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The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way of life. With people questioning the normal day-to-day activities in the first phase to the “new normal”, we have to agree that the world has come a long way in terms of technology and adaptation. Even though people have mixed emotions about it, the “work from home” (WFH) concept is one of the major components of this “new normal.” People did not have the option of working from home during the last pandemic, the Spanish flu, because “to work, you had to be at work.” This paradigm, however, has evolved in recent years. The growth of the internet and the availability of inexpensive bandwidth has eliminated the necessity for “all hands on deck.” Before the pandemic, companies often feared that working remotely would affect productivity in more than one way, which is not completely inaccurate given the abundance of distractions at home. However, studies have found that the right number of hours, along with more creative and interesting tasks, can help prevent these distractions. As per research conducted by Stanford University, working from home increased productivity by at least 13% and improved work satisfaction.Work-from-home employees also spent 15% less time avoiding work and worked 1.4 more days each month, according to an Airtasker poll conducted in March 2020. Additionally, employees who work from home say they are less distracted by coworkers, spend 30 minutes less chatting about non-work concerns, and spend 7% less time talking to management. They also save a lot of time and money because they do not have to commute. According to an Awfis survey, a typical working professional in India saves roughly Rs 3000-5000 per month and 1.5 hours per day under the WFH setup. This freed up time allows employees to devote more time to other tasks or their hobbies, resulting in increased productivity. Furthermore, this setup has also enabled companies to save up on various costs. As per a survey conducted by Knight Frank India, IT companies saved roughly 1% if 50% of their staff worked from home, after accounting for additional costs incurred by these companies for setting up home infrastructure. This saving is due to various reasons, including lower real estate costs as just a few key employees are required to be on-site, and lower operating expenses such as energy, heating, computers, phones, and so on. According to reports, Google saved around $1 billion in 2020 as a result of the work-from-home arrangement. However, a 100% online setup is not very feasible as it may lead to less responsibility, accountability, and employee interaction. Moreover, most employees look forward to a hybrid work model instead of a complete online working model. Reports suggest that employees miss the office environment and the day-to-day interactions with their colleagues and other office staff. As per “WFH and the Impact on Corporate Real Estate”, over 90% of surveyed respondents miss their office setting when working from home. According to the same poll, 43% of respondents believed there was a lack of office-based social life, and 42% said it was difficult to focus in a casual situation. This indicates that an entirely online working style may have more drawbacks than benefits. As a result, businesses must seek to discover the best hybrid model to ensure increased productivity and job satisfaction. On the flip side, while most industries wish to shift online, not all can do so. Factory employment, medical work, real estate work, emergency services work, cab driving, and other industries demand individuals to be on the job site every day. Furthermore, working from home has significant economic implications for these industries. People who perform office maintenance, work in office canteens or provide pick-up and drop-off services in an office face serious implications when offices operate in an online manner. These low-skilled and semi-skilled workforces earn a pittance as a result of this setup. In addition to that, a low commute means low demand for automobiles and drivers, and employees working from home means less demand for commercial real estate, as the offices will not require the large office spaces they are currently occupying. This may also lead to less demand for commercial construction. However, this may mean a slightly greater demand for residential real estate as a few people may want to shift to more spacious homes for a better work experience at home. As many offices, especially in the IT sector, are opening up, most of them are adopting the hybrid working model. IT giant TCS intends to transition to a hybrid model 25×25 in the future. Under this, only 25% of the company’s employees will need to work via their offices at any given point in time by 2025. Additionally, according to the NASSCOM “Return to Workplace Survey”, over 70% of Indian employers are experimenting with the hybrid model of work. IT companies, in particular, prefer to bring their personnel back for three days a week instead of the normal five. Lastly, WFH may continue if companies want to minimize expenses (which they usually do) or provide their employees with greater flexibility, or just because it is available now. This seems to be the new future in the working industry. However, there are many questions, like pay cuts and extra working hours, to be discussed and looked into by the companies. With countries like the UK looking at a 4-day working week, it will be interesting to see what becomes of this model. By Sanskriti Saraff


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