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NEW DELHI/BENGALURU/MUMBAI : Gurugram-based Prasanto K. Roy and Moushumi Dutt have worked from home in the past, but this time around, the experience is different.

Dutt, who works as an independent consultant to a venture capital fund and startups, said: “This mandated WFH is a bit different—the air of uncertainty, that worse could happen. As a consultant, I worry about the impact this phase will have on retaining current work and clients, as new business development is largely on hold."

A policy consultant with a US firm, Roy is used to meetings and reviews through video-conferencing or audio calls, over Skype and Zoom, with overseas clients. “However, some of the work has come to a grinding halt, especially government meetings, where face time is important and many government officials still haven’t taken to moving external meetings to video or audio platforms."

Working from home with a 12-year-old daughter, and a feisty Beagle can be a bit of a challenge, though it also means spending more time with each other, the Roy-Dutt couple said.

With an unprecedented work-from-home experiment setting in across Indian cities, as a result of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, professionals are finding a new work-life dynamic despite the technological and infrastructure challenges.

Information technology (IT) companies, among other firms in Bengaluru, have told their employees to work from home as much as possible, starting this week. Infosys Ltd, for instance, decided to extend work-from-home to all those who don’t have to necessarily be in office.

Rohan Hazarika, 28, a research analyst at a private firm in the city, has been working from his Kamanahalli home since Monday. His office has asked employees to work from home until further notice as a precautionary measure.

“There are huge advantages in working from home. We save a lot of time on commute. But there are challenges like infrastructure support. For example, I need a large screen monitor for my work, which may not be available at home," Hazarika said.

Like most Bengalureans, who have little time to pursue anything outside work due to the hours spent on the road, Nitin Bhatia, 35, a regional director with an IT multinational, gets to play his favourite sport, tennis, only over weekends.

Thanks to his employer’s recent work-from-home diktat, his driving hours have become tennis practice sessions. “Next month, I plan to play at our society’s tennis tournament," Bhatia said.

However, in India, remote working comes not without its challenges. A March note by global research firm Gartner, Inc. said that 54% of human resources (HR) leaders in a snap poll indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective working.

A global banking firm’s IT base in Pune has been load-testing since last week to check if the entire workforce can log in remotely at the same time. This is one of the concerns that has prevented many IT firms from issuing a blanket work-from-home order. Consultancies across law and advertising firms in Mumbai have shifted largely to working from home.

For Suroshree Dutta, 39, who works with a multinational bank in Pune, it means juggling between the kitchen, children and calls. “In the current scenario, even children have to stay at home and the regular day-care centres are shut. This means allowing children much more screen time than they would normally. That’s the only way to get work done when you need to be on client calls."

Dutta, along with her son (3) and daughter (11), are in this locked in situation, at home. Her husband, an IT professional, is yet to get clearance to work from home, as he works in an offshore development centre of a large IT firm, where data flow is strictly restricted to the facility.

But for many, the advantages of working from home outweigh the challenges. Hazarika said: “We should all try to do our best and be more productive from home in our own creative ways. This is also an opportunity to build a stronger work-life balance."

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