The novel coronavirus has affected our lives in many ways, including the way we work. Ever since the outbreak occurred, workplaces globally had to close down their offices and ask employees to work remotely.
In India, a month since the lockdown was imposed, professionals across different sectors seem to have mixed feelings about the practice of working from home, especially in the absence of domestic help.
For Delhi’s 37-year-old Krishnpriya, who works as a software engineer for an IT company, the workload has doubled. As a mother of two and with her husband going on-site to work, she says she is working for much longer hours than before. “Work from home is not as easy as it sounded. I have to do the usual house chores and then office assignments along with taking care of my kids who are four and eight years old,” Krishnpriya tells indianexpress.com.
“I am at my laptop by 9.30 am, followed by meetings and calls with clients. In between, I take breaks to check on my kids. I am done only around 7:30-8 pm,” she shares, adding that earlier, with help at home, her usual working hours accounted for 6-7 hours, including travelling.
Apart from the long working hours due to lockdown, Krishnpriya’s company, like several others, resorted to pay-cuts for all employees.
Extended work hours
For Aman, an SAP consultant in an IT firm in Bangalore, work goes beyond the designated hours. “It has been quite stressful, actually. My job requires me to make many calls and a lot of coordination with people to get work done,” Aman tells indianexpress.com.
Simple tasks take longer to get done outside of office, he remarks, “For example, I might need some coding work done. It would take 2-3 hours in office, but now surprisingly takes an entire day at times.” He finds himself attending work-related calls even after office hours. However, the 27-year-old confesses that working while lying comfortably on his bed is a positive.
Coordination troubles and a silver lining
“Work distribution is a huge problem,” Shivani, a Behaviour Designer with a firm in Mumbai says. “I was leading a project and towards the end, we had to make the shift to working from home due to the lockdown. The connect with your team is much easier in person; now everyone just works in silos.”
The 24-year-old also dislikes the fact that the lines between her work and home life have blurred and “just looking at the computer beyond official hours is a reminder of work”.
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However, amid the discontent and challenges of working remotely, the one silver lining for several professionals is saving hours of travel time. For Priya, a Delhi-based media planner, the new routine saves nearly three hours of commute time in the Metro. “Earlier, the hours I spent just commuting to and fro was a huge energy-drainer,” she recalls.
She also believes that the lockdown has changed the mindset of employees and organisations towards the culture of working from home. “Earlier, many people took the concept very lightly. It was imagined that you can take breaks, nap, eat food and shirk work. But that myth is broken now,” she remarks.
The sudden shift in work culture due to the pandemic is not only affecting employees but also poses a challenge for human resource managers. Mohnish, a Gurgaon-based Human Resource executive, mentions that his firm always had a work-from-home policy but no one anticipated it to be implemented on such a large scale.
“This is not the time to stress on productivity. Right now, our primary task is to ensure our employees’ wellbeing, both physically and mentally. We understand they are at home and probably navigating a lot else, such as household chores and other challenges. Thus, we have modified our insurance policy, contracted medical professionals and counsellors, besides introducing flexible work timings,” he says.