While not widely adopted, work from home pretty much became the norm over the past two months when cities went into a complete lockdown mode, to combat the spread of the virus. There no longer exists the question whether this model can work- the overnight adoption of this model left no doubt in one’s mind about the workability or suitability of this model. However, it does come with its set of challenges.
The first thing that comes to mind is data security. Today, while more and more organisations are embracing a digital transformation, the concern is the security of the information. Many companies work on sensitive data on digital information technologies like cloud, big data, IoT etc. which increases their exposure to data breach and cyber attacks. Apart from the obvious data security concerns, other challenges that companies face is the transition to work from home. As a sizeable number of companies were pretty much forced into this model, there were many teething problems – availability of infrastructure at homes to work seamlessly from, communication glitches, network issues, acclimatising the workforce, keeping them engaged and motivated; and maintaining productivity levels, managing insecurities like job security and social isolation, to name a few. This is where the HR function of an organisation plays a huge role in keeping employees connected, engaged, training them, managing expectations and keeping social isolation at bay. Virtual employee training programmes are also being conducted to keep employees connected with the organisation.
Given that the situation is currently fluid and many companies are rethinking their physical workspace requirement, workplace strategy and employee engagement strategies are also being re-evaluated. India’s largest IT service firm TCS has decided to relook at its 20 year old operating model and adapt to work from home model. In fact, they have committed to a transition of 75% of their workforce operating out of homes by 2025. This is one such example. In a diametrically opposing viewpoint, Microsoft Corp. CEO, in a recent interview stated significant drawbacks and challenges of work from home, like negative impact on social interactions and mental health, should not be overlooked.
While the current situation has given rise to many questions like, is work from home going to be the new norm, are employees going to be happy with the new change, how productive is this new model; what is significant is that companies whether open to work from home or not, had to overnight switch tracks and adopt it. Companies that were taking baby steps towards digitalisation and technology upgrade also had to jump start their efforts to keep in sync with the changing tide. Whatever the challenges, what is truly important at times like this, is the resiliency and the adaptability one shows- it is the difference between survival and extinction.