Changing trends - workwise | Sunday Observer
Realities of 2022:

Changing trends - workwise

21 November, 2021

Covid-19 has changed the way we think, behave and our very existence. Most requirements during the pre-pandemic period have become invalid when human interactions have changed so drastically. Covid has touched every aspect of our lives, cautioning us on health and safety in everything we do, from shopping to studying and work to socialising. The world has moved to the digital platform, although it was harder for some regions than others when infrastructure was lacking for such a sudden change. However, this is now the accepted form of social interactions and many are getting onboard whether they like it or not.

For almost two years, the world was in a lockdown in intermittent periods with the rise and fall of Covid cases. More people stopped going to offices and worked from home instead and most offices encouraged this due to many reasons. Apart from health and safety considerations, overhead expenses were cut down due to fewer people at office.

Some offices completely closed down and made their staff work remotely while providing them the devices for online connection. Now with the vaccination drive covering most of the regions, people are beginning to come out of their shells and restore human relations as it existed in the pre-pandemic period. However, their mindsets and attitudes have changed, including the way they would like to work in 2022.

Majority option

An online survey was conducted by a popular social media platform to understand how people would like to work in 2022 and an overwhelming majority opted for remote work even though next year is predicted for normalcy to return. People were asked to choose between four options; fully remote, fully in office, remote and office combined and employees’ choice when to go to office.

Out of the over 150,000 that voted, almost 87,000 voted for the last option – to go to office whenever one chooses, while nearly 40,000 opted for fully remote work, nearly 26,000 opted for both remote and office and only 4,800 opted to go back to office full time. As such, a majority of those who voted did not want to change the way they worked during the pandemic, opting to stay away from office even when 2022 is predicted to return to ‘normal’.

“Hundred percent remote is the best when possible. It is a win-win. For a company, it minimises office space, saves cost on furniture, saves electricity, water and maintenance, and reduces office politics and conflicts between colleagues,” said a survey participant, who is an IT professional. “On the other hand, for individual person becoming a fully remote worker means less travel time and cost, save expenses on office wear, consume food cooked at home without buying from restaurants, more time with the family when office work is managed, and save on rent for those needing to live in cities due to work,” he added.

Human interactions

However, this is true only in some cases. For those who are single without families at home, office is the only place where human interactions can be found. They find it more productive to be at office rather than home.

“It is great to be in a fun and productive environment. Socialising with colleagues is extremely helpful too,” said another survey participant working at a leading NGO. “I love the buzz and vibrancy of being around others. It makes your day more positive too,” she added. Of course, this is when the office environment enables positive vibes and a good environment.

Another participant from the healthcare sector said it is difficult to give an opinion without understanding the different work contexts. “Personally, I hope we move to an era when more people can work from home at least 50 percent of the time, although we need to protect the value of personal engagement and social mixing. Otherwise, we become a nation of hermits. Many people don’t have the choice – frontline caregivers and other providing direct public services. We must understand and manage the risk of social divide,” he said.

Another working on a manufacturing plant said he has no choice in the matter as his job is to make adjustments in machines and analyse manufacturing processes. “A home office doesn’t work for my kind of job. But what irritates me is the traffic I have to endure when I arrive at the plant. We should leave the commute to people like me and make the rest of the people work at home. Let’s reduce traffic and avoid wasting time,” he added.

Individual choice

An engineer who participated in the survey said that employees need to have a choice in the matter rather than the employer giving them commands. The employees need to be given the respect and trust on delivering targets on time, whether they are at home or office. The employee should also make sure that they are achieving their targets and not slacking at home.

“It depends on the trust between employer and employee,” she said. “The same level of commitment can be expected from a person who is not a hard-worker at office when they ask to work from home. But a hard-worker will always be a hard-worker wherever they are.”

“There is a great number of office jobs that do not need visits to the office. It will reduce a lot of pollution in cities. They would also have more time for themselves and families too. We need to go green and embrace a new reality,” she added.

Most of the companies and workers have realised that a flexible work-life balance is possible and the world needed a global pandemic to prove it. The pandemic has also made a lot of us realise the kind of work environment we need and would be most enabling for a great output. Again, it comes down to the person and the employer in different work environments to work out the best approach considering the mental wellbeing of the employee. In that sense, individual choices matter as do respect and trust between the employer and employee.

As we get ready to face a new year and a new normal, we need to revise and review the lessons we learnt from the pandemic and make informed choices on how we act in the future, what works and what does not, when navigating in the work environment.