Post COVID-19 Workspaces: Work from Home or Regular Office?
We have seen accelerated transformation of the commercial real estate market over the last decade. Workspaces have metamorphosed from mere physical to dynamic spaces that are enablers for creativity, innovation and growth. The onset of COVID-19 has suddenly compelled everyone to rethink their workspaces. We are exposed to divergent views with regards to the effectiveness of WFH Vs Regular Workspaces. However, we should be mindful that we are still amid an extraordinary environment that is compelling us to perform from an environment that may not be completely natural, even if it is our own home!
“It will never be 100/100 (100% of workforce at office for 100% of the time),” says Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO, TCS. HCL Technologies has seen productivity gains due to remote working and has proposed a model where 50% of its staff will work from home while the rest will be operating from office and this will be on a rotational basis. Rohtash Mal, Chairman of start-up EM3 Agri Services, says, “In two months of lockdown, we learnt that with WFH there is no productivity dip amid dramatic cost cuts. We now want to build on it.”
However, views of Salil Parekh, CEO, Infosys is more balanced. As per him “There will be more flexibility on where people will work from. The reason we have been successful with WFH during the crisis is because of the social capital built over a number of years. Maybe people underestimate the value of that social capital. For me, it is absolutely critical. Imagine doing this (WFH) for the next 10 years. It’s unlikely that you will be at the same intensity. You have to renew social capital, employees need some interaction. My view is that the crisis is finite.”
While companies across the globe are exploring options for permanent WFH for employees, Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft has expressed reservations about the thought, saying that it may have a negative impact on employees’ health. Stating that working remotely may lead to mental health issues and hit on social interactions. “What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after,” he told the New York Times in an interview.
Salil Parekh’s Social Capital and Satya Nadella’s Social Interactions conform to the fundamental human phenomenon - ‘Mirror Neurons’ at work - Neurons that fire when an action is being performed and when the same action is being observed. What DNA is for biology, the Mirror Neuron is for psychology. Mirror Neurons are responsible for why we often unwittingly imitate other people’s behaviour or are influenced by them.
It explains why we often smile when we see someone who is happy and wince when we see someone who is in physical pain. This explains the importance of Social Capital or Social Interactions, the fundamental building blocks for collaborative creation, motivation to accept common organisational goals, motivation to accept a leader and motivation for the leader to lead etc. Social connect and activation of the Mirror Neuron phenomenon energise the socially connected workforce leading to significant enhancement in performance. While WFH can be an alternate arrangement in times of need, it certainly cannot offer the same collaborative experiences as in regular workspaces. Hence companies must be prudent enough to understand the optimum scale of WFH, lest they may risk losing their competitive advantage over the longer term.
Subrata K C Sharma
Chief Operating Officer, Brigade Offices