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!

HAD IT NOT BEEN SAME? – VII

You want to see him?” Murli asked in a low hushed tone as if seeking confirmation and to assure that walls that mended between hearts have finally crashed and grounded completely.

Son, are you testing this father?” Mr. Swamy’s voice was feeble, tears rolled down and there was a fierce battle of love and pain in his eyes.

Murli caught hold of his hand tightly in the warmth of his palms and said “forgive me father, this wait of eternity shall be over now” as he sat on his knees besides Mr. Swamy’s bed and connected the video call to Manohar.

Satya finally here’s a call from Murli, I am picking it up, come quickly” cried excited and equally nervous Mano. “Give me minute” pat comes reply from Satya.

Hi Mur…” and a silence ensued pausing Mano’s words as he saw his family with Murli, in fact the other way round. All the feelings that he suppressed for so long now chocked his voice struggling to find an expression. And his emotions found reciprocation on the other side as well. Words didn’t escape lips but lot was being spoken.

Mano, is Rhea with Murli? Is everything fine there? Why they didn’t respond or called us all these days” and Satya went on before she finally joined Mano and saw whom he was facing.

She was dumb stuck. It took few moments for her to register before she broke the silence. She firmly kept her hand on Mano’s shoulder who was still at loss of words, prompting him to break out to build again. And decided to walk away from this reunion to give Mano and his family Time. As she was making her way out of that scene, a voice interrupted her.

Please don’t go away daughter“. It was Mano’s father. And this was the moment when Satya just gave in. “Appa, you called me daughter?” Happiness and astonishment were all over the place.

Yes and I should have done it long back” Mr. Swamy trying to straighten his back and sit as Murli helped him. “I was so blinded by my ego and false prestige that I purposefully turned oblivion to all the good things in life, to all the goodness you all possess. I am a culprit for I have sinned by breaking and keeping my family separated. I was stubborn enough to have kept a mother longing for her son, I have kept a sister at bay from the love and care of her brother and most importantly I have wronged you. I tried to snatch the love of your life and dash your dreams. When I failed in that my inferiority complex left no stone unturned to mend strong walls in an attempt to make Mano realise his mistake. Why I failed to see beyond the tags of Name, Family background, caste, society! I saw your mother in law weeping alone looking at the pictures of Mano but nothing moved me. This realisation came so late. I am ashamed of what I did but can only seek forgiveness. I request all of you to forgive this old man. I understand time can’t be reversed but going forward can be better if lessons learnt from the past mistakes. I beg you all, grant this old man forgiveness.

And Satya & Mano interrupted “please Appa don’t say that. We never wished to see you like this. All we desired for was your love and blessings. May be we could have chosen a different path to seek your acceptance, may be we could have waited a bit longer and tried to convince you. Ifs and buts, maybe – may not be are all part and parcels of our realisations and experiences. We couldn’t have asked more from the almighty“.

Every eye was teary at this moment as pain mounted for so long was finally easing up. And smiles slowly making their way to the serene faces as agony has winded up and tranquility set in.

Prema and Mano’s mother took turns to pour out their hearts and the house was now resonating with Pearl’s of laughter.

Murli and Rhea were watching this without uttering a word. And as they were lost in this emotional roller coaster show Mano’s father signaled Murli to come closer. As he came to the frame Mr. Swamy said “Mano, had it not been Murli and Rhea this old man would have died without his last wish being fulfilled. No amount of gratitude is enough for these kids. He is my second son, I found a person to whom I can complain about you, so be careful Mr.Mischievous” and burst out laughing, opening up to his son and daughter in law have surely pumped in new energy into this frail being.

Surely Appa, I owe my world to him” Mano looked at Murli with eyes filled with gratitude and continued “stop saying old man, last wish and all. Pull up your socks, buck up and be the fit Swamy I always knew because someone is eager to see you soon” Mano finally broke the news placing his hand on Satya’s stomach and Satya blushed.

Then why are you making her stand for so long, so careless you are Mano” his mother sweetly reprimanded Mano.

Blushes and smiles continued before the call ended and Mano announced that they will be coming home soon, maybe after a month or two as the project is getting over prematurely for some issues.

Amma, Appa, we will come soon” emotionally overwhelmed Mano ended the call.

After two months:

Satya and Mano landed in India, went to their apartment and met the other Swamy couple. Both the couples were on cloud nine in each other’s company. They missed it badly. The coincidence of same names might have spelled confusions for them to begin with but many bonds that have been knitted as a result of this are nothing but pure bliss to be cherished for life. Everything happens for good, for a reason – to sum it up.

Meanwhile Mano and Satya were in touch with “their” family. The happiness of having his family back has worked wonders for Mr. Swamy. He was rejuvenated and longing to welcome the new member of the family.

And finally the day arrived when Satya and Mano were set to leave, they met Rhea and Murli at their place bell rang. When Rhea opened the door, a girl in was standing there “Hi I am RIA, your new neighbour, just moved yesterday evening. Can I have a cup of milk please, running out of it…?”

And here we go again said Rhea.

A NEW BEGINNING