Covid has necessitated re-imagining office spaces, say corporatesUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 23:57 IST
Gurugram: Start-ups and companies across the board are coming to a consensus that in a post-pandemic world, workplaces would need to be re-imagined, with the possibility of work from home (WFH) becoming a permanent feature. Sharing their experiences during an online conference, ‘Redesigning the workplace: A new normal for women and young leaders’ on Saturday, representatives from different fields weighed in on work from home, among other possible options, that might redefine jobs in a post-Covid world.
Deep Kalra, founder and group executive chairman of MakeMyTrip Ltd, said that the percentage of employees willing to come back to the office space for work was less than 20%, going by an internal poll conducted by the company. He said that even if 25% of the staff was called to work, they’d need to wear masks at all times, which would be an uncomfortable experience. “To work from home or not has become a great debate in current circumstances. People are more comfortable working from home. The workforce could start limping back to office gradually, but the reality is that people will fall sick due to various reasons. Till the time the virus is controlled, we have to contend with WFH protocols,” said Kalra.
He added that the option of WFH could work well for those who need to travel long distances to get to work and the company was hoping to implement WFH permanently for a day or two in a week after the pandemic is over. “We should look at the positive side of things and see if these can be used to re-imagine the way we work. There are employees who come from Delhi and Noida and spend anywhere between three-four hours in transit daily. This time could be utilised towards more productive things,” said Kalra during the conference, organised by Ashoka University.
Most representatives were of the view that a post-Covid would need a mix of the best practices that could include both WFH options and visits to office spaces.
Sangita Reddy, the president of FICCI and the joint MD of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited, said that productivity of employees had increased during the pandemic and such approaches to work could be implemented in the future. “It is crucial to encapsulate the best practices of the current situation in a post-Covid world. The positive outcomes of WFH need to be implemented in the future. It could open the possibility of more women continuing with work even if they were to shift cities due to various personal reasons,” said Reddy.
Vinita Bali, independent director and strategy advisor, Cognizant Technology solutions, another panellist, said that the pandemic had given companies an opportunity to question the whole concept of office spaces. Huge singular office spaces could make way for multiple smaller ones, argued Bali. “We can have distributed offices where we have a large number of small offices that do not require employees to commute beyond 30-40 minutes,” said Bali.
Weighing on the future possibilities for women employees, Bali said that WFH was not a panacea for the inclusion of more women in the workforce. “It is a naïve and simplistic assumption that the option of WFH would bring in more women into the workforce. The Covid-19 experience might not be a solution to the diversity issue plaguing organisations,” said Bali, adding that work from home did not necessarily offer more flexibility.
Kalra also said that women were finding it more difficult to work from home than men. With boundary-less working, handling both work and families was tough, he said. “Women with children and in-laws are especially finding the option of WFH challenging. The understanding is that they are available to work all the time. Unlike men, they do not have the luxury of working uninterrupted,” he said