Homeward bound

Homeward bound
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First Published: Thu, May 27 2010. 09 02 PM IST
Updated: Thu, May 27 2010. 09 02 PM IST
Has working life changed in the post-Infosys or post-Wipro world? Is the modern Indian workplace any different because information technology happened?
I ask this because today I have decided to work from home. And I am having trouble getting people to take this seriously.
For instance, my brother-in-law just called me a few minutes ago. I had to mute the volume on the Michael Palin documentary that was playing on the home theatre before I picked up his call.
“Hello V!” I said, while quickly downing the last dregs of a glass of 12-year-old Glenfiddich. “I am working from home today. Speak quickly so I can get back to work.”
V did the telephonic equivalent of ROFL. “What nonsense. Working from home, it seems. No one really works from home, Sidin. That is just an excuse for doing nothing but intermittently replying to official emails dressed in your T-shirt and lungi.”
“How dare you!” I exploded indignantly on the phone while reknotting my lungi. “I am getting serious work done here. I have already cleaned out my email inbox. A full backup of the office laptop has been taken. And I had just began to clean my BlackBerry address book. So many duplicates. So many email addresses of ex-employees.”
I waited a few moments for him to stop ROFLHAO.
Finally we reached a compromise. We agreed that he wouldn’t slight my noble labour intentions, if I wouldn’t bring up the fact that once, while photocopying a set of documents in the office, he took several copies of blank sheets of paper. (They were then used as one-sided paper for taking notes.)
Wasn’t the IT revolution, modern HR practices and the Internet supposed to make things like telecommuting, flexi-timing and working from home easier and more effective? I clearly remember newspaper articles in 2001 and 2002 that promised us a world where entire organization would be manned by employees working in leisure from their homes.
Few people would ever have to physically go to office. All meetings would take place via high-speed video conferences. All documents would be exchanged via email. I even remember a company that said authentication systems would be developed that would ensure that a telecommuter actually spent a minimum number of hours every day doing productive things from home.
What happened to that dream? Why are so many people still in office every day? Even in 2010? And why do people snigger and elbow me in the ribs, conspiracy in their eyes, when I tell them I am going to spend a working day being residentially productive?
Sometimes it just makes more sense to work from home. You are able to focus, execute and deliver projects faster and with less distraction than you would in a normal off...
Sorry. The ironing fellow just came.
So, as I was saying, sometimes you tend to get so busy in the office that you hardly get any work done. Meetings are the single biggest culprit for this. (Especially any meeting just after lunch. God. The terror.)
Not only that I was just going through hundreds of data points on a site called http://www.undress4success.com. (I am not making this up. That is the actual name of that site. Best of luck convincing the guys in IT.)
The website is a companion to a book released last year called Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home.
(I have a feeling this column is going to be a hit on the Internet thanks to search.)
It lists dozens of reasons why a work-from-home policy makes sense for companies. I present a few here. They all refer to the US market.
Studies and empirical evidence show productivity increases of between 25% and 40%. The increase in productivity for half-time teleworkers would equate to at least 5.5 million man-years of work.
You just don’t argue with empirical evidence. Also: Half-time telework for 40% of the working US population would save 1,500 lives, prevent at least 95,000 injuries, and save some $11 billion a year in direct and indirect costs associated with traffic accidents. The impact of this would be significantly higher in Delhi.
Another one I would have never thought of: During pandemics or disasters, three-quarters of teleworkers say they could continue to work, compared with just 28% of non-teleworkers.
And if you are having trouble convincing the guys in finance:
A poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
As you can see non-teleworkers are rash driving, unproductive, money-hungry fiends who should be sent home (ha!) immediately.
These data points clearly provide material for debate. It is time, if you ask me, to rethink the need to have employees in the office. Let us free our people!
But now I must get back to work. Not a moment after I first arrange my ABBA and Boney M albums in alphabetical order.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, May 27 2010. 09 02 PM IST