Work From Home A New Normal Redefining Existing Norms

The world has been asked to stop, it has been asked to go back and try to chart a new course and this coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 4.2 million people globally so far, has led to questioning the existing norms and redefining a new normal.

There were times when work-from-home was seen an excuse to ‘chill’ and ‘shirk’ responsibilities and it was scoffed at, but then, the world has stopped humming to the pace it considered normal, there was no room for furrowed eyebrows and scoffing nasty remarks. Work from home is the new normal and after years of whispers, it has found its space.

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There is no denying the fact that what we are facing is extremely unprecedented, it is nothing like this generation has had to encounter, and yet, such as the human spirit that it finds a way to cling on to hope and then go about its business to ascertain a semblance of normalcy. At a time when social distancing is the biggest antidote, working from home has blurred the lines between office, home, professional and personal space. And yet, employees and employers are managing to get the work done, few jitters here and there, notwithstanding!

So, you rush to scrub the dishes, scramble back to plug in your headphones, jot down the pointers needed to make the next presentation and the quickly chop the vegetables and then stir the pot. Dabbling through the various responsibilities are no longer isolated, it is all falling into one single line and you have been asked to find a way to ace them all.

Yes, along the way, working hours have been extended, the ‘colourful’ context of a weekend has faded away, but individuals have become accountable, they understand their role and carry out responsibilities with enthusiasm and responsibility.

“WFH has made me more aware of my responsibilities. Since there is no one to constantly track my everyday performance I feel the need to be accountable to myself. In that sense, it has increased my productivity level as well. However, the flip side to it is that there is no beginning and end to a workday, which can get extremely exhausting,” said a friend who believes in adhering to the deadlines.

So, pat comes this take and she is back punching the keys on her laptop, while the whistle of the pressure cooker goes off in the kitchen.

In India, when this concept was well, just a ‘concept’, people have had to adapt and adjust, they have had to deliver results and the comfort of their homes just became few words strewn together. Yes, the commutation time and the smoke breaks were all reduced, but the work needed to be done, and the work is being done.

Management has been forced to trust their people, and well, while this too was a ‘concept’ slapped to a page of a management presentation, it has been playing out quite seamlessly over the past two months.

The concept of a team sounds quite lovely and wholesome, but it has been observed and practised in the true sense during these unprecedented times when teams have had to come together, not only as colleagues but also as friends trying to a lend an ear to one another. Projects have become more collaborative; ideas are freely floated around and there is a sense of unity which is permeating out of meetings.

“When we were in the office, the morning meetings looked like a mundane task, we strolled up there, nodded our heads and then resumed our days. It is no longer that wat. I quite look forward to speaking with my colleagues every morning, we share interesting stories, bounce ideas around, there is laugh, few silly jokes are cracked, and work to is more productive. In essence, I get to understand that a team is important, after all,” another friend said.

And well, there is technology. Finally, companies, the top brass and management are understanding that almost everything can reach the employees without them having to be present in flesh and blood. Having said this, not everything is extremely smooth. At a time, when getting and sustaining a job is important, there have been teething issues, especially for people who have joined a new office.

“I feel productivity has taken a hit. I joined just two days before everything was shut down, so I managed to get a laptop. Thankfully, the Internet connection at my place is smooth, but, well, this is not the case with everyone. There are people who cannot join calls, who cannot contribute, because they do not have a system, and they do not have a VPN. Also, Internet connectivity is extremely flimsy. I am in the line of consultation and we need a flawless Internet and extremely smooth machine to get our job done. For sure, productivity has taken a hit, things can never be the same if we do not get to the office. There is a reason why office spaces have been built, so, well, we have to understand this as well,” said a friend who is one-month-old into his new job.

While organisations are thinking of new ideas to innovate and keep their employees in the loop, there are several other organisations which are clinging at straws and doing with the absolute bare minimum. This is adversity and everyone has had to reboot – but in Adversity does the true character reflect and if and when, we manage to scrape through this crisis, the world order will be different.

There is a concerted shift in the culture, there is a shift in the way companies are thinking, there is a shift in the way an employee is thinking. At a time when there is snowfall in Delhi during May, can anything ever be normal? However, the human spirit is resolute, it has been put to the sword, it has adapted before, it will adapt again.

How much and for how long and where does this eventually leads us remains to be seen! For now, Work From Home is the new normal this new normal is redefining our corporate culture in more ways than one.