Working from home is no longer shirking from home. While some traditional companies fear work from home can impact motivation and productivity negatively, recent studies are showing just the opposite.
Way back in 2013, when a memo leaked from CEO Marissa Meyer’s office about workplace flexibility that she wanted to discontinue for the Yahoo 12,000 employees, it did not go down very well particularly with parents and supporters of workplace flexibility. The press including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Bloomberg all began to weigh the pros and cons of the flexi workplace calling it the collapse of the WFH system. Richard Branson, CEO of Flex jobs, Editorial Director of Working Mother Media all voiced their concern on social media about the move.
This points to one thing, the concept of Work From Home (WFH) has been in play for almost a decade now. Whether or not, it was the right time for Yahoo, we cannot comment. In those days WFH was more of an option but the 2020 pandemic which resulted in months of lockdown and uncertainty of when offices could safely reopen, made it obligatory for larger corporations to reintroduce the concept of WFH for all their employees.
After the 2013 Yahoo episode there were more split opinions.
In 2017, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom said in a TEDxStanford “Working from home is a future-looking technology. Today’s sophisticated communications methods and long commutes don’t require employees to be in the office. It is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility actually hurts firms, employees and environment”. He set up a two-year experiment of the WFH concept at a Chinese company called CTrip in Shanghai. It was decided all employees with even number birthdays would work from home for the first 9 months while those with odd birthdays would continue to attend office. The results were shocking. The experimental group that worked from home showed there was a 13% improvement in output, quit rates dropped by 50%, and CTrip increased profits by USD 2000 per employee on its office space rent.
On the other hand, again in 2017, IBM’S Michelle Peluso, Chief Marketing Officer issued a mandate that all WFH marketing executives must attend office in any of its six physical locations.
So, 2017 had two very distinct views on work from home.
In 2020, on account of the global lockdown, work from home no longer was a choice but a natural flow of events.
In May 2020, when IBM reached out to their 25,000 employees they found that over half of respondents said they would prefer to continue working remotely following the pandemic.
In July 2020, when Microsoft Corporation analysed 350 of its employees, the company analysis pointed out employees were spending 10% more time in meetings each week and additionally working through lunch breaks and well after office hours. Even their official IMs (instant messages) exchanged between employees after office hours (6 pm) grew by a mighty 52% in this pandemic. The employees stayed as much committed.
In August 2020, the job search engine FlexJobs conducted a survey of 800 employees across the US to assess how employees were doing in terms of mental health during the current WFH due to the coronavirus pandemic. The results indicated,
- 48% of employees said their work-life balance is very good or excellent.
- 54% said they received emotional support at home necessary to manage the stress that accompanied the job,
- 66% of all respondents, were not interested to return to an office post-pandemic
- 33%, said they would prefer a combination of working in an office and working from home.
Surprisingly, less than 2% of the interviewees said they would prefer to be in an office full-time.
Closer home in India, Anjali Raghuvanshi, CPO, Ranstad India, feels the services like consulting and HR can continue to be done from home. The technology sector already offers some amount of flexi work, now it would need a closer look.
The advantages of remote work include,
- Saving money on office space, office supplies, furniture and hardware.
- Don’t face issues like lost hours on account of late coming, etc.
- Save on team building and other social event costs at work.
- Talent base increases because they can remotely source the best experts other than the local natives.
- Productivity increases. Recent studies have shown between a 20% – 25% increase in productivity by WFH colleagues as compared to their office counterparts.
- Increased flexibility providing a better work-life balance.
- Saving on housing costs in large cities where the cost of real estate is very high.
- Safe and sound work environment at home.
- Lesser stress levels due to reduced commute hours.
- Accommodates employees with special needs.
Remote work is expected as the new form of work in the ‘new normal’. As of now, it appears a good option for highly developed countries that have the infrastructure for conducive WFH environments. In India, it is still debatable because a lot of the population except in urban agglomerations lack the infrastructure at their homes. Will offices pay for your internet? Will they expect you to work longer hours? Is working from home healthier in the long run? Do I feel secure in the WFH job? Indian corporations like Shopify, Hindustan Coco-cola, Facebook, have already introduced the permanent WFH option even offering employees monetary support to purchase work tables, webcams, microphones and the likes to ensure the employees feel motivated to work each day from the comfort of their homes.
In India, WHO estimates that the burden of mental health problems is of the tune of 2,443 DALYs per 100,000 population. Remote work under the right environment will reduce work related stress and improve mental health. India, get ready for a healthier tomorrow.