This article was originally published on ET HRWorld.
After a year of working from home, it’s safe to say that one can be productive even outside the traditional office environment. Professionals who work from home are now taken more seriously.
Looking at a Holi celebrations picture, the first thought that occurred to me was — where are the masks? — until I realised it was a throwback photo from pre-pandemic times! It’s become the easiest way to tell if a photo is dated. The reflex gasp made me think about how soon the once ‘new norms’ of mask-wearing and social distancing have become ingrained in our behaviour.
Thinking back to this time last year, I can’t help but marvel at how much has changed and how fast we adapted. Of the many lessons from this year-long experiment, here are four learnings that I believe are the most significant and should be taken into the future:
1) A model that passes the stress test
Sure, remote work is not new in our hyper-connected times but working with the entire family holed up at home while a novel virus rages outside — that’s new to all of us. The past year pushed us beyond our comfort zones and tested us both mentally and physically. Fully integrated personal and professional lives, limited outside help and the possibility of our environment turning into a containment zone, compelled us to develop agility like never before.
That an organisation can function remotely in such conditions is validation enough that the model is productive. Besides, it brings along the added benefit of resources saved on commute. Despite being engaged in work, one also has more time in the presence of family and loved ones. So, a hybrid format certainly holds the potential for better results in less demanding times.
2) Location-free productivity
After a year of working from home, it’s safe to say that one can be productive even outside the traditional office environment. Professionals who work from home are now taken more seriously. There is an acceptance of work-from-home as a productive model and that employees may not need round-the-clock supervision to deliver.
This shift in attitude — among organisations, employers and managers — is one of the most significant changes I have observed. It’s far from the pre-Covid-19 perception of work-from-home when there was an unsaid tendency to look down upon the idea as a cover for attending to responsibilities unrelated to work.
3) A human perspective
Accommodating work calls around domestic chores and family members making inevitable cameo appearances in virtual meetings has given us a holistic view of each other’s lives. This glimpse — beyond what we saw in the traditional professional environment — brought the realisation that beneath our designations, we do after all deal with similar challenges.
I believe this is partly why we’re seeing a rise in trust, empathy and compassion among professionals. Be it child care or looking after ageing parents, acknowledging the other’s roles outside of work has made managers and colleagues more understanding of each other.
4) Many helping hands
Women may have entered the workforce but not without domestic duties. Working women continue to juggle professional and personal responsibilities in a bid to be the ‘woman who can do it all’. They may have had the resources to support cooking, cleaning, and childcare, but the effort to coordinate domestic staff often goes unmentioned.
Disconnected from outside help, the domestic arena witnessed much-awaited democratisation. There was no option but for families to be all hands-on deck with spouses, kids and parents helping out in equal measure. If not the kitchen, men identified where they could contribute. They picked up brooms, went on grocery runs and did the dishes. Kids witnessed first-hand their mothers’ responsibilities outside the home and at work, something they may have unconsciously compartmentalised for fathers.
A year on, we may have accepted our new normal, but the dust has far from settled. With vaccination drives kicking off worldwide, we were about to breathe a collective sigh of relief till headlines of new record-breaking peaks in cases brought an unwelcome sense of deja vu.
Last year’s lockdown may have been temporary, and the unlock cycles may have eased us into the post-pandemic world, but the fact is that the new normal is here to stay. Even after current restrictions ease, the future won’t be like the pre-Covid-19 normal. Learnings gained during this period will go a long way in shaping the future.