At the company’s AGM, which was held virtually for the second time in a row, the business leader made a bold statement when he said that the future of work will be hybrid. Drawing attention to the company’s 25*25 paradigm, a senior leader of the company had remarked that in the next five years, not more than 25 per cent of its staffers would need to be physically present in its facilities, at any given point in time.
Chandrasekaran added a disclaimer that in-person attendance cannot be fully ruled out as meeting people is a social necessity and that the office will be used as collaborative space in the days to come. The feasibility of Work From Home has resonated with the likes of everyone from Fortune 500 companies to neighbourhood start-ups as well.
Twitter has offered a perpetual WFH plan to its employees. And Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the company is keen on providing employees, whose work can be performed remotely, a permanent Work From Home option. The social networking giant is even considering the option of letting staffers work out of other nations. The underlying principle is the importance afforded to how we work, as opposed to where we work.
The company is nevertheless planning to open most of its US offices to 50% capacity by September and fully reopen by October.The idea of a possible return to office after a year of exile at home in the case of many companies has been met with opposition. Microsoft India’s annual Work Trend Index report released on Tuesday said that 74% of workers in India were keen on remote and flexible work options.
Interestingly 73% of employees also said they would appreciate more in-person time with their teams. A salient statistic was that 73% of decision-makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
This raises the questions of how would workspaces in India facilitate a hybrid model of office-going, and what possible benefits could it have in the long run.A few challenges will need to be addressed, starting with the question of keeping costs to a bare minimum. WFH works well for firms where remote work makes the cut, and overheads need to be kept low.
For well-established corporates, that own properties and do not depend on leased offices to run their operations, it might be a no-brainer to get employees back to the office. But experts have suggested before doing so, investments will need to be made in areas such as improved ventilation, as well as deployment of systems that can refresh the air frequently.However, companies also have to consider the notion of pulling out employees at a time when their dependants, such as children are also confined to their homes on account of e-learning.
During the pandemic, thousands of staffers working from home had built work schedules that incorporated child care and elderly care into their routines. Disrupting such routines will need to be assessed based on the actual value that will be added by having employees report to work in person. There are merits to in-person attendance that can never be achieved over zoom calls.
The inherent group dynamics and brainstorm-ing that are part of in-person meetings, where creative ideas are argued, debated and unleashed, have been sorely lacking in the past year of Work From Home. As lockdowns start getting lifted and mass vaccinations become the order of the day, it remains to be seen how corporate enterprises balance out this need for attendance, while making sure employees are kept safe.