It’s soon going to be curtains for those partying at home. It was good times with bermudas and flip-flops, and coffee on tap from the kitchen. But with the Covid-19 pandemic easing, work from home (WFH) is gradually winding down. In recent days, media reports are pointing to corporate groups with WFH protocols—Procter & Gamble, Wipro, HDFC, Deloitte and several banks—polishing their glass and brass, and inviting their employees back to their work stations. Most are doing it in a staggered manner. Mothers with small children and older staffers are still being allowed to stay at home. IT service provider, TCS, with over 5 lakh employees, too has called back employees, but it is working on the 25*25 model that will allow 25% to work remotely.
It also appears that the spread of new infections has been stemmed, and the much-dreaded ‘third wave’ has been muted, with the exception of Kerala and Mizoram. For the first time in over six months, the number of active cases has dipped below the three lakh mark, while the daily fresh cases have been controlled at about 20,000 for the last 10 days. These encouraging figures, along with the steady pace of vaccinations, have emboldened state governments to slowly open up schools and places of worship.
The WFH regime has encouraged many desperate companies to cut costs by letting go of expensive real estate. Some have adopted hybrid models that have created pools of floating ‘laptop’ employees. However, in the long term, it is not a permanent solution. It was adopted as a fire-fighting measure to contain the infection, and at the same time keep businesses running. There are two obvious shortcomings of working from home.
First, it is entirely dependent on how dedicated an individual employee is. Supervision is minimal. If he decides to slacken and make excuses, the company suffers. Second, many jobs by their very nature require teamwork and joint consultation. Digital conferencing has become the norm, but bereft of human contact, decision-making is suffering. Companies are not run by robots, and a partial dismantling of the WFH model is indeed welcome.