Gen WFH doesn’t miss the office too much5 min read . Updated: 20 Nov 2020, 07:37 AM IST
While companies and workplace experts discuss the pros and cons of remote working, many millennials are enjoying the flexibility and freedom it offers
For Smuruthi Kesavan, working from home has been a “blessing in disguise". She clocks in at 9am and clocks out by 5pm, fitting in a two-hour nap in the afternoon. She’s also set up a home-based vegan baking brand on the side, making room for her passion. “Lack of commute has made all this happen," says Kesavan, 24, proudly.
The Chennai resident’s “happy time", as she likes to call it, started after a fintech startup onboarded her virtually in July. “At my previous office, I used to commute 12-15km every day. There was just no space for anything but work; it was so draining," she recalls. The flexibility of working from home allows her to pursue her interest, which helps her return to work with more enthusiasm. “I take orders online 48 hours in advance and start baking early morning before logging in," explains Kesavan, who’s enjoying modest success with her venture. “More than the extra income, it makes me happy. I don’t have to step out of the house, I can be with my family, have some me-time and still work," adds Kesavan. Needless to say, she would prefer the work-from-home setup even after her office reopens.
While companies decide whether to embrace work from home permanently and experts reach a definite conclusion on how the pandemic has changed work culture, many millennials and post-millennials are enjoying the flexibility remote working offers.
What’s also special about this year is that it has created a work-from-home generation that has never worked in an office and may never will if organizations do decide to give up their property leases. The freedom to chalk out their own routine, structure, networking, socializing, stress relief—everything is up to employees to decide. If the coffee doesn’t taste good, they know who to blame. If pets or children demand attention, they are always present to provide. It does mean lesser real-time social interaction with colleagues, but according to the ambitious Gens Y and Z that can be addressed with a hybrid model.
A walk to remember
Bhuvanesh Harihar is glad his employer of three years, Bengaluru-based PromptCloud, transitioned to a remote working model after the nationwide lockdown in March, for it helped improve his productivity. “There are fewer distractions while working remotely. In office, I would end up taking an hour’s break after lunch, playing foosball with colleagues, but now I am done in 15-20 minutes, so I get more things done," says Harihar, 27. He got an ergonomic chair and a monitor from office, apart from an allowance of ₹15,000 to set up the home office.
Unlike Kesavan though, he would prefer a hybrid work model once conditions become normal. “I do miss catching up with my colleagues and our walks after lunch."
So does Rittik Mondal, the country marketing associate for Indeed. After his role at the job search engine became work-from-home permanently in March, he returned to his hometown in Durgapur. “I can step out whenever I want to take care of household chores. Like we were getting our house repainted and I could supervise everything since I was at home," says Mondal, 27. But he does miss his “carefree, peaceful walk across (Bengaluru’s) Cubbon Park to reach office. I would like to maybe spend one week every month in the office and rest at home since I’m more productive here."
In a July survey by Lenovo, “Technology And The Evolving World Of Work", which covered over 20,000 people from 10 countries, including India, the US, Germany, France, China and Japan, 72% respondents, especially from Gens Y and Z, said they are more productive than ever in a work-from-home setup. Close to 75% people in India said they would continue to work from home more than they did before the covid-19 pandemic.
Another global study, though small, by Barco, a visualization and collaboration solution provider, found that many of the surveyed 1,750 employees prefer a hybrid work model, which offers flexibility and freedom to work from home when it works best for them and the opportunity to be in the office to be able to interact with their colleagues face to face.
Experts say that though remote working offers the freedom young people want, it might have an impact on their growth.
“Our lives become richer when we interact with people. With work from home, things like peer learning, mentorship and coaching, especially for younger employees, are affected. There may be formal coaches appointed, but what happens to the informal interactions," asks Lata Dhir, behavioural scientist and professor of organizational behaviour and design thinking at Bhavan's SP Jain Institute of Management and Research.
“With little to no access to a traditional office setup, routines are affected and demarcation between work and self tend to blur as well. Already people are complaining of Zoom fatigue and brain drain." She also believes remote working can have an adverse effect on leadership development, loyalty and commitment levels as one doesn’t get an opportunity to experience or imbibe an organization’s culture and understand teamwork and team members more closely.
That’s the one thing Simran Achpal misses the most. Since the day she’s started her first job, at advertising agency Sunny Side Up as a copywriter, she hasn’t seen the face of any of her colleagues with whom she interacts almost daily.
“I was virtually onboarded six months ago. The woman who hired me recently quit and was replaced by someone based in Kolkata. Though I interact with this person every day, I have no idea what he looks like since most people don’t switch on their cameras during Zoom calls. I feel the connection would be stronger and I would understand work better if I know what they at least look like," says Bengaluru-based Achpal, 24, who landed the job after completing her graduation online in May.
Recognizing the need for a different kind of mentoring for the younger generation that’s not used to the traditional working setup, companies like Collabera Technologies have put in place one-to-one calls with newbies, apart from team video calls on a daily basis.
“For the younger generation, we realize that in this new way of working what is required is not feedback but ‘feedforward’ as the mentoring mechanism. In the feedforward method, instead of rating a person on their past performance, we instead focus on their future development goals," says Kapil Sharma, chief sales officer at Collabera Technologies. He believes managers need to take out time for the younger generation of employees “as a core part of their task and guide them."
Kesavan, meanwhile, is enjoying her work-from-home routine. “Sometimes I do miss office. But there’s just so much to look forward to when I’m working from home."