In an interview with ET Now, ‘s Rituparna Chakraborty talks about the future of work, and why offices are an important place that can’t just be shut down entirely. Edited excerpts:
Over the past year and half, multiple corporates have vacated their offices, putting the emphasis on working from home, but now, with vaccinations going strong, what does the future look like? Is the hybrid model a long term thing?
Honestly, we still don’t know where we are headed, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some things that have been sorted out – every company that can build work from home infrastructure already has, making it a proper option for their employees. I think the transactional capabilities of getting work done are in place, more or less.
However, there is another problem. The ability of teams to work together has started to deplete, and in certain job roles this might affect mental health and employee morale. Which is why most organisations are not entirely ruling out a return to the office. Projects that require teamwork, which require huge amounts of investment in each other, they would probably like to have people back in the workplace.
We’re guessing most employers will opt for a hybrid model – whenever its possible to get work done remotely, they will take the opportunity while still allowing for employees to physically come to the office, meet their colleagues and work together.
But of course jobs that are frontline, on the ground, all of this doesn’t apply. We can only talk of jobs that are possible remotely.
Of course. Having said that, let’s talk more about hybrid workplaces. About six months ago, HUL’s Sanjiv Mehta said it’s too early to write an obituary for work from office. But now, employees are getting more accustomed to working from home and they’ve invested in their home offices also; how do you see a balance being struck between the home and office?
I agree with Sanjiv’s point, it is too premature to say that; there is more to workplaces than the infrastructure, right? We cannot ignore the human element anymore. There’s a bond attached to the routine of going to work, meeting people, there’s a certain culture in the office that is an important part of the process. We cannot rule out the upside, the effects of it. Organisations are looking at preserving that culture, we haven’t arrived at a point where we can shut down offices entirely. Options will be kept open, plus, a joint space is necessary to keep the organisation’s morale up, keep the workforce upbeat. There are some interesting models emerging in that regard, with companies looking up ways to diversify their investments in real estate, with relation to the kind of offices they want to build in the future.
What type of technology, what kind of solutions, do you foresee organisations investing in to ensure a hybrid work model is more successful?
Cybersecurity will the priority. That will be first item on every CEOs list. With everyone moving towards cloud models, there will be more investment in the digital. Many companies still rely on physical models, so the shift to cloud will accelerate, meaning more investment in the digital aspects. Everything, from sales, marketing to employee management.
In other countries, where offices are opening up, companies are setting in multiple rules, like getting a COVID-19 test every week. Is India Inc there yet? Do they plan to insist on a return to work? Are there risks of losing talent?
First and foremost, I do believe that employers would try and come out with policies to keep the majority of employees safe at workplaces. Some of them will border on being extremely rigid and stringent and just like any other policy it will have pushback. And because this is not something which is in the purview of any labour laws, there isn’t a lot of authority attached. But still, most companies will be stringent, with vaccinations also picking up pace.
And yes, if companies don’t allow for work that can be done remotely to go on and insist on physical presence, they may end up losing talent.