IT'S BACK TO OFFICE
Fortune India|April 2021
IN INDIA, THERE ARE MANY FACTORS AT PLAY WHICH MAKES THE OFFICE CRITICAL FOR EMPLOYEES AND COMPANIES. THAT SAID, THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS IRREVERSIBLY CHANGED THE WAY COMPANIES AND PEOPLE VIEW THE OFFICE.
ANUSHUL DHAMIJA

UNLIKE IN THE WEST, work from home, or WFH as is common parlance now, was nearly unheard of in India a year back. Human resources consultants attributed it to a culture where employees were expected to mark attendance and then monitored through the workday, much like school. This supervision was necessary since it was widely considered that people worked because they have to, not because they want to. That mindset underwent a radical change in March last year when the Covid-19 pandemic-enforced lockdown forced companies to adopt the alternative overnight: get employees to work from their homes to ensure business continuity. “The strangest of work can now be done virtually,” says Priya ChettyRajagopal, managing partner, Multiversal Advisory, an executive search firm based in Bengaluru.

In the western world, about 8% of the workforce operated from home even before the pandemic, according to Manoj Menda, corporate chairman, RMZ Corp, one of India’s largest office space developers. That number is expected to hit double digits as the effectiveness of WFH as a concept gains validation. But in India, that number is probably between 5% and 7% even post-Covid-19 “because we have other social issues to deal with”, says Menda.

Several surveys have listed the physical and cultural challenges of WFH in India, not least because a large proportion of its office-going population stays in joint families, while the younger migrant workforce stay as paying guests or in hostels. Either way, the Indian “home” isn’t ideal for a WFH setup. “The space is not enough; the communication infrastructure is not good enough,” says Anshuman Magazine, chairman and CEO-India, South East Asia, Middle East & Africa, CBRE, a real estate consultancy firm. On top of that people have to juggle between household chores and work commitments, while parents have to also manage children. As the work-life line blurred, mental health issues surfaced. “WFH is taking a toll on people’s lives,” says Juggy Marwaha, CEO, Prestige Office Ventures, part of the Bengaluru-based developer Prestige Estates Projects.

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