Author: Shruti Rao
As the whole world is getting used to life in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic some of the biggest information technology companies made a welcome announcement. In the last week of April 2020 companies like Infosys, Tech Mahindra, and TCS announced that they will have 75-90% of their staff working from home permanently. This was followed by Facebook announcing that it would let its employees work from home for one year and Google announcing its employees will be allowed to work from home until the end of 2020.
Different parts of the world have responded to the work from home option with their own set of challenges. For example, a study conducted by an Argentinian based public policy think-tank surveyed 250 firms in Argentina and found 93% of them had switched to teleworking. Another study by Baldwin, R and B Weder di Mauro on ‘Economics in the time of COVID-19’ revealed that while 96% of top executives in Japan understood the necessity for work from home only 31% managed to adopt teleworking because there are no clear rules of teleworking in Japan as yet.
It is presumed that workers in developed countries would be able to adopt a teleworking lifestyle more easily than in a developing nation due to infrastructure and other technological advancements and the culture that puts emphasis on work-life balance. So where does India fall with tech giants such as Infosys, TCS, etc adopting the same policy?
On this National Technology Day, let us have a look at the pros and cons of how the digital transformation of the information communication technology companies in India will affect the workforce and the economy.
Starting with the positives, the work from home policy has many benefits not only for the workforce but also on the environmental issues that India faces:
1. Work-Life Balance:
Right off the bat, it is pertinent to address India’s work culture, which often gets a bad reputation with the long-work hours and terrible commuting times. A study by MoveInSync says that Indians on average spend a minimum of 2 hours in traffic every day to commute to and from work, this makes up for 7% of their day. In the past, there have been calls for including the commute time into the work hours as well. By working from home, it will not only ensure that employees will have that extra hour to spend on their families, and health, giving them an overall sense of well-being.
2. More Women in the Workforce
A lot of women for a long time now have had to quit the workforce to tend to families. This has curtailed their career progression. So women who are looking to re-join will have more flexible options. JobsForHer, a job search portal catering to women, saw more companies open up roles that were not previously open to women in the month of March 2020 as compared to the pre-COVID times. The work from home policy would be a step in the right direction to close the gender gap at the workplace
3. Environmental Benefits:
As mentioned above, millions of workers commute for 2 hours on average to and from work daily. A work from home policy could benefit the environment as well, as it would reduce the amount of toxic pollution being let out every day by vehicles, reduce the sound pollution and also help metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore with terrible traffic woes to ease their traffic during rush hour. It would also improve the health of workers as they would not be inhaling toxic fumes during this traffic any more.
4. Boost in 5G adoption at home
India is at the cusp of adopting 5G technology, a work from home policy may lead to a surge in demand for home connections for this technology. Manish Vyas, CEO, Network, Tech Mahindra shared recently that telecom companies will have to look for a product mix that will fulfill the growing digitization needs in India. This would be a boost to the telecom industry.
5. Minimizing fixed costs
From a business point of view, it would certainly reduce some of the fixed costs such as rents, utilities, maintenance, etc, for businesses should they cut back on the number of employees who need to come into work. This would help companies manage their finances in the post-COVID economy.
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While the benefits seem too good to be true, the Indian economy also will come with its own set of challenges as this policy is adopted:
1. A decrease in employment opportunities for staff
A lot of manpower is required to maintain traditional offices and therefore generates a lot of employment. If businesses start shutting down large offices and move to smaller spaces, India will need to have a plan B for critical staff that is employed to keep the offices smoothly functioning every day.
2. Real Estate Sector
A majority of income in real estate is generated from the commercial real estate sector. With companies cutting back on office space the commercial real estate sector will have to find innovative ways to keep up in the race. Most employees like working from home, but most of them also like coming into work. The real estate market will have to innovate and find flexible solutions for companies to cater to the new trends in the workplace
2. Impact on the Telecommunication sector
While it is exciting to think about the adoption of the upcoming 5G technology, it would be important to also think about the burden that might fall on the telecommunication industry in India. Quality of service would be very important to deliver if the work place shifts to home. The existing infrastructure in India for the information communication technology in India is inadequate and will have to be revamped to ensure a smooth transition from a traditional work place to working from home.
Theoretically speaking, the pros seem to definitely outweigh the cons. However, only time passes by will we know how the effectiveness of this new policy being adopted by the information technology companies. However, until then it is exciting to think of the upcoming possibilities at a personal, professional, and environmental front.
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