“Work from home” ( WFH) has become a good option for organisations to combat the Covid crisis. I am aware of many senior leaders, who always believed that work from home meant no work and no control over their teams. They were not only sceptical of this concept but generally discouraged their team members opting for WFH. Now with the Covid crisis, these leaders have not only accepted this concept whole heartedly but are willing to accept it as the new normal.
While WFH is being lauded as the the way to go into the future, it has its own limitations. We need to be fully aware of the pros and cons of working from home. Let us first look at the positives of this concept :
a. Flexibility : It provides flexibility to the individual and the organisation in terms of time and place of work and also enables individuals to manage their day accordingly.
b. Time-saving : It saves a lot of time especially for employees working in the big metropolises of the world. The commute time is generally waste of time and energy to say the least. This option ensures that people do not waste their time in commute.
c. Family time : Employees tend to spend more time with the family in this option as they are physically at home even during working hours and thereby can lend a helping hand to their spouses and family members
d. Cost saving : It could be a potential cost saving measure for organisations in terms of infrastructure and real estate costs. A part of this could be passed on to employees in terms of their salary and benefits.
e. Work-life balance : It can promote better work life balance if we are able to manage it optimally at our end and managers are supportive of the same.
Now let us look at the negatives of this concept :
a. Over-working& Under-working : Employees tend to work more and thereby get more exhausted mentally due to calls and video conferences. With time zone differences, it could end up eating into personal time of employees. On the other hand, some employees may misuse this option and work less too.
b. Impact on relationships : The WFH option could result in impacting workplace relationships as conflicts cannot be easily resolved through web chats, phone calls or video calls. Face to face interactions help in resolving conflicts at the workplace.
c. Family relationships : Over-working and mixed priorities of work and home could end up in avoidable family conflicts between spouses and other family members as well. This could result in misunderstandings, which otherwise may not occur in reality.
d. Work life balance : While most people would think that work life balance could be better, in reality it could be the other way around. Family members may start believing that they were better off when you were going to the work place rather than working from home.
e. Team work : Team work at the workplace could be unplanned causality of the WFH option. When team members do not meet face to face or talk to each other, their productivity is likely to dip and conflicts may increase.
Having looked at the pros and cons of the WFH option, it may be prudent for organisations to take a balanced view of the same post the Covid crisis. It is neither desirable to swing from one end of the pendulum to the other and make all employees work from home nor stop this as an option when we get back to our old ways of working. It could be provided as a flexible option and gainfully utilised by employees and organisations to strike the right balance between employees’ needs and organisational priorities.
It may be useful to remember that “Work from Home”(WFH) should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.
S Ramesh Shankar
26th May 2020