The Future of Remote Work: Work from Home to Blended Work Environment
Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog
Before 2020, a movement was brewing within knowledge-work organizations. Personal technology and digital connectivity had advanced so far and so fast that people had begun to ask, “Do we need to be together, in an office, to do our work?” We got our answer during the pandemic lockdowns. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the business work style has changed entirely. The epidemic has prompted people around the world to combine remote and in-office working. This fusion of remote work and in-office working is giving the rise to a new working model, a blended work environment (hybrid work), where an employee can work from the home, office, or anywhere.
The technology sector has traditionally resisted large-scale work-from-home due to stringent regulations. However, during the pandemic, the IT services or BPM industry that does not allow data or devices outside of a perimeter due to contracts requiring stricter norms, some companies did launch the work-from-home policy. This demonstrates that clients trusted Indian tech providers in their ability to ensure remote security compliance while delivering quality work. After the larger organizational decree of mass work-from-home, most tech leadership conversations were about planning how to get the employees mobile by renting or purchasing laptops. But as the dust settles in the aftermath of the crisis and people begin to venture out of their homes, we have seen the rise of or work-from-anywhere (WFA).
WFA shatters the constraints of location. In the work-from-anywhere model, employees are provided with a flexible infrastructure that allows them to work from their homes, “hometowns”, cafés, or literally from anywhere as long as they have a good internet connection. WFA also renders itself to other advantages such as
- Reduced traffic on the roads thereby increasing productivity and mental health,
- Significant cost-cutting by cutting overheads and expenses associated with on-site operations, and
- Diversification of the workforce wherein organizations can tap otherwise unavailable talents – young parents (especially women), people with limited physical mobility, freelancers, etc.
However, by allowing employees to WFA, many managers worry about:
- Remote employees working less, or multitasking, mixing personal responsibilities with work.
- The decrease in communication and collaboration among co-workers might constrain the informal learning that typically happens in the office.
- Less focus when employees are working from home regularly as compared to working from an office. In an office, it is easy to have a chat or laugh with colleagues that sit next to you or those that pass by your workstation – something that can’t be done over the video call while you are working remotely.
So, the blended work approach seems to be the right way to go in the future. By bringing blended working practices into the mix, businesses will be able to give their employees the much-needed flexibility whose benefits go beyond what organizations have experienced during the pandemic. Also, organizations that are planning to completely move towards the remote working need to understand the importance of the traditional office. Building connections and team spirit in a team that is working from home are very difficult. Also, remote working can’t be seen as a direct replacement for office working. Working from home regularly during these stressful times has caused several people mental health problems.
The importance of blended working can be understood from the freedom and flexibility it will offer to employees. Following the blended working approach is not just about having the right tools and technology in place to make it easy for employees to work in the office, from home, or anywhere else, but also letting the employees choose the best way for themselves. There will be people who will prefer working from home and there will also be those that would choose an office setting. This freedom of choosing the way they want to work and how they want to do it will be one of the reasons that employees will use to choose one company over another in the time to come. So it will become imperative for every company that wants to hire and retain good talent to provide this flexibility.
The pandemic isn’t going to be the end of the traditional office but it will certainly change the way how it is seen and used. The post-pandemic era could bring forth a total re-imagination of the traditional office, which could result in the widespread adoption of the blended working model. It won’t come as a surprise either as this model can potentially combine the advantages of two completely different modes of working, which can be beneficial for both employees and organizations.