenient at times to work from home if one can,  for a few days when there is a need. If my family needs my presence at  hometown, I want to opt for such adjustments for a week or two.  What has always stopped my manager to agree would be, “what would other people in the team think?. “What if everyone start asking for such adjustments?“. Their main fear is that the productivity would be lost. 

Couple of weeks before the lockdown was announced in India, our company started making arrangements for us to be able to work from home for longer durations. I was dealing with those arrangements starting from remote login to ensuring we have all the required hardware to work from home. After many discussions and approvals, we were almost set before the pandemic lockdown came hard on us. All of a sudden, I saw many leaders/managers thinking differently. Now the thoughts are,” We have to somehow make this work for the business” ” We should not loose time because of logistic issues” “Hope people cope up well with this situation and be able to work normally“. Many employees of our company travelled to their hometowns before the lockdown. We experienced low impact with remote working at least in our team. There will always be some trouble working remotely, but this is where we have to be innovative in finding alternatives. I wonder why it was so difficult to accept these adjustments before the pandemic. Now there is more time for employees also to take care of their health by utilizing the commute time.

In no way, this means work from home is a bed of roses. Despite the challenges we are facing working from home, I think this pandemic has changed some misconceptions. I hope in the new normal, we would have better working relationships and our leaders would trust us if someone says “Working from home” :). Even when the pandemic ends, and we end up spending more time at work, we would have the choice to request for work from home option with head held high. 

Starting to trust and giving employees great autonomy and flexibility allows people to feel independent and empowered

WORK FROM HOME – A LUXURY OR AN AUSTERITY?

Ever since the lockdown began, things seemed a little upsetting. For me, it was just a complete stop to the new beginning of my office going. as I was just getting used to the environment at work almost after 10years of being at home. But again work was normal to me as I have been freelancing for a while but going to the office and being with my colleagues was a fun time. Thanks to the lord that i am always surrounded by happy people who keep me at joy.

But again, Everything is a blessing in disguise.

Lockdown and back to work from home did have lots of pros for me as a mom, and a woman as such. There were those times when I hardly took care of myself and every day was a marathon for me. And indeed the new job thing was also taking up my time with my kids, family and my besties. Now with my travel time saved, I kind of profited extra time which I surely get to use in plenty.

I also started working out much more and also took time to be with my kids. Things never seemed to be complex amidst work and life balance for me. Even though at times I do feel exhausted and lost (obvious mood swings), I still feel this is PERFECT!!.

I started to focus on my writing and even reading too. I helped my children to get to read more and also enjoyed my “Me-time” as well as my “buddy-time” which was almost negligible then.

There are also things which are not in our control like work-wise the expectations lay more specific as we have no excuses to make or run away from work. But again, here I feel blessed as my work is my passion, hence it never took my mind off.

Everything seemed to change, but some things never changed, like;

  • everyone around me asking for one more dosa, when I am in a hurry to finish my kitchen work and get to work,
  • asking for attention, when I am lost in work…
  • asking for specials to cook, when I am exhausted…
  • asking for an extra walk, when my legs are aching to take a break…
  • asking for the long story at bedtime, when I am in love with the bed, who is cozily rolling me into sleep.
  • the alarm that goes beeping, when these winter nights are for sleeping.
  • the morning rush, even when I am on a holiday, as others are not…

I know these things will never change, even if its work from home or not. All I need to change is my attitude towards it.

And all will look PERFECT as I wished for.

NEW NORMAL, GO AWAY!

‘Lockdown for 21 days’- many generations witnessed it for the first time in their lives, perplexed and scared, we all waited, unaware of what was going to happen next.  As COVID started spreading its tentacles, lockdown increased. We felt blessed to be at home, safe and together with family and started to spend the time by playing games, making video calls, finish the pending movies and series on our watchlist and experimenting with many new recipes.

As we were adapting to the new changes in our routine, work from home was declared for majority and online classes were started too. Offices and schools were managed and executed from the very comfort of our homes. Initially, we all were happy that work and learning would continue, but for this long, we never thought or imagined. Every month we kept on expecting a miracle for COVID to get vanish, but the cases increased.

I am sure many homemakers, like me, must be dead tired by now. In the pre-covid times, we used to have our ‘me time’, but not anymore. After my husband left for work and kids went to school, I had a lot of free time, but now I crave to get 15 minutes during the day. With offices and schools entering our homes, the meaning of ‘home’ seems to get faded somewhere. Earlier after coming back to home, we used to relax, but now we want to get out of the house. Sanitizing the groceries, managing online classes, the skewed meal times due to anytime office calls, the hushing up of kids during meetings, looking for a new game for kids every other day, etc., etc. We homemakers are really frustrated right now, at least, I am!    

I really had enough now and I don’t like this ‘new normal’ anymore. I long for the pre-covid times when everyone could walk out of the house without any worry. My kids also want to go to their school and meet their friends. We want to travel places, but not with our masks on and botheration to sanitize everything around us.

The ‘new normal’ taught us many things like proper utilization of resources, restricting impulsive buying, enjoying in tough times and a lot more. We have learnt our lesson and hope the ‘old normal’ returns soon!

LET’S TALK SOME ECONOMICS

What does “work from home” mean to different parties? For the one who is working it means no grooming required, pajamas would do for days on a trot, spreadsheets sharing screen space with prime or Netflix – basically, more about comfort, isn’t it? But can the same be said about the housewife who always works at and for home? Nope – coming straight from horse’s mouth. Work from home for her means more rounds to the kitchen to fetch tea and coffee in between the meals 😁. Parents think “since you are at home why can’t you spare time, why are you on the screen all the time, you don’t talk to us“. So it’s different for everyone. And “work from home” pros and cons have been very well touched in the last two articles by @sizzlybizzly @chiradeepnf. Nothing more left to plunge in and bring out I guess when it is about “people & workplaces”.

So thinking about the points made by my fellow writers regarding “work from home Vs work from office” I stumbled on a thought “how does place of work impacts the economy“. Let’s take a mini tour into it.

Have you ever seen any office (as a structure/building) standing in isolation? Never (or say it’s a rarity). As soon as an office starts running, buzzing with people it serves as an opportunity for many other ancillary setups. For example, a cafeteria, a snack center, a stationary/Xerox center in case of educational or government offices, a tea stall, petty vendors like that of cigarettes, and many following the suit co-exists with the primary “office”. So the staff working and the people visiting the premises naturally provide business to the aforementioned entrepreneurs (not the scale but dignity matters). Turnover means income, and income means further possible spending creating more rounds of income and consequent spending. This is called the multiplier impact. More income and spending is the backbone of any economy. Incentives and investments are made to boost up the spending stimuli of the people. In that scenario closing of offices purely means a down spiral impact on the economy and the world is experiencing the same. Economic Depression is the offspring of the same negative multiplier impact.

Closing of offices might mean nothing much to the white-collared job holders but it’s a definite blow to the blue collared job holders since they usually are hired / work on an ad-hoc basis and their work can’t be remote so the very concept of “work from home” cease to exist for them. Also the social security schemes and other perks for such apparently minuscule jobs aren’t much overwhelming. In their case, it’s either go to the work or sit idle. The gatekeepers, guards, janitors, etc comprise this group and definitely don’t have a place in empty offices. This pandemic and work from home period also spelled doom for the daily wage earners and housemaids. On this account “work from home” is a horrifying practice and not to repeat the no income – no spending – crippled economy routine.

“Work from office” aids in generating state revenues. No matter whatever country we are in, a large proportion of the working population utilizes public transport for commuting to work :

Local Train

 

Metro

State-run buses, local trains, metro, trams – lifelines of any city. They not only facilitate hurdle free commuting but fetch a huge revenue on a daily basis to the government in the form of fares. Due to the pandemic and advent of work from home, people are no doubt confined to their spaces but the fiscal deficits are spreading wider and wider.

The world is amidst a grave issue, handling a double-edged sword. Work from home is an alternative to keep us going but sadly the fuel (read the GDP numbers) is not enough to steer any nation through. On personal front onsite/offsite work, both have a well-balanced impact on our lives yet individually. But for a greater good offices need to open ASAP.

No matter how advanced a nation is in technology not everything can be done ONLINE. The entire world on the same page of collapsing fiasco speaks volumes about this truth.

 

 

HOME OR OFFICE, WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?

This work from home concept was not new in human history. In fact, there was no concept of office in the beginning.  Everything was done at home or lands near the homes, which were mostly cultivation and farming. But after the so-called modernization and the invasion of different European countries, especially by Britishers, the concept of office came into the picture in India. That was in 1729. And exactly three years before, in 1726,  the world came to know about its first office. So India was not so backward, thanks to Britishers.

That was a brief history of this whole office concept which changed the work from home situation prevalent since the creation of mankind. But later, different multinational companies trying to fetch more productivity brought back this Work From Home concept again. Employees were happy to be at home but they know how they struggle even while working from home. That’s a different matter which I don’t want to get in. Let me talk about what is my take on working from home vs. working from the office.

In my case, there was no official arrangement for this WFH system in our organization but I took special consideration from my superior for my health condition and stayed at home most of the time during this pandemic.

How was I benefitted working from home –

  1. I got enough rest working from home.
  2. I am at peace that there was no one to ask this or that.
  3. I had the freedom of working at any time of the day.
  4. No office gossips or discussions.

But I also suffered in some or other ways which are as follows:

  1. There were a lot of distractions at home.
  2. The work from home was taken for granted by both my superiors as well as family members.
  3. I spent more time in front of the screen unnecessarily.
  4. I lose the interpersonal skills which I sharpen every day by dealing with my colleagues.

So more or less, working from home neither helped me nor I could accomplish something extraordinary.

The literal meaning of the word, Demarcation is – “the action of fixing the boundary or limits of something“. A line is always drawn intentionally to differentiate between two similarly important aspects of life so that people don’t get confused about both and do things improperly.

To keep the discipline of office intact and the peaceful environment of home all the time, it is better to respect that demarcation between the two. I know, my major reason behind working from home, is my health condition, but if I will be asked to choose one, I will choose to work at the office for a stipulated time every day to keep a balance in life.

THE SEEMING LUXURY OF WORKING FROM HOME VERSUS SQUIRMING ONE’S WAY TO THE WORK SPACE

The outbreak of Covid-19 forced governments worldwide to impose lockdowns and shutdowns which in turn locked down and shut down several work places with many being given the mandate to work from home and not physically be present at the work place. The fear of endangering one’s own life and that of others was too real to ignore.

‘Work from home’ was not a much known concept for most of India until March 2020. Though the corporate world was acquainted with working from home, the rest of the job goers weren’t as familiar. A larger part of India being agrarian farmers, daily wage labourers, government office bearers and the business class, work from home was often considered a privilege of the corporate sector. And so while corporate India switched from ‘work from office’ to ‘work from home’ with relative ease and clarity, the rest of the working class was left at crossroads, with many being shown the exit doors forever and others wondering what it exactly meant.

Slowly and surely, a few other sectors caught up with the new normal called ‘work from home’.

Be it in India or elsewhere in the world, ‘working from home’ seems to entail unimaginable luxuries extended to job holders on a platter. That must mean lazy mornings, late night TV shows, more family time, less travel, saved leaves, working from the comforts of home, breaks as often as one wishes and of course more me-time. A treat of a lifetime (hoping that Covid-19 is the last pandemic of all times)!

Though the picture seems rosy and tempting, it surely is not so – at least not for everyone. The mandate of working from home brought out many hurdles in its smooth implementation for all stakeholders.

Not everyone is blessed with decent residential apartments. For the many who live with their families in single-room spaces, having to work from that very same place surely isn’t a welcome mandate. And for those with spacious homes, exposing parts of their homes to lesser known colleagues proves nothing less than inviting intrusion into one’s privacy.

And then for parents, working from home is highly challenging with kids interrupting work every now and then or zoom-bombing during meetings and presentations, leaving parents embarrassed and sorry.

Digital technology has literally kept the world afloat these last few months. Not all would agree to this with ease! I have known people who didn’t own laptops or desktops before the lockdown, simply because they didn’t need to. With the sudden imposition of lockdown and orders to work from home, they spent frantic days trying to borrow them. With shops closed, buying wasn’t an option. Working for long hours using smartphones wasn’t feasible beyond a few days. To top it all, percolation of internet connectivity to all areas and weak signal strength are two major hurdles that interrupt work.

For many job holders, going out to work is an escape from the home environment – be it in because of abusive family members, nagging children, unending household chores, or the sheer boredom of familiar spaces and people. Many people find their me-time not at home, but outside home, often while travelling to and from work or in the office cafeteria. Endless days of work from home with no avenues for change is surely punishing.

To talk of those who do not hold jobs outside, tolerating the constant presence of the usually absent family members has been quite challenging.

So you see, ‘work from home’ is not that goody goody!

While people working from home desperately wanted to breakfree and come out, those working from their job spaces were equally desperate for breaks during the lockdown. With only emergency services operational, we had overworked medical and administrative personnel almost everywhere with no respite in sight.

With performance demands running high, tempers seem to run high as well. Having been one among the ‘work from office’ people with all holidays cancelled, the frenzy of endless activity with oscillating emotions all around were everyday normals for me. Working from the workspace and returning home after the day’s work is what each office goer either craved for or dreaded. Those away from home stations were the ones who craved for it, while those stationed in home towns dreaded the thought of returning home as carriers of the virus.

With things creeping slowly to normal, we are now aware what to expect from situations in future.

‘Working from home’ in normal times is either occasional or one’s personal choice for extended times. And so, it never brought out the hurdles as the imposed ‘work from home’ in 2020 did. Similarly, work spaces were not that obstructing in normal times, as the no-home, no-leaves work demands of the lockdown-shutdown phases did.

We can best vouch for a work culture with mixes of both forms of work in normal times. After all, you cannot have the luxury of settling down on your couch and stretching yourself a bit with a cup of coffee or a glass of juice at your work space! As for future emergencies as in the present situation, we better be digitally prepared!

Getting ‘in line’ for the ‘On-line’ World

Probably the most ‘trending word’ doing the rounds in the world today.

From the humbler days of when ‘being online’ meant – Yahoo Chat or MSN Messenger, to the current day when an avatar just isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest, hiding behind a computer screen with only a user name – today, the person himself has come ONLINE. (not out of choice, but more out of necessity)

From our very homes directly to board meetings in conference rooms, we are to be accessible at all times, from different locations from a simple electronic gadget.

Life has certainly moved gears overnight, and we have to move with the times.

Much before the whole ‘Life coming aboard Online’ thing happened, we had this beautiful connection that came into existence to people from around the world, better known to us as Yahoo Chat rooms, where people just clicked on random names, started chats, and started getting to know each other from around the world. Who says two perfect strangers cannot make great friends?

Sometimes opening up to a Stranger is much easier than with a friend.

While life has graduated from chat rooms to friendship/dating sites, to blogging platforms, we’ve all come across people who we never knew existed and forged great relationships, some of which may have overridden relationships that we have with people who we meet every day – that said, there are two sides to everything. A ‘Friend’ is of course a relative term and it depends on each one, on how they perceive friendship and what do they expect from the relationship.

In the Era of Whatsapp and social media, we are constantly bombarded with information, telling us the importance of communication, relationships, and un-explored opportunities between people from different nations – the more we’re willing to go searching, the more we come across different kinds of people. I stumbled on one such opportunity of being part of a community called ‘7 cups’. 7 cups is a website that provides online therapy and free support to people experiencing distress by connecting them with trained listeners. Like I said earlier, sometimes it is just easier talking to a stranger than a known person.

So while the whole debate of Online strangers turned friends in a virtual space is good or bad, is for every individual to take a personal call – Online connectivity and the fact that the world is slowly coming together is (or rather are) steps in the right direction.

I am part of 4 WhatsApp groups, members of that particular group who I personally do not know, but share similar interests with – is an opportunity to share knowledge, build connections and who knows where it could lead to… and that is where I’d like to bring in a different aspect of how online connections can get you to places you’ve never been to, money in currencies you don’t earn in.. and an opportunity in a country you’ve probably you’ve never heard of…

Over to my co-writer who will enlighten you further

Further to what Savio mentioned about how we’ve transformed from Yahoo Messenger to the current state, let me personally tell you that being online has transformed me in more than one way. Work-wise, I belong to a shared service industry where I support regions other than India. And over the last 12 years, I have built some excellent professional relationships only by being online. While I work from home these days due to the pandemic, I keep 2 dedicated hours in the morning only to talk to my Kiwi and Australian counterparts. All this happens over hangout messenger and calls. It doesn’t stop here. We finalize financial reports, sales numbers, and profit numbers all through the same medium. And you will definitely agree with me that this is common in the IT industry as well!

Coincidentally, I developed my passion by writing too by being online. This made way to some beautiful relationships that blossomed through the online medium. To mention two, in particular, Savio and Charlie, even though I have never met either of them in person, I am very comfortable talking to them and picking up writing from where they have left off… this post from Savio and many previously written story relays from Charlie.

I am also a part of a wonderful blogging community, again, I have met none in person but on the virtue of penning down my thoughts, I got the opportunity to evolve my passion of writing into a second profession. Presently I am coordinating with many people via regular online meetings to understand their requirements and write content for their website. Now, isn’t this awesome?

I think being ‘in line with the online world’ is the futuristic way to life. We all need to do it in different proportions and capacities. Today everything is available virtually – schooling, banking, hobby classes, jobs, and professions, and thanks to this pandemic, catching up with parents and friends also happens through the same online medium.

Cheers to this new way of life!

Like Aditi said earlier, it’s not in the physical meeting but in the connection that is formed between individuals that one can take off from where the other has left. With coming onboard with the whole ‘getting online’ situation, the world has gotten closer inter-state and within countries – no doubt, but have the offline connections suffered at the expense of excessive screen time?

The lessons have been many throughout this past week, a couple of them more with this post. (for everyone who can point out the lessons learned through this post, gets a virtual date with an exclusive ‘Aditi-Savio’ meet [yes! that’s a THING now])

If you’ve paused even for a few seconds to think about what you’ve just read, we’d consider ‘our’ job well done. It isn’t always about the information imparted but our abilities to self introspect after reading the views on various topics presented through this amazing platform, how the mind works, what makes us tickwhat is that one particular word/ phrase or sentence that helps us ponder, heal, smile or even at best go and reach out to that person you’ve always wanted to.. but never ended up doing.

Cheers to life! Cheers to relationships! Cheers to what’s ahead – we’re all doing our little bit to contribute to the bigger goal, making this world a better place and as long as we’re doing that, we have nothing to worry.

My fellow Candles, and all you lovely readers – this one is dedicated to all of you.


Also if I may add, being professionals in our respective fields, Aditi & myself both felt this little post of ours was dished out more like a presentation, you know the kind that people stand on the stage and deliver?

So, if you are more of that visually inclined person and see words come live in front of you as you read – this is right up your alley, you are free to visualize us on a stage speaking the same, suited up, smiling and holding on to that mic as if it were the most precious thing ever.

Collaboratively written by Aditi Ranade & Savio Paes