Should Corporates Make Work from Home Arrangements Permanent or Temporary?

How WFH Became the New Normal and Whether Corporates Must make it Permanent?

World over, many corporates have shifted to WFH or Work from Home Operating Models due to the Covid 19 Pandemic as Normal Working from Office was not possible due to fear of infection and spreading the virus.

Indeed, WFH became the norm rather than the exception over the last Six Months or so with some firms such as Google and Facebook extending them until the middle of 2021 while others are continuing these arrangements pending a decision on how to operate once there is more clarity over the Pandemic and its trajectory.

In this context, it must be noted that WFH has its own pros and cons and hence, this article can be seen as an examination of the advantages and disadvantages of WFH arrangements with pointers on how to proceed in the Post Covid Age.

Moreover, until a Reliable and Effective Vaccine can be found, it is likely that the Governments worldwide would encourage corporates to continue with WFH so as to control the spread of Covid.

Therefore, it is important for Business Leaders to take informed decisions regarding the WFH arrangements after considering all the Points of View.

The Pros of WFH Arrangements and Productivity Gains and Cost Savings Can Accrue

To start with, WFH does increase productivity of employees as they are in their natural settings and are more comfortable in their homes. Of course, some would say that WFH creates too much of an informal atmosphere leading to decrease in the seriousness with which employees view work.

However, research has shown that this is mostly true for the Fresh Entrants and those yet to reach Middle Management levels and hence, with some proper training and mentoring, employees at all levels can be made to be productive while WFH.

Moreover, WFH arrangements save corporates much monies as they do not have to spend on leasing or owning large properties in prime areas and the savings from real estate and maintenance and upkeep of their premises can be channelled to provide better Internet and Broadband connections as well as the latest models of the Laptops and other accessories that are needed by the employees to WFH.

Of course, WFH needs dedicated LANs or Local Area Networks as well as secure VPNs or Virtual Private Networks and this costs corporates though such costs are minimal when compared to the expenditure saved due to aforementioned heads and hence, WFH is a tossup.

Making WFH Permanent Needs a Paradigm Shift and Embrace of Digital Transformation

Having said that, making WFH arrangements permanent needs a Paradigm Shift in the way corporates function as well as an embrace of Digital Transformation Models that need cutting edge Organizational Adaptations and adopting Agile models of working.

For instance, Hierarchical Organizations would have more trouble adjusting to WFH than Flatter and Leaner ones which can be seen in the way New Age Tech firms such as Google have already gone full WFH whereas traditional firms are struggling to find the balance between productivity and complying with governmental regulations.

Therefore, embracing WFH is not only a mindset change but also a fundamental shift in the way corporates view themselves and the work that they are supposed to do.

In addition, WFH needs the active buy in of all stakeholders and as can be seen in the cases of Indian Back Office Firms, clients must be comfortable allowing their confidential data to be shared over VPN and other networks, however secure they are.

Thus, there are issues related to privacy, security, and integrity of data as well. Apart from this, there are the Generational Barriers to be taken into consideration such as the Boomers having trouble adjusting to the New Normal Models.

Corporates Must Perform Due Diligence before Embracing WFH Models

On balance, it appears that there are more pros than cons for WFH and hence, corporates can transition to such models after Due Diligence. Having said that, a safer route would be to follow a Hybrid Model wherein employees WFH on rotational basis and attend office for meetings and periodic catch-ups.

Moreover, we also caution against a Full WFH mode on a permanent basis without considering the Local conditions.

While it is easier for Global Firms such as the Big Tech companies to embrace Full WFH, others who operate in multiple countries where local rules and the very real nature of cultural factors come into play, it is recommended that they embrace a Glocal mindset to WFH.

What this means is that they shift to Alternate WFH and Office working models till the time the Coast is clear as far as the Pandemic is concerned.

Moreover, in many countries, including India, the laws governing corporates and labour laws have to be amended to take into account WFH and more importantly, corporates ought to prevent litigation and legal troubles if employees run afoul of the law when WFH.

Our suggestion is that a Thorough Due Diligence is needed before taking decisions.

Concluding Thoughts

Last, on an optimistic note, it is clear that the long heralded Digital Age is upon us and hence, the Pandemic can be the catalyst that spurs the full embrace of the Virtual.

Indeed, futurists have long been predicting a time when WFH becomes the norm and as the saying goes, Fortune Favours the Prepared, and hence, corporates that have been planning for such eventualities thrive in the New Normal.

To conclude, Change is the Only Constant and hence, it is time for the World to Shift to the New Normal of Living and Working catalysed by the Covid Pandemic.

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