Due to the pandemic COVID-19 the new era of Work-from-home culture has begun. We are trying to analyse the pros and cons, the impact of this new necessity-built culture. Also take a look at the impact on the productivity of a person due to this lifestyle.

Work-from-home or WFH is not an invention of the COVID-19 epidemic. But, undeniably, the world did discover and embrace this work mechanism because of the global pandemic. As cities after cities across the world went under lock-downs and mandatory quarantines, WFH became a necessity, rather than luxury.

For close to two months, millions of workers across the globe have been confined to their homes and working over the Internet. WFH has also entailed many adjustments not only on the part of the offices but also in the case of the employees.

Conventional thinking states that WFH is not a feasible option. It has long been held that employees that work from the office vis-a-vis those that do remote working are more productive. Employees at their desks or workstations not caught up in other stuff do more work. This belief ignores the amount of disturbance that is encountered in the office set up. From tea-breaks and smoke-breaks to stretchy meetings and socializing, all these factors add up and bring down productivity.

On the other hand, if done properly, working from home is not necessarily bad. Distractions at home can be managed and reduced. In fact, if done properly an employee working from home could be more productive than the one at the office because of a number of factors like fewer distractions, lesser stress due to commuting, comfort at home. Employees that work-from home are fresher and willing to take more on their plate than the stressed ones at the office that complain of overwork.

Yet, even though the productivity gains from home-working are high, a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) stated that 62 percent of remote workers say they’re afraid that their onsite colleagues don’t think they are working as hard as them.

Looking at the present COVID-19 situation Work-from-home has changed its status from luxury to necessity. This has also resulted in increase of productivity of employees.

A couple of years ago, an extensive study done by Flex Jobs had thrown some very interesting insights into WFH. Here are a few:

75 percent of people say they are more productive working remotely due to fewer distractions.

97 percent say a job with flexibility would have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.

When asked to choose which types of flexibility they’re most interested in, survey respondents said, telecommuting was the biggest draw (86 percent).

Is Home the New Office?

The whole work-from-home movement has been necessitated as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While WFH or remote working did exist for quite many, it was always on the sidelines, and quite frankly it was elitist; namely, only a few hope to be a non-office employee. It is only in the past couple of years that a serious deliberation has been underway on the utility or futility of WFH. As office rentals shoot through the roof, companies are realistically considering the benefits that accrue out of remote working.

The good thing about remote working is that not only can a good resource be deployed, who otherwise would have been lost out to the system. Also, the cost is significantly lower. Keeping aside the administrative savings on a remote worker, in terms of light, power, and IT spend, the employees that work-from home are also open to working at a lesser amount than their onsite peers. This can result in significant savings for any company that decides to opt for work-from-home.

In this regard, the big question that is foremost in the minds of everyone is whether the current arrangement that has enabled WFH is just a response to the crisis or is it going to last for good? Will companies continue to promote WFH, or will they revert back to earlier conventional ways?

By all indications the COVID-19 virus is going to stay with us for a long time, and by that logic so will remote working for WFH. Many companies have already announced that they will continue with WFH even after the lockdown has been lifted. This has been done primarily to safeguard employees and also for business continuity. If the offices are running in a remote and onsite model, there is very little chance of disruption if there are any more peaks in the case that necessitate a lockdown.

Two of India’s biggest IT companies TCS and Infosys have made bold assertions regarding WFH. TCS announced that a whopping 75 percent of its 4.48 lakh employees globally will work-from-home by 2025. Meanwhile, Infosys stated that initially, 50 percent of employees would come to the office, and the rest will work-from-home. Moving on, 66 percent will be in the office, but 33 percent will work permanently from home. MNCs like Microsoft and Amazon have already given guidance to their teams to work-from-home till October 2020. Meanwhile, search-giant Google has extended its work-from-home policy for the remainder of 2020.

Thus in many ways, WFH will surely be the “new normal”. And home is going to be the new office. This means that we will now have to rethink the distinction between home and office. Typically, home is meant to be a place of relaxation and rest, whereas the office is the place to work. Now, if both of the places coalesce, the employee will need to design the home appropriately to meet the requirements. For instance, most of the work-based interactions are conducted over video-conferencing that means individuals need to create an aesthetic corner from which they can connect to their peers. Similarly, many other tweaks are required to make the home “office-ready”; for example, there is the need for high-speed internet connectivity, furniture for office equipment, and other things.

The Work-From-Home culture does not fit all industries. The industries that need a significant work space, infrastructure can not afford their employees to sit at home.

In short, just like companies need to evaluate and tweak their systems to allow remote workers; similarly, employees need to change their homes, making it more amenable for remote working. Considering that the WFH ethic is going to stay relevant for a long time to come, it makes great sense for people to start transitioning to an office-friendly home.

Impact on Office Space

Unquestionably, work-from-home will have a serious and detrimental impact on the real estate sector, especially on the commercial side. As companies double down on WFH, commercial leasing will bear a big brunt. According to news reports, almost half-a-million sq ft of office space is getting vacated due to the epidemic. Many experts consider this to be just the tip of the iceberg, as more and more companies opt for WFH, corporates would be willing to vacate their premises and shift to a cheaper and smaller place. Take the case of IBM; the multinational has multiple small offices across different locations in Bangalore. An employee can choose to work from a location that is closest to his/her home or based upon the meetings. This is called Flexi-working.

Yet, the impact of flexible working is not going to be as profound as WFH will be. Already some of India’s top professional corporates in the information technology (IT) space are thinking about surrendering a part of their rented office space as they start to implement work-from-home for their employees even post lockdown. This is largely due to issues related to safety and productivity. With the government guidelines on maintaining social distancing at the office, namely, keeping a ‘six feet’ distance between coworkers and also to have non-essential employees working from home, the corporates are really evaluating if the arrangement could be more long-term.

Also, bear in mind, most of the corporate offices are in high-brow commercial suburbs; the leasing rentals of this place can be pretty daunting. Moving to a WFH is not only savings in terms of administrative cost but also in Capex. If the number of onsite employees is reduced companies will be able to reduce their real-estate footprint. No wonder companies are looking at that option in all earnestness. There are news reports that Cognizant transported some 70,000 desktops to its staff working from home and maybe now looking to give up the commercial space occupied by these employees. Then, Clix Capital which has nearly 600 employees — is planning to vacate half of its office space. Meanwhile, RBL Bank too has asked its admin team to pilot WFH models which could help it eventually give up one large office space.

Yet, WFH is not a one-size-fitsall; namely, there are many business functions and verticals that require employees in office space. A significant proportion of work does require professional infrastructure and cannot be shunted into employee homes. In that sense, big corporate headquarters will still be relevant. The cropping will be on the edges first. So, companies that maintain offices in tier 2 or tier 3 cities will be inclined to shift them to a WFH model. In that way, WFH is like a workin-progress, companies are evaluating the possibilities and the savings, even as they experiment and learn.

The impact of WFH on the real estate sector will be evident in the days to come, as more and more offices move to that model, it goes without saying that there will be a sort of realignment from the leasing side, in terms of lower rentals, or attractive discounts. These could be the measures that could be employed to attract companies.

Sleep also plays a major role in employees’ productivity even in Work-from home culture. A healthy sleep stabilizes the brain and increases the immunity. The mattress plays significant role in WFH environment.

Residential homes get bigger

While the corporates are looking to cut on their footprint, the employees are looking at increasing theirs. Till date, there was a distinct segregation between work and life. Office space was for work, and home space was for living. Since commuting to and from to the office can be taxing, people tend to live as close to offices as much as their home loans would allow. This would lead to an issue of population density, resulting in higher prices for homes and lesser space. But to avoid the inconvenience of travelling, people would be ready to make that compromise.

Now, if that need is curtailed, there is no need to buy cramped homes in the cities, and people can easily work out of the periphery or satellite cities. This way, the pressure on the cities is diffused, and people are able to lead a more relaxed life.

WFH will force people to consider setting up an “office space” in their homes. Typically, our homes are divided into living rooms, bedrooms, study rooms, kitchen, etc. Generally, the study room or the library is set up in a casual manner, to enable relaxation; thus, it can’t function as home-office. A specific corner or a room would need to be dedicated for the office, where all the calls could be taken, the lighting is perfect, the furniture is good, the connectivity is alright, etc. Essentially, this means that we will need more space in our homes, space for an office.

This need for extra space, coupled with lower prices of real estate could result in a boom in the residential space. “The work-from-home concept may become the next fulcrum for home-buying decisions, where the walk-to-work option had held the longest sway,” says Anuj Puri, Chairman – ANAROCK Property Consultants. “This, and millennials’ new-found preference for buying rather than renting homes, are among the most prominent new residential real estate trends of the COVID-19 era. With the rise of the WFH culture, many may now prefer to live in more spacious and costeffective homes in less central areas. While sufficient supply currently exists in most of the peripheries, this new demand will eventually also dictate fresh supply. Bigger homes, affordable prices and more generous open spaces in the peripheral areas will draw demand from tenants and buyers alike,” Puri adds.

Thus, while the commercial market may see a negative impact in the medium term, the contrary might be true for the residential market. As long as the basics are right, like electricity, water and Internet connectivity, people would not be disinclined to move to the outskirts of the cities, if it allows them convenience and helps them cut the cost of living.

Refurbishing the House

Alright, now that we all agree that WFH is a reality and here to stay. Let’s figure out how to make it work. As mentioned earlier, space is an important Sleep also plays a major role in employees’ productivity even in Work-from home culture. A healthy sleep stabilizes the brain and increases the immunity. The mattress plays significant role in WFH environment. Feature aspect. Once that is resolved, come the other steps. Here are as they go:

• Technology first WFH is enabled and strengthened on the basis of technology. Simple things like high-bandwidth connectivity, decent laptop/desktop, etc. become critical during WFH. But even as the main things are worked upon, don’t forget the little things, like mouse or keyboard, webcam, headphones, and other things that make WFH easier. Make sure all of them are in good supply.

• Licensed software In India, one of the biggest problems with home users is software piracy. Typically, the home users are most prone to use pirated software, and this makes WFH a bigger security issue. Hence, employees would need to install licensed and secured software on their machines, before starting off with WFH.

• Don’t forget it’s home People, especially men, have a tendency to function at extremes, they will either treat space like home or office. But a home-office is both; thus you will have the usual distractions, the kids wanting help with the homework, the dog wanting to be taken out for a walk, and so on. Don’t be disturbed by these; learn to embrace them as integral aspects of WFH.

• The Design aspect There’s an adage that states don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, that’s not how real life works. How you are attired, what’s in the background, etc. says a lot about you. Thus, it is important to ensure the background is appropriate to your personality.

• Manage expectations It is very pertinent to realize your strength and weakness, not only as an individual but more so as a worker. Are you the social type that needs constant company? Or are you the loner, who works in isolation? Based on your characteristics and working style, you could set the expectations with the seniors at the office.

By undertaking these measures, the home can be readied for WFH. It is critical to remember that WFH is not a privilege or entitlement; it isn’t something that is gifted or can be taken away. The responsibility to ensure WFH works is incumbent on both the management and the employees.

Sleep tight for better WFH

In the entire conundrum about working from home or resuming work at the office, we should not forget one important aspect. The COVID-19 epidemic is still hovering over us, and we need to safeguard ourselves. One of the critical aspects of healthy living is to sleep well. The adage, early to sleep, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, is still relevant today. Though thanks to lockdown we are confined to our homes and now have the opportunity to sleep and rest more, but a lot many individuals take the extra hours saved as a gift and use it intelligently, like spending it on some online classes or acquiring new skills.

Also, good sleep is necessary for a healthy body. It is amply proven that a healthy sleep stabilizes the brain and increases immunity, and hence sleep is a critical aspect of our well-being. Even those unfortunate cases that contract the virus they are asked to rest and sleep as much as they can for the body to recover.

But, it is important to understand the difference between good sleep that is rejuvenating and trying to sleep that does not really help. Sleep should not be confused with hours on the bed. Good sleep is typically between 6-8 hours. The thumb rule for good sleep is that, if you do not feel energetic and enthused after sleep; it was not a night of good sleep.

One of the primary aspects of good sleep and the one that is most often overlooked is the mattress. We spend almost one-third of our life on a mattress and yet, seldom do we pay attention to it. For the past couple of decades, mattress and bedding manufacturers have deployed the best in technology and material to create an amazing experience for an individual. Even, if you are not sleep-derived, these mattresses can be the difference between a goodnight sleep and a restless one. People who complain about lower back pain, etc. on waking up are in most need of these mattresses.

The good news is that these mattresses are available online, and can be ordered through multiple e-marts or brand websites. The mattress manufacturer companies have been cognizant on the Coronavirus epidemic fears and have undertaken all security measures to ensure that the customers get a safe and secure product.

Thus mattress can be a great support for the WFH movement. During these critical times, when we are doing everything in our homes from work to rest, it can take a toll on our bodies. For instance, people working from home may be unable to follow a schedule, as they did earlier. This could result in an irregular sleeping pattern and take a toll on health. So, just because one has a little more time at hand does not mean that sleep should be taken for granted.

In fact, there are many people who in the normal rigmarole of life, had been unable to catch their forty winks. This can be a great time, to work on their health, catch good sleep, work on fitness et al. Typically in big metros like Mumbai, Delhi or even in Bengaluru, people spend on an average of 3-4 hours in commuting from work to home. In addition to the time spent, it was a stress that would also play a part, like, for instance, you are running to catch a specific suburban train or trying your best to avoid traffic, so as to reach office in time. All these factors all play an important part in our lives, and we never seemed to realize it.

Work-from-home or WFH is a new evolution that brings a sort of stability and sanity in our lives. By properly utilizing it, we can be more productive for our workplace and also happier as who we are.