How the future of work is taking shape
Welcome to the new reality of working without an office. It took just three months of successive lockdowns to turn most of us... well pros at Work From Home. Work From home or WFH has created new dynamics at work. Organisations have been able to address workflow inefficiencies like long commute hours, standard work timings, sustainability, and cost savings. Leasing out an office space for 100+ employees is expensive and with only 10 per cent of the workforce at the office, the dynamics for renting and leasing office space has changed.
The workforce has also hailed the intangible benefits of WFH, such as controlling one’s work hours, lower stress levels, an extra hour of sleep, getting to spend more time with one’s family. The outcome? Productivity has increased across the board. As shared by Anirudh Sharma, Group Account Manager - Client Strategy, Rep India, “We ensure maximum productivity without affecting the quality of work we are executing. To maximise fluidity, we ensure smooth communication protocols, daily team management exercises and ample resources in terms of technology to fulfil client expectations.”
Technology has played a vital role in creating this work from home environment. Wi-Fi and broadband Internet services have been the lifeline for all employees, enabling them to work remotely and maintain fluid communication via video conferencing, messaging, task management software and enterprise solutions. The most popular ones being WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Hangouts. Yet, “everyone is missing the human interaction with their employees and even lacking coordination amongst them,” remarked Sharma.
On how Chimp&z Inc increased its work efficiencies, Associate Creative Head Vinodhini Murthy elaborated, “Coordination was the first big challenge, we tackled this with custom task management software and tailor-made processes for every team. The next was understanding every individual’s mindset and then mindfully tutoring our communication. Currently, all human brains are in ‘fight or flight mode’, the only way to get through is empathetic communication – applies to both the target audience and with colleagues.”
BC Web Wise, Founder and MD, Chaaya Baradhwaaj, told Adgully that her agency regularly surveys the team to understand their concerns, doubts and suggestions to improve operations. She said, “Through one such survey, we realised that a lot of us were missing the camaraderie that comes with physically working together. So, we began organising virtual meet-ups, called ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ on Fridays, where we sing together, play games, discuss work and just have a great time.”
As the boundaries between work and home blur, agencies have realised the importance of redrawing boundary lines that separate one’s professional life from one’s personal life. Employees have been working extra hours and are available at all times to respond to official messages and calls. This encroachment on their personal time has been making employees feel like they are working round the clock. To address this concern, digital marketing agency Schbang’s core team proactively created a WFH Guide, which was issued to all the employees to ensure a smooth transition.
BC Web Wise’s Baradhwaaj acknowledged that extremely long work hours were a concern for the team, which was affecting their morale. She added, “So, as a company, we took a stand that we would follow defined timings to begin and wrap up the work. These timings were also locked with everyone’s suggestions. Now, the team ensures that the work planned for the day is delivered in time and no additional work is taken beyond that. The clients are respectful of that and the team has appreciated this effort to support their mental health and productivity.”
The impact of working from home is felt differently depending on the industry. “Ours is a collaborative industry, where one feeds the other and often the inspiration is from a random comment,” remarked Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Bang In The Middle. He further said, “We are meeting and pitching our clients virtually. We weren’t spared of the webinar fever too, some of us were constantly in some or the other webinar.”
The fact that work can be done from home, creates new implications for the future of work. Digitalisation of work flows means that the new workplace might be a virtual office and companies can pick employees from a national or even global base of potential candidates.
“Operationally, we rely on video conferencing to hold all internal team meetings and brainstorm sessions. Client meetings are virtual, too, and we have catch-up sessions scheduled regularly for weekly discussions and updates on important tasks. With everyone working remotely, we miss the camaraderie and collaborative spirit that in-person meetings and the office allow, but this hasn’t stopped the team from continuing to deliver great work,” said Sushant Vithaldas, VP – Brand Solutions, Schbang Bangalore.
While we were technologically prepared to shift to an online workplace, there are still legacy behaviours and standard operating procedures (SOP) that favour the old model of working. Not to mention, not everyone is thrilled with working from home. “A section of our team mentioned in a survey that they actually preferred working from the office for a variety of reasons,” said Baradhwaaj.
“People find ways to make work happen. They find ways to be inspirational. But they also have to face the challenges of not being able to meet people, talk to people for inspiration. You must remember, this isn’t the normal work from home scenario, this is lockdown work from home, and no one knows how to make it work. We all found our own ways. Some of us did have issues, we fought, we broke down. We even bid farewell to two colleagues, who moved on,” shared Bang In The Middle’s Gupta.
At the same time, there are certain in-person activities like photo shoots or video production that require a physical crew. The difference is that there will be a leaner crew that will have to follow required safety measures. Chimp&z Inc’s Murthy said, “A WFH-dominant strategy could be implemented in a phased manner. Perhaps 60 per cent at home and 40 per cent at work model. However, in the current situation, it seems to be a far cry. It will be tough to ensure the safety of even 10 per cent of the employees present in the office for just a few hours a day – a huge risk for any company or agency.”