Over 70% urban professionals willing to working from home post lockdown: Survey

By, Mumbai
May 25, 2020 09:43 PM IST

A survey conducted with 1,082 urban professionals across 10 Indian cities has found that 80% believe that working from home (WFH) will have a positive impact on air quality while 70% said they were willing to continue WFH even after the lockdown ends.

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The clampdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic over two months now resulted in several professionals forced to WFH to ensure the spread of Sars-Cov-2 virus could be contained.

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Conducted by Delhi-based communications initiative, Climate Trends, along with market research company YouGov, the survey was carried out online between April 26 and May 7 across - Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune and Surat. Each of the 10 cities accounted for 10% each of the sample size.

Results from Mumbai showed nearly 95% respondents said they were directly impacted by air pollution, and 69% were willing to work from home as it may lead to cleaner air and less traffic. Over 71% wanted to WFH to avoid crowded places and shared mobility. Additionally, 47% respondents said they were willing to buy affordable electric vehicles provided there was the availability of charging infrastructure. While 65% preferred to walk shorter distances, 52% Mumbai respondents would still consider public transport options more often.

“Mumbai had the highest number of respondents that said they were personally impacted by air pollution as one of the primary reasons for opting for WFH even after lockdown. If people are willing to avoid crowded places, governments, policymakers, and employers may now need to look at a structured WFH practice in a phased manner with equal or more productivity than the office space,” said Aarti Khosla, director, Climate Trends.

“Not just employees but the trend showed nine of 10 employers think that their company has saved on operational costs since employees began WFH provided availability of proper work infrastructure and increased productivity by cutting down on commute time,” added Khosla.

Pan-India results showed 90% respondents thought air pollution impacts them personally with nearly one in two respondents indicating that they suffer from pollution-related ailments.

Sudhir Srivastava, chairman, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board said, “Organisations today have adapted to the current abnormal situation through WFH, and some many continue with this concept once the crisis is over. As a result, the commute will be less and may have a positive effect on air quality. However, public transport may see a setback in the coming days. It is an evolving situation, and changes are being carefully monitored.”

The survey results drew a mixed response from city-based urban planners and experts citing a small sample size and practical feasibility of WFH for those citizens whose work needed them to step out irrespective of their choices. “Everyone cannot work from home as there are certain professions who have to go to the field. There is a need for graded evaluation for which kinds of professionals can transition to WFH completely, which is happening in international cities,” said Pankaj Joshi, director, Urban Design Research Institute. “However, we must realise that we are talking of an extremely small percentage of society. Only 8% of India has broadband access, and we need to be sensitive to how this pandemic will shape other sectors, especially agricultural and working class that cannot fathom such options.”

WFH is a large global experiment currently underway, said, researchers. “If we can nail it right, the benefits will be across several levels of our society from improved productivity, to improved family interactions and cleaner liveable cities,” said Navroz Dubash, professor, Centre for Policy Research.

Transport planner Vivek Pai said, “Complete WFH is possible for not more than 25% professionals. The survey results might be an immediate reaction to the current fear of the pandemic, which is driving such recommendations. We will have to see how the situation changes over the next six months.”

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    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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