Corporates are getting crazy about Work From Home (WFH) during this COVID-19 crisis. There are speculations that this model may be the new normal of working in the corporate world even after COVID-19. There is no harm thinking this way but corporates have to also think that how will it impact the industry and simultaneously the economy. If the companies decide to work from home even after the COVID-19 crisis then the employees may not require vehicle to commute neither cars, nor two wheelers nor buses, autos etc. Employees may not require petrol, diesel, CNG, electric vehicles. They may not fly to another office in India and abroad. They may not require new formal clothes, shoes, cosmetics, perfumes etc to some extent. They may not require frequent grooming on every other day. They may not require new roads, flyover because there will be less traffic. Corporates may not require commercial spaces even the demand for residential property may go down because in that case people need not to relocate to metro cities or industrial hubs from their native towns. It may impact the whole industry including core sectors like Power, Steel, Oil & Gas, Real Estate, Manufacturing etc. and service sectors like Aviation, Tourism, Transport, Malls, Retail, Restaurants, Hotel etc. There may be so many other impacts which corporates may not pre-empt as of now.
It does not mean that these industries will be totally closed but there will be huge down turn in all these industries and hence lot of people engaged in these industry may lose their employment. People who are and who are not convinced about WFH scenario in long term may become victim of this. If the corporates advocate WFH culture even after this COVID-19 crisis it basically means that they are ready to work in almost same situation like lockdown. During the lockdown 1.0, the Indian economy suffered a loss of INR 32000 crores per day and if the companies promote WFH culture even after COVID-19, the economy may continue to incur similar losses in future as well. In that case what will happen to industry? The market may become more or less saturated market. So after the COVID-19 emergency corporates have to really decide whether they want to adopt growth strategy or return strategy and I think return strategy won’t work. In case they adopt the return strategy, everybody else associated with them specially their service providers and vendors will be bound to do the same and this process will become endless and hence may impact economy badly.
“Work from Home” culture may have huge impact on people’s behavioral competencies. People are given the task and they just complete it. This just enhance their competency to deliver with excellence whereas the social and emotional competencies such as team work, building partnership, managing conflicts, being enterprising may not grow to the present desired levels. People may not feel the need to develop their strategic thinking as they may become comfortable in doing what is assigned to them and thus the organizations may not be able to build future leadership pipeline.
Another big threat from WFH seems to be the adverse effect on the employees’ health. Excessive use of head phones and ear phones during the online meetings and webinars may become the cause of diseases like Noise Induced Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, Dizziness, Ear Infections etc. Listening through earphones for more than 60 minutes at one go may cause these hearing related disease. WFH may also reduce the average number of steps which one take in a day while going and coming back from office and during office hours. Too much meetings through online meetings tools may also impact the eye sight of an employee adversely.
There are certain social and family aspects also which may get impacted by WFM scenario. Family seek employee’s attention as he/she is physically at home and he/she also feel like helping the family seeing them struggling with day to day household jobs and in case there is a difference between family expectations and the employee’s ability to fulfill family’s expectation then it may become the bone of contention among the family members.
The purpose of this whole story was to make this point of view understood that WFM is the temporary measure to ensure productivity and thus supporting the economy during this COVID-19 emergency and may not become a New Normal.
-Sachin Dev Sharma