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Making the case for hybrid work

Some answers could be found in the perspectives of young office goers in India.

NEW DELHI: The pandemic had brought about a sea change in the way we conducted our lives. A big chunk of our routines, that were defined by interactions with the world at large, had been limited to the confines of a corner desk in our living rooms. For the privileged few who had been lucky enough to avail of this new lifestyle, which has now evolved into a buzzword called hybrid, the perks have been many. What was saved in commute – time, fuel and road rage, was channelled into the home-front, where people learned how to bake banana bread in between Zoom calls. On the health front, the need for smoke and tea breaks got replaced with greater productivity, as one didn’t have to step out to fraternise with colleagues, which led to getting more done in less time.

But now, three years after the pandemic, when we finally decided to return to business as usual, having bid goodbye to Work from Home, COVID in its latest iteration BF.7 has reared its head once again. And once again, the question of telecommuting has propped up, with corporate heads wondering if there ever will be an end to this cycle. Healthcare and educational institutions, government offices, law and order departments, essential and emergency services, factories, are obviously ruled out from under the ambit of Work from Home. But, we must ask, how relevant is the notion of in-person attendance at offices with 100% digital workflows, that does not depend on such mandatory human involvement?

Some answers could be found in the perspectives of young office goers in India. A recent survey said India had the highest number of employees, who preferred a fully remote work set up (38)% followed closely by the US at 34%. Although layoffs in tech majors as well as emerging start-ups have been reported, the discordant note struck by employees is also pronounced. Junior staffers are thrice as likely to want to work remotely than senior managers, the survey reported.

ers are not necessarily deciding working arrangements, as the balance of power in many labour markets has shifted to favour employees. Almost 60% of HR leaders find it more difficult to attract talent now as compared to pre-pandemic years. Clearly, firms offering remote or hybrid work options to their staff seem to be having an edge when drawing and retaining top shelf talent.

An argument that makes a case for hybrid work is the existing pollution levels in most Indian cities. New Delhi even introduced a system of odd-even number bifurcations when it came to permitting four-wheeler traffic on a daily basis, amidst depleting air quality levels. Barring a few metros in India with a robust public transport system, commuters in almost every city rely on private transport to get to work. A substantial 20% of the workday is spent only on commuting.

Add to this, company overheads on account of office rentals and fixed costs including electricity, and taxes, and it gives you a fair idea how much savings can be made on account of telecommuting. The flipside of a remote-based work schedule is the absence of human connection, the face to face interactions that allow for great ideas to be born. And this is possibly where a middle ground approach like that of hybrid work comes into play.

In the aftermath of a global health emergency, we have learned how to adapt in more ways than one. Hybrid just happens to be an add-on to those learnings.

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