WORKING FROM HOME IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Today, the whole world has woken up to the ease, benefits, and safety of working from home, even if at the expense of the lethal, novel coronavirus pandemic known as COVID19.
To maintain isolation and social distancing, offices have wisely directed employees to work from the safety of their homes for extended periods while staying connected through virtual media platforms.
Indeed, as an efficient employee on a hungover Monday after a Sunday of heavy partying, you may find it unnecessary to take the tube to work, especially with the availability of Facetime, Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Cloud Computing platforms.
On the other hand, you may have legitimate reasons that make working remotely absolutely necessary.
Contrary to what was believed before, it is now a tried and tested fact that working from home benefits both employers and their employees.
Moreover, almost all businesses and industries are gradually realizing the value of letting individual employees work from home, provided they meet certain criteria.
So, you may ask, what does work from home entail, and what are its pros and cons, for both you as well as your employer?
Under what conditions would you be required to work remotely? What are the policies that can ensure productive work from home environments?
How do our employers decide whom they will allow working outside a designated workspace?
Are there any tools that can facilitate work for home? What are the potential challenges you can face while working from home?
To answer such questions, first, you must know the definition and essential characteristics of working from home.
What is Work from Home?
Why employees need to work from home?
Which industries can have its employees work from home
Work from home benefits for employers
Work from home benefits for employers
Work from home policies in Indian companies
Tools to facilitate work from home
How to efficiently work from home
What is Work From Home (WFH) ?
Origin and spread of work from home
Since the 1970s, workers started utilizing advances in information technology that heralded the age of novel telecommunication.
Such alternative telecommunication strategies were used as replacements to travel, which not only saved time and money but also let employees avoid the boredom and monotony of daily commute.
By the 1990s, work from home had caught the ears of pop culture. In the new millennium, many efficient employees even started working through their personal telecommunication devices, like computers or phones, while on vacation or because they had to travel for medical or other emergencies.
Most employers and organizations, in turn, considered their work under the category of “absence from the workplace” instead of cessation of work.
Telecommuting Versus Telework: Terminological Distinction
Experts say that even though the concepts of telework and telecommuting are interrelated, there is a fundamental distinction between the two.
Telework comprises all kinds of work that is done outside a single workspace, which is aided by technological support.
This includes work done at home, a café, at your friend’s place, or anywhere else. On the other hand, telecommuting is more particular where you conduct your work at a specific place, including your own home or designated office space situated close by, given that necessary resources are always available.
These include a smooth broadband connection and phone or computer lines, along with any other interactive or communicative electronic media. Evidently, telework is a broader concept in comparison to telecommuting. The features of telework can be broadly divided into four aspects:
- Location of Work: This includes any location outside your designated occupational workspace; for instance, a pub, a coffee shop, a friend’s place, anywhere with the right kind of technical aid.
- Classification of Time: Basically, this is the amount of time that is replaced in the designated space of work.
- Use of Information and Communication Technologies: This is constituted by technological assistance that is integral to telework.
- Nature of the Relationship Between Employer and Employee: Such a relationship can be diverse in its features; for example, contractual work, part-time work, full-time employment, etc.
If you work from home, there are many names for you: teleworker, work-at-home or home-sourced employee, and of course, telecommuter.
✔ Work from home refers to the mode of doing professional work where employees choose not to commute to their workplace.
Instead, they opt to work or direct operations from home or any other convenient space that has technical support available.
✔ When working from home, alternative telecommunication strategies are used as replacements to travel.
This saves time, money and also enables employees to avoid the monotony and inconvenience of the daily commute.
✔ Telework refers to work done from any space that offers necessary resources for seamless execution.
However, telecommuting is work done from one specified place such as home or office space.
The slight difference may be easy to miss. Telework is a broader term, as compared to telecommuting.
✔ The four broad aspects of telework include the location of work, classification of time, use of information and communication technologies, and the nature of the relationship between employer and employee.
Why employees need to work from home ?
If working from home was convenient for everyone, no one would ever go to the office! In that case, there would be no need for office spaces at all.
However, a lot of employers prefer to have their employees working within a particular workspace.
This enables them to keep tabs on individual performances and maximize productivity, facilitate the creation and maintenance of relations between employees of the same department and within different departments along with harmonious employee-employer relationships.
However, in certain circumstances working from home might be the best option for an employee. Some of those reasons are given below:
1. Avoidance of Long, Arduous Commutes
Sometimes, employees may find it challenging to travel for hours on end, wasting so much time in an attempt to reach the office every day.
For people living far from their workplace, the option of working from home must be made available.
Working from home can prove best for the employer as well as the employee.
Organizations must make a suitable decision based on some factors such as the nature of an employee’s work, the work ethic of such employee, and the requirement of such employee in the office premises.
If all these factors are good to go, an employer may save some office space for employees who need to come to the workplace while the employee saves time, resources, and efforts to commute to the said workplace.
2. Personal or Familial Obligations
Say you have a family member who is ill and requires constant care. Or, you yourself are suffering from a disease that is contagious or has considerably weakened you.
Perhaps you have a child who needs devotion and care.
You may also have mental health problems or may prefer working in an environment with a minimum number of people.
Considering either of these cases, if neither your efficiency nor your punctuality seems to be predicated on your physical presence in the office, according to your manager, you must communicate your desire to work from home to dedicate some more time to other responsibilities.
3. Optimizing Work-Life Balance
Let’s take a simple instance where your work hours might be getting slashed due to unnecessary commute, which can take up too much of your precious time!
If you work from home or remotely, you can start working earlier in the morning and keep working for more time in the evening if required.
Apart from that, starting work at an earlier hour will also allow you to wrap it up sooner and spend some more time doing something you love.
Employers who want to retain the loyalty and goodwill of their employees should grant a devoted worker’s request to work from home; it will exponentially increase her/his productivity.
4. Unavoidable Circumstances/Emergency Situation
The best example of such a situation is the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world.
With social distancing and self-quarantine becoming crucial to our survival as a collective human race, desperate times have called for desperate measures.
Domestic, national, and international business all have directed their employees to work from home, with an aim to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading further.
It has been recommended by international administrative bodies as well as national governments.
✔ Most employers prefer to make their employees work within a particular workspace, for the following reasons:
1. Keeping an eye on individual performances and maximize productivity
2. Facilitating the creation and maintenance of relations between employees (to ensure teamwork) and within departments (to ensure inter-departmental coordination); and
3. Encouraging harmonious employee-employer relationships
✔In certain circumstances, working from home might be the best option for the employer as well as the employee:
1. Long, arduous, and avoidable commute,
2. Personal or familial obligations,
3.The need to optimize work-life balance, and
Which industries can have its employees work from home ?
Work from home is not suited to everyone, let alone to every business or industry. For example, most local and international manufacturing industries like Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors think that letting employees work from home cannot be encouraged on a conceptual basis.
This would lead to decreased productivity, reduced inter-departmental coordination, and a high probability of health risks, which would incur medical and insurance expenses that can be avoided otherwise.
Indeed, it is impossible for all kinds of corporate employees to shift to permanent work-from-home jobs.
The most common teleworkers are independent contractors and freelancers, both of whom are increasing in number as well as popularity and efficiency.
In addition, as a diligent and experienced teleworker, you can choose to start juggling multiple jobs from the comfort of your home.
Given that you take out enough time each day and possess managerial and organizational skills, the corporate world is your oyster!
For today’s Gen Z, even multiple jobs don’t cut the cake. Many driven entrepreneurs are biding their time and building their network before turning their freelance telework to full-fledged businesses.
To consolidate their enterprise, these folks can also employ other workers under their guidance and develop a strong business team.
The skillset that you must possess to work from home will vary with the kind of job that you are seeking to do.
Some jobs do not demand a prior skillset and can be done by a novice or entry-level employee.
Others, however, require specialized training sessions and seasoned expertise.
Some of the most common job opportunities, which don’t require in-depth technical skills and where you can work from home are given below.
1. Translator and Transcriber
Translators are in vogue; most international and multinational enterprises are in constant need of efficient translators who can do impeccable work within a short time.
These kinds of companies need their essential files, documents, conference calls, conversations, and meetings translated as well as transcribed into one or multiple languages.
Most translators are required to work on translations concerning common European languages.
However, in a world that is witnessing globalization, the demand for translators that are well-versed with lesser-known and distinctive languages is increased exponentially.
Moreover, films and soundtracks from all over the world need experienced transcribers and translators who can help works of art reach domestic as well as global audiences.
After all, what would we do without subtitles to our favourite movies and songs, if there was no one to translate and transcribe them for us?
All a translator/transcriber needs to work is a laptop, a MacBook, or a similar device.
Sitting at your dining table/work table or a corner of a quiet, quaint café, type away. Such jobs are abundant; all you need is experience and a chance to prove your expertise.
2. Virtual Assistant
Even though the term “virtual assistant” sounds very sophisticated, just imagine that you are a secretary who works off-site.
At present, there are enough virtual media through which you can communicate with your manager:
Google Hangouts, Slack, Stride, Facetime, cloud-computing platforms, and other real-time services.
Since hiring an onsite secretary incurs additional costs to a business, most small- and medium-scale enterprises replace this position with a virtual assistant who can work part-time as and when necessary.
Working from home, a virtual assistant can efficiently conduct the daily work of a traditional secretary at a much lower cost.
Their profile would include the following:
- Timely responses to emails;
- Arrangement of documents according to their level of importance;
- Creation of business documents;
- Connection with and responses to clients and their queries;
- Careful schedule of appointments according to availability,
- Take care of social media outreach programs; and
- Serve as bookkeepers and data entry specialists.
The primary requirements of a virtual administrative assistant are the following:
- Excellent communication skills,
- Experience in office work, and
- Ability to navigate virtual platforms.
3. Data Entry Expert/Data Transcriber
Data transcription and data entry are two separate designations. However, they require roughly the same set of skills and expertise.
Simply put, a data entry expert has to insert data in the forms of facts and/or figures into a spreadsheet or a software program that serves an identical purpose. The data in question can vary, such as follows:
- Payroll information,
- Inventory list or catalogue data,
- Pointers related to customer relationship management.
On the other hand, a data transcriber has to create scalable documents from audio or video files. Many enterprises need to document the following officially:
- Conference calls,
- Podcasts etc.
As a transcriber, you must make sure that these kinds of documented data be easily understood and interpreted later.
Usually, your employer is going to provide you with a constant management system or a related software where you curate the data.
To work as a data transcriber or interpreter, you need to be attentive to detail and possess excellent typing skills. Prior experience is always welcome.
4. Call Center Employee/ Customer Service Expert
Teleworking professionals are taking over the customer service sector.
Be it an industry giant or a small business, outsourcing customer service jobs to experts, who work from home, has become a common strategy.
As a home-based customer service employee, you have multiple roles to play:
- Handling inbound calls
- Helping clients or customers with orders
- Navigating through account information
- Handling outbound calls
- Providing product-related information
- Providing procedures for using specific products.
If you are a professional chat agent, all you need to do is respond to customer queries in real-time, through your employer company’s website or via a specific virtual communication platform (usually on social media).
With fixed work hours and adequate technical assistance, you are all set to take calls by various customers.
Just respond with a cheery demeanor and share information in a lively manner! In some cases, you even get paid according to the number of minutes or hours spent on calls.
Since these jobs are in demand, you only need the following skills to conduct excellent work that gives you an edge over others:
- Impeccable communication skills
- Customer management skills
- Ability to absorb information so that you can communicate the same.
The chances are that your employer/manager will run a routine background check.
Your employers will approach the contacts mentioned in your “References” list to gauge your expertise and experience.
Furthermore, most customers who speak English might have problems conversing with call centre professionals or customer service experts whose native language is not English.
As a result, an increasing number of businesses have started looking for professionals from countries that produce proficient English speakers. Time to brush up your English!
5. Teacher/ Private Tutor
In the contemporary digital age, primary, secondary, as well as specialized education has been touched by digitalization.
Online learning platforms are raging everywhere, providing study materials for primary school kids, high school geeks, and even college- and university-level undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates.
On top of digital learning platforms and applications that can be downloaded and used on any device, one can also choose to learn from professional teachers by accessing the written and video material they upload.
As a teacher, this makes your job much more comfortable, as you can work from anywhere you desire!
Especially at times when going to schools and colleges in person is practically impossible, digital learning platforms stop the process of learning from getting halted due to unforeseeable reasons.
Although professional teachers must have the requisite teaching experience, private tutors who mainly help you master your material do not necessarily require specialized teaching credentials.
Still, a tutor with proper official credentials is always preferred. For both tutors and teachers, a college or university degree and prior teaching experience are essential.
The more advanced the course you teach, the better your pay.
Those who teach complex subjects in well-known fields of science and commerce such as mathematics or physics, earn per hour of teaching.
6. Writer/ Editor
Creating and editing content has never been easier. Equipped with only a laptop device and software like MS Word, Adobe Reader, etc., experienced and efficient copywriters and copy editors can easily ask their employers to allow them to telework.
Copywriters are responsible for writing so many kinds of content, ranging from landing pages, emails, advertisements, product catalogues, sales pages, brochures, eBooks, articles in magazines and newspapers, etc.
On the contrary, a content editor is responsible for editing such content and making it syntactically and grammatically correct.
Further, an editor is also responsible for making the content more coherent to the reader-base and refine the diction of the client without adding extra content or altering the meaning of the same.
Be it a journal article, a product catalogue, or even a book-length writeup; everything can be edited from the comfort of your house, with a steaming cup of tea or coffee to keep you company.
What are some essential requirements for a teleworking copywriter or copy editor?
A functional digital device with installed writing and/or editing software (the most common of them being MS Word), and a smoothly running WiFi or similar internet connectivity, and in-depth knowledge of the language, its grammar, and the nuances of writing.
7. Tech-based Work from Home Opportunities
In a corporate world that is constituted by software and IT professionals, working from home is becoming an increasingly popular option for people who have proven their diligence and zeal with regards to their work.
If they find it necessary, for personal or professional reasons alike, they request their managers to let them telework from a convenient location. Some of the most popular teleworking tech jobs are given below. Keep in mind that this is, by no means an exhaustive list.
The occupation of a product designer is to model items that are purchased for daily use all over the world. In the technological universe, product designers are also the masterminds behind specialized products like computer hardware, electronic devices, efficient old and new software etc.
Their goal? To enhance the efficacy of current products and/or produce new ones at a lower cost.
A product designer can work from home, provided he/she has the necessary tools and technological support at their disposal.
This includes a high-speed internet connection, a high-end personal computer that may support heavy software processing, and a cup of coffee accompanied by a creative mind.
Software engineers use mathematical analysis, combined with the rules of computer science to design and improve computer software of multiple utilities.
These talented tech professionals create a vast range of software, such as operating systems, video games, management systems, applications, and control systems.
A software engineer can work from home and provide client-support remotely if they have an uninterrupted internet connection, a personal computer that allows heavier processing and a plan laid out for execution.
A software developer earns their bread by analysing the requirements and capabilities of a particular system by storing, analysing, and using the data available.
Additionally, they are also responsible for supervising the operations of technicians, computer technologists, and programmers.
As evident from their job descriptions, to work from home, such tech wizards require technological aid, software that ensures the security of their data and virtual tools, and finally a space with minimal distractions, whether it is home or a convenient workspace outside the office.
✔ Most local and international manufacturing industries do not want their employees working from home for the following reasons:
- Probability of decreased productivity
- Reduced inter-departmental coordination
- A high probability of health risks (which would incur avoidable medical and insurance expenses).
✔ But during the time of pandemic all industries are adaptation themselves to work from home situation
Work from home benefits for employers
Before the novel coronavirus shut both employers and their employees inside their homes, it is the latter group that has pleaded and demanded that they be allowed to work from their homes.
It is no secret that throughout the world, working from home is not only advantageous for employees but also beneficial for employers.
Managers are the ones who have to decide which of their workers are suited to working remotely.
These decisions further influence other facets of the organization such as recruitment, budgeting, and require urgent tackling of productivity-related issues that may spring up.
Now, employers of various businesses realize that a controlled environment without unwanted distractions is a primary requirement to maintain optimal productivity.
In turn, remote workers can devote many more hours on each project they are working on.
While it is important to levy some rules in place to maintain the productivity of employees, employers are also rejoicing the bright side where since employees can work for longer hours, the projects are delivered on time and error-free.
Many employers admit that their crop of teleworkers is
- less prone to absenteeism,
- high on productivity and focus, and;
- help reduce expenditure.
Indeed, teleworkers don’t need office devices, electrical appliances, and other utilities. Working from home has also led to the popularity of ‘BYOD’ culture, where employees work using their personal electronics, saving huge costs for the organization.
Especially, the tech industry has highly benefited from teleworking employees, as they possess the required infrastructure to hire and use remote workers.
Employers also tend to balance their work and personal-social lives much better when they intermittently work from home.
As their jobs go beyond the official working hours, working from home gives you the time to relax around your family, rejuvenate yourself, and clear your mind of any clouts.
You can either join in after a breather or choose to work from home full-time if you have managers that report to you.
Let’s look at some benefits that employers are bound to enjoy if they implement partial or complete work from home policies.
1. Reduced Expenses
As mentioned before, you can boost your company’s overhead expenditures by letting your best bunch of employees work from home, if and when they ask.
Your remote worker can use their own work devices/equipment, communication devices and/or applications/software, and internet connection available at home or a café.
Plus, you reduce spending on general utilities such as electricity, office supplies, and coffee makers or vending machines.
Experts that for every remote working employee you hire, your average savings might go up to $2,000.
2. Employee Retention
When you let diligent employees telework based on loyalty and performance, you show your faith in them.
In turn, your workers put more effort into their work, as flexible schedules allow them to streamline their work.
Hence, their job satisfaction increases, and so does their faith in you.
The result? You retain employees, and strong business relationships can be founded.
Furthermore, by retaining your best workers, you create a premium workforce acquainted with every nook and cranny of your business.
With more devoted employees, you can consolidate your enterprise, lessen business attrition, and avoid spending time and money on recruitment and training (advertisement, screening, interview sessions, hiring decisions, and training).
3. Increased Productivity
Research reveals that on average, teleworkers display higher productivity as compared to in-house employees. As mentioned before, employees who work from home have exercise increased focus, possess greater autonomy in streamlining their work, and face minimal distractions.
They can also devote more time to their jobs on a daily basis. All these factors are poetic to the ears of employers; the productivity of their businesses increases exponentially.
4. Higher Morale
Allowing your employees to telework is a marker of trust. It increases the morale of your workers as well as their job satisfaction.
Heightened morale positively affects the work quality, resulting in increased profit.
5. Reduced Environmental Pollution
In the age of virtual communication, working from home becomes environment friendly.
As intra- and inter-departmental coordination, conference calls, and daily reports are facilitated by electronic devices and virtual software, your employees can avoid commuting to work and therefore reduce pollutant emissions.
By positively affecting the environment through telework, your business can become a benchmark in your industry.
6. Going Global
Companies with well-planned work-from-home policies can also expand their talent pool.
They can hire talented employees throughout the world as the location is not a bar anymore! As the world gets smaller and communication becomes easier, why should employers be held back by geographical barriers?
In addition, multinational and international enterprises can increase their brand outreach by hiring remote workers who hail from the same countries as their clients.
This will prevent getting up at odd hours for international conference calls as hiring remote employees within the same time zone as your customers can strike up better and lasting relationships with their countrymen.
Still, as an employer, you may be concerned about the possibility of teleworkers taking advantage of their privilege.
An employee might abuse your trust by not completely utilizing their full working hours, producing subpar work, and displaying a lack of focus.
As their employer and manager, you can do the following to maintain your teleworkers’ efficiency and productivity:
- Establish productivity goals
- Chalk out clear work-from-home expectations
- Regularly check teleworkers’ progress (without being too snoopy),
- Outline performance metrics so that teleworkers know their efficacy and aspects that need improvement.
For most businesses, solid work from home policies aids their employees in balancing their work and personal lives while assuring employers of maximum productivity.
For example, an employee can start working from home twice or thrice a week. If the trial arrangement bears fruit in all respects, an employer may consider allowing the employee to work permanently.
✔ For employers, the benefits of letting their employees telework are:
- Reduced overhead expenses
- Increased employee retention and reduced turnover
- Greater productivity
- Higher employee morale as trust and openness are garnered in employer employee relationships
- Positive environmental impact due to less travel and consumption of office facilities, which reduces pollution levels
- Global outreach and client interaction, leading to improved customer relationships
✔ To ensure that employees working from home are producing the best results and fulfilling their potential, employers should do the following:
- Establish productivity goals
- Communicate work-from-home expectations
- Monitor the employee’s progress (without micromanagement)
- Outline performance metrics and communicate aspects that require improvements
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Work from home benefits for employees
If you are a corporate employee in the millennial age, the pros column will outweigh the cons.
Still, you might be torn: at home, you miss your chat sessions with your colleagues while the coffee machine takes ages to make your espresso; at work, you feel like teleporting your bed, blanket, and pillow to snooze in the mornings or after lunch.
As “remote-first” enterprises increase in number, you might want to rethink your preference towards working in an office space.
As you gain professional experience, you will figure out which is your cup of tea, whether it is office work or work from home.
Trust your instincts, your mood, and gauge your happiness in both environments, before deciding whether to telework or not.
In the course of your professional career, you might feel that you love an office environment bustling with people of various hues.
If you are enamored with an interactive space, working in an office is the way to go.
However, you might end up preferring the peace and quiet of your home or a quaint coffee shop, or you might get tired of the daily commute to work.
You might even have personal reasons for wanting to work from home. Depending on your performance and loyalty, you can ask your manager to let you telework.
There are many advantages to working from home. Some of them are given below.
Flexible Schedule: As a teleworker, you can make your own schedule as you prefer: care for your family members who need it, take breaks according to your routine, eat lunch any time you want.
Such a flexible schedule enables you to maintain your home-work balance.
Irrespective of whether you’re a software developer or a content writer, you can arrange your work hours in any way as long as the stipulated deadlines are maintained.
The usual “9-5” is obsolete; your sleep schedule, your undone laundry, your ailing parent, or your little kid are equally important.
As you get used to working from home, your productivity will rise, and it will also improve in quality.
This will result in more breaks in between work hours. Instead of the monotony of office, where you only have so much to do, you can get creative on the short breaks. On these breaks, try something that just wouldn’t be possible in a traditional office: make some refreshing tea, strum your guitar, do the dishes, or take a half-an-hour power nap!
Any kind of creative movement is much more refreshing than idly surfing social media.
Less Distraction, More Focus
Remote workers report that their work environment is much less stressful than a regular office space.
You no longer need to put your noise cancelling earphones to shut out unwanted noise.
Instead, play your favourite work music at your desired volume, and become the work-beast.
With a daily routine, you can devote ample time to work and household chores or any other errands, virtual or real.
Not only will you increase productivity, but optimizing your work-home balance will also prevent burnout.
No more unwanted socializing, vying for the AC remote or fearing that you will inadvertently put someone off.
As a serious teleworker, you can just cut off outside contact when you sit down to work.
No Dress Code: If you were tired of wearing the same old formal “uniform” to the office every day, teleworking could be a breath of fresh air: no shirts, no suffocating tie, no trousers, no mandatory shoes. At home or the nearest café, you get to wear anything you want.
Short and On-Point Calls
Remember when you had to search your entire office for a spare room where you could hold a conference, as all other rooms were taken occupied?
With teleworking, the scramble is over as you can connect with each other via an online portal like FaceTime, Skype, Hangouts etc.
Plus, you can avoid unnecessary socialization that used to slowly eat into your work hours.
Adios Office Politics
No corporate worker has been able to avoid office gossip over lunch or daily debates in front of the coffee machine.
However, office politics can often become a dirty business. Manipulation, coercion, and vilification are quite common in office spaces, where some people want to move up the ladder at the expense of others.
At home or working alone in a coffee shop, you can avoid such devilry and concentrate on your work. Let your performance do the talking.
Penny Saved, Penny Earned
Save the gas money you used to spend on your daily commute.
Your desk or even your warm bed can easily replace your cubicle (getting to work under your cosy blanket is a big plus).
Additionally, your lunch, snack, and coffee money are replaced by home food, healthy snacks, and your soul beverage.
While you get better at teleworking, hone your culinary skills so that you can surprise your friends and family next brunch party!
No to Traffic, Yes To Environment: Gone are the days when you had to take the crowded tube, packed with fellow commuters, drenched sweat, and too exhausted to focus by the time you reached the office.
Working from home, you can avoid this harrowing drill and also save the bucks you might have spent on an Uber ride.
Also, less/no travel means no gaseous emissions from your transport vehicle: make the world green and clean, start teleworking.
Your office family may be a lot of fun, but your family at home equally needs your presence and support.
Most workaholics are not able to devote enough time to their family, which leads to distances in relationships and lack of interaction that is essential for happiness at home.
As a teleworker, spend more time taking care of older parents, hanging out with your spouse and your little kids.
If you have an ailing member in your family but are integral to your company, working from home is your last resort.
Even if a full-time tele-working arrangement is not an option for you, you might opt for semi-remote-work routine, where you divide your week between office and telework.
Depending on which of your projects require collaboration and coordination in person, and which others require minimal distraction and maximum focus, work out a routine with your superiors that enable you to fully realize your productive potential.
✔ For employees, the benefits of working home are multiple: Flexible schedule,
- Less distraction, more focus,
- No dress code,
- No office politics,
- Short and on-point calls,
- Increasing savings,
- Less pollution, more environment-friendly,
- Increased interaction with the family.
If a full-time tele-working arrangement is not an option for you, depending on your work schedule, you might opt for semi-remote-work routine, where you divide your week between office and telework
Work from home policies in Indian companies
In the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, the Indian Government has mandated companies in various sectors to create and implement “work from home” policies for employees until the coronavirus curve is flattened.
To facilitate “social distancing” that is necessary to halt the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, the Corporate Affairs Ministry has strongly advised all companies to hold conference calls and meetings via online audio-visual platforms, mobile-based calls, or computerized communication till the end of June 2020.
LLPs As most Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) recruit workers predominantly from India’s urban population, their dedicated cooperation would be imperative in stopping the spread, morbidity, and fatality of the deadly virus.
For the essential on-duty workers, the Corporate Affairs Ministry has strictly ordered adherence to staggered work routines so that physical distance could always be maintained.
To ensure that every enterprise follows these guidelines, the ministry put out an online form named CAR-2020 (Company Affirmation of Readiness towards COVID-19), where they can put forth their detailed telework preparations and pledge their compliance at such a crucial time.
The advisory regulations by the Corporate Affairs Ministry have diluted the set regulations related to board meetings, deeming it unnecessary to hold in-person conferences or meetings regarding weekly/monthly reports, financial statement approvals, restructuring, training sessions etc. till June end.
In addition, the ministry has poured over more possible relaxations under the Companies Act (2013) and the LLP Act, as per the need of the hour.
However, the manufacturing sector enterprises and multi-sector/multi-national organizations have been trying to find a balance between telework and the manufacture and provision of essential goods and services.
Multinational corporations with branches in India have quickly amended their work from home (WFH) policies so that employees can resort to travel only when absolutely necessary involving the delivery of products and services for the larger public good.
For example, many of the sales, and research and development departments have shifted to telework in conducting their operations after many rounds of rigorous planning and adjustment.
However, since manufacturing companies are responsible for producing and distributing essential commodities like food, food supplements, fuel, etc., most of their employees have to work inside factories, go-downs, and related offices.
Thus, such businesses are maintaining revised work hours for their workers so that workspaces do not get crowded at any cost.
In addition, departmental stores selling essential items, including grocery stores, have had to increase their operational time due to increased hoarding by panicked consumers and making sure that stocks are refilled.
The coronavirus outbreak has affected the services sector most adversely. In a plight that has been unprecedented, the restaurant sector has witnessed a sharp decline in business, particularly those who do not offer online takeaway services.
Hotel chains are facing the same lack of customers. Essential staff are locked in hotels without any clients.
Companies in the aviation industry have also been gradually shifting to work from home tasks.
Airlines are dividing and rotating the shifts of airport staff to facilitate social distancing, which is aided by reduced operations due to the stoppage of travel services both locally and globally.
The railway sector is also facing a similar situation.
Even the telecom industry has only let essential employees responsible for customer care, back-end technical support, and network management to work on a rotation basis to prevent the breakdown of services.
Additionally, real estate employees have directed their goods suppliers and vendors to sit at home for the time being.
The India Government has not yet made amendments to the current labour laws in adjustment to the adverse shifts in employment conditions due to the novel coronavirus.
Nevertheless, there are certain crucial aspects that companies in India must keep in mind while allowing most of their workers to telework, as the virus seems to be far from done. These are listed below:
1. Recurrent communication
As most companies realize that employees might have to work from home for a longer time, the key to keeping enterprises working together as a team is a communication.
In the age of virtual audio-visual interaction, the HR team of every business should do the following:
- Put out newsletters on a weekly basis
- Encourage/continue with ’employee of the month’ programs
- Organize monthly meetings through audio-visual portals like Skype or Hangouts
- Encourage employee feedback online
- Encourage engaging and rejuvenating practices that can easily be done at home:
○ health-conscious practices like yoga and similar exercise routines,
○ reading and holding group discussions on books, news, culture etc.
○ organizing team-based games that can be played via electronic devices.
Working from home is designed to curb human interaction, but for people who like working in an office getting locked at home can negatively affect their mental health.
Therefore, engaging activities and recurrent communication will boost the morale and productivity of employees.
The best way to inculcate a feeling of community for teleworkers is to have HR initiatives, training sessions, and office events in online platforms.
Furthermore, top executives and employees can send regular emails in appreciation of the hard work of teleworkers in order to keep their business closely tied.
2. Customized/Adjusted Leaves
Enterprises should not forget that both white- and blue-collar teleworkers need ample leaves even if they do not work in an office.
In fact, the number of leaves of a remote worker should be the same as that of an onsite employee.
Additionally, in the exceptional times that we are facing due to the coronavirus, employers must allow infected or exposed employees to take leaves from work to recover, without slashing their payments.
In this time of crisis, the employees suffering from COVID-19 deserve exceptional leaves that are fully paid while not cutting into their regular leaves (sick and privilege leaves).
Such a flexible policy should be implemented irrespective of whether your company has office spaces or hires only remote workers.
3. Technological assistance
Since technological assistance is the key to teleworking, company management teams should purchase and use virtual platforms like FaceTime, Microsoft Outlook, Skype, and Zoom (which is free!).
The HR team should make sure that every employee has access to these applications to smoothly work from home without interruption.
To aid this process, enterprises can also enable seamless connection by providing a virtual private network (VPN) to all employees: this will ensure quick and fast download/upload of data and prevent cyber intrusions or data leak/distortion.
Finally, employees must be trained in handling the virtual portals, especially complex ERP systems.
Plus, employers and the HR team must hold meetings where workers can give feedback and clear doubts about using a particular online system.
4. Avoiding Micromanagement
A universal rule: managers cannot micromanage their employees, especially when it comes to remote workers.
Constantly rounding up your remote employees to check whether they are hooked to their work will be counter-productive.
It will interrupt the schedules that teleworkers are following and make them feel that they are being hassled.
They will feel that their employees do not trust them to telework efficiently. Instead, implement a pre-planned model by which you can keep tabs on your teleworkers: timely punch-in and -out, weekly presentations, and pre-given deadlines.
✔ While facilitating hassle-free remote working policies in India, the government as well as organizations and enterprises across all sectors should keep certain points in mind:
✔ Recurrent communication can help keep the moral high of employees that are working remotely during the difficult hour of tackling the novel coronavirus.
✔ Customized/adjusted leaves can aid both white-collar and blue-collar workers to meet their necessary expenses and must be paid for the leaves taken during this time.
Further, remote employees must also get the same amount of leaves as an on-site employee to maintain fairness and good relationships.
✔ Technological assistance provided during this difficult hour would not only enable your business to function in the best manner that it can, but also provide employees with confidence that their organization has their back during these dark days.
✔ Avoiding micromanagement is necessary to maintain a high level of productivity and efficiency.
However, pre-planning an effective model can provide better scope for management without intrusion.
Tools to facilitate work from home
With the advent of virtual communication platforms and intricate cloud-computing and management systems, teleworking has become much easier than before.
Some of the best tools to work from home are given below.
An app tailor-made for telework, Slack is your perfect communication management app created that allows you to do the following:
- Design intra-departmental team channels through which messages can be sent directly.
- Drag files and drop them effortlessly.
- Bookmark important messages.
- Pin important documents for constant reference.
- Reduce internal emails since it’s efficient and easy to use.
- Bond with team members and engage in professional interaction to forge teams.
Zoom is a beast in the world of video conferencing, and for a good reason. It enables you to do the following:
- Connect with high-definition videos.
- Shares screen/content easily.
- Conduct local recording (it is an effective end-to-end conferencing platform).
- Access it through any electronic device; this applies to you as well as your colleagues.
- Encourage better collaboration during meetings.
Front is a popular tool that lets you “email about email” by providing the following benefits:
- Adding help-desk tickets to applications and emails.
- Offering a centralized communication hub that gauges your communication needs.
- When combined with Aircall, Front enables you to make and take as many calls as you want.
- Gather the relevant aspects of conference calls and customers from a single platform.
- In turn, remote telecom workers can engage in fruitful interactions with clients and exponentially increase productivity.
Zapier enables users to integrate various web-applications used by them during the execution of tasks. It has the following features to offer:
- Streamline workflows by integrating the various tools you already possess.
- Saves you the time and effort of switching between multiple apps.
- Enables you to sync information on your client and the team you are under, across several platforms.
- Update your entire team in real-time, saving everyone’s precious work hours.
Popularly known as the “work operating system,” Monday is an excellent project management system that lets your team do the following:
- Check, streamline, and accomplish various tasks and activities.
- Automate its smooth, intelligent user index (UI), so that you find it user-friendly.
- Integrate you’re the other business tools in your teleworking repertoire, which is a boon to corporate teams.
An easy-to-use, aesthetic, and smoothly running platform, Trello lets your entire enterprise do the following:
- Create, modify, and assign tasks in a sleek visual interface in the form of cards.
- Construct cards according to separate tasks.
- Categorize them according to department, manager, and worker.
- In accordance with each stage of a task’s progress, a worker is able to move the specific card through successive stages.
- Enable collaboration; your entire team can keep abreast of your progress on a task while avoiding unnecessary emails.
Say goodbye to your manager’s incessant questions about your performance.
Klaus is an amazing tool that lets your customer service manager stay up to date with the quality of your work. Here are some of its integral features:
- Team managers can check and rate interactions between teams and client across various channels in a digital platform.
- Combined with Aircall, it lets your manager track and review calls to clients, analyse your work and provide feedback, and rate your performance, all through a single tool.
If management assistance is your concern, Avoma is one of your best choices. An intuitive tool that facilitates sales and transcription-analysis of client-interaction calls, Avoma offers the following features:
- Classification and condensation of highlights and valuable insights from conversations with clients.
- Transcripts that can be referred to in detail; telescoping of key takeaways that are AI-summarized.
- Automatic synchronization of relevant information to aid your customer relationship management (CRM).
- Key features such as client and topic identification, important keyword trends, and conversational insights that aid the access of crucial information.
- Multi-functional collaboration, with accessible recordings, curated notes, and video and song list sharing.
- Combined with Aircall, it lets enterprises analyse inter-departmental conversations across teams.
GitHub has the following cool features for managers and teleworkers:
- Codesharing among all fellow developers in a team.
- Provision of informed feedback, valuable comments on your fellow developers’ code.
- Collaborative effort on each project.
- When integrated with Slack, GitHub lets you analyse and review code and ease the process of pair programming.
✔ The 9 essential remote tools that will streamline your remote work are given below:
How to effectively work from home ?
As mentioned before, there are many advantages of remote working for employees who are well equipped and acquainted with the operations of their team and the larger enterprise.
However, the lack of a strict work ethic can lead to various unwanted complications that can hamper your work.
To avoid them, here are some essential suggestions that you must heed as a teleworker.
Allot fixed working hours every day, so that you can accomplish each daily task within the stipulated time before relaxing at home.
This way, you can also devote ample time to your daily errands at home.
If you are interrupted by unforeseen events, you can divide your workload accordingly; ultimately, your company can rest assured about your punctuality.
Use Of Cloud-Computing Systems
In the cloud storage and management system used by your company, e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive or SAP ERP system, you need to upload all your integral documents.
The result? You can log to the cloud from any device with fretting over accessing the files and data dear to you
Avoidance of Human Distractions
Be it friends or family members, especially naughty kids; all your human distractions can wait until lunchtime to meet you.
If they abruptly come to chill at your place, politely inform them that as a remote worker you cannot afford distractions just because you’re working remotely.
Work time must be separate from the hours you spend socializing.
The most effective solution? Ask your pals to always call before coming to your place and shift your parties to the weekend.
Thereafter, if they call when you are working, just don’t pick up the call; this will let them know that you are busy.
Moreover, it is better if you have a separate work room where you don’t allow anyone in, let alone your prying kids.
Thus, you can remove all kinds of distraction and focus on the tasks at hand.
Going Out/Working Outside
Working from home daily can make you extremely bored, especially as your will and time to go outdoors might decrease drastically.
To avoid being shackled to your home, work out of a nearby coffee shop for a couple of days every week. A change in the environment might speed you up or elevate your mood. Spending on a Comfy Workspace:
Let’s face it, working out of bed every day will make your spine bend at 29. Therefore, you must consider spending some extra money and remodel her home-office.
Having a smart office chair with wheels, ample space for storing books and drawers/cabinets for work-related essentials can immediately transform any spare space into your office.
Further, enduring circuits for your electronic devices, ample lighting, a desk dynamics that allow an optimum level of air and sound must be taken into consideration while building such a workplace.
Interacting with Co-Workers
Regular online interactions with your fellow colleagues, managers, and directors are integral for you to stay updated on the latest developments in your company.
Aided by virtual audio-visual platforms, you can be present in all the official meetings of your team and department, from brainstorming innovative ideas, holding intense and informative group discussions, to working toward a common goal with varied opinions and collating diverse suggestions.
In addition, you must meet up with your colleagues in person, so that they too are consistently reminded of your existence and efficiency. A cup of coffee outside work premises goes a long way in building and consolidating office relations.
In many instances, while working from home, you may be a victim of the worst incurable diseases: boredom and obesity!
Since working from home restrict your movement by a fair margin, you have to make sure you do not lose focus and find the energy to zealously sit down and work every workday.
The best way to retain your stamina? Exercise every day. Ride a bicycle, go for a swim in a nearby pool, head to the gym, or talk a jog around the nearest park to refill your lungs with fresh air.
Using Inexpensive Technology to Communicate
A quick research will expose you to innumerable remote working tools that facilitate effortless communication with your office pals:
Hipchat for group chatting, Trello/Asana for your company’s project management, Expensify to keep tabs on expenses and offer expenditure reports, or Sqwiggle, which lets your webcam stay on so that your colleagues can check in on you at any point of time during work.
✔ In order to efficiently work from home/ remote work, you must:
- Have a day-to-day plan,
- Use cloud-computing systems,
- Avoid human distractions,
- Go out/ work outside,
- Spend on creating a comfortable workspace,
- Interact with co-workers, both online and offline,
- Regularly exercise,
- Use inexpensive technology to communicate with peers and superiors.
Work from home challenges
With an ever-increasing number of teleworkers and remote employees, why do most managers and employees still prefer onsite and in-office employees?
Simply because these policies enable new, untrained, novice employees to work efficiently and consistently and reap profits.
However, the usual aversion to work-from-home policies leads to misconceptions about the positive effects of telecommuting for both enterprises and their workers.
Indeed, the will to stick to traditions instead of benefitting from the new leads to a high incidence of failure among entrepreneurs and declines in performance among their remote workers.
If you are working from home for the first time, there are certain challenges you might face, which can put your professional life and your well-being at risk.
The sooner you figure them out, the quicker you can find effective solutions and become an ace teleworker.
Managing Your Specific Schedule
First, you might scramble for a daily schedule that lets you work like a machine while retaining enough energy to go out later or do household chores.
If you set fixed work hours and arrange your work in phases, you have a clear idea of when to work and when to chill with friends and loved ones.
Indeed, you can confirm party plans in advance as you know exactly when you will be working and how much work you will complete.
Differentiating between work and social life might turn out to be a bigger problem than what you may have anticipated.
Moreover, you may start forgetting the difference between work and home: your place of relaxation may transform into a constant source of anxiety.
The easiest solution? Divide your work between home and a nice place outdoors, so that you break the monotony of working at the same place and your home remain a place to which you actually want to come back!
From annoying kids, uncooked food, to attention-seeking family members and snoopy friends, the recurrent onslaught of distractions can harm your productivity during work hours.
The most efficient way to avoid this is by shutting yourself from any distracting elements during work hours.
Lack of Consistency Due To Decreased Supervision
Managers are managers for a reason: they help you direct your work schedule and supervise your progress at regular intervals so that you never lag behind.
While remote working, you might also miss the invaluable feedback that supervisors offer.
To overcome this obstacle, you can work out an arrangement where you report to your manager about your progress at regular intervals, perhaps on a daily or weekly basis.
Decline In Quality: Muddled Performance Metrics
Lack of ample and well-designed metrics is a clear sign that your manager is failing in terms of efficiency.
Most average managers are found wanting, in their ability, to create metrics that can efficiently account for individual and team productivity.
Much to everyone’s annoyance, your supervisor might try to make up for the mediocrity by constantly checking on whether you are physically present in your workspace; clearly, the markers of productivity are lost on them.
With the new telecommuting policies that are taking over company operations, employers and their managers both need to ramp up their efficiency at their respective jobs.
A manager must chalk out an algorithm that analyses performance that is based on every employee’s key performance indicators (KPIs).
A thorough analysis of these KPI scores will, in turn, reflect the quality of their work.
Instead of having KPIs for only employees, even employers and managers should be rated based on KPIs that follow certain.
This way, an enterprise can keep track of everyone’s progress as well as quality, which would lead to better productivity.
The Monotony of Home Clothes
The way you dress has more of an impact on your outlook and mood than you think. Indeed, experts claim that humans associate certain dresses with certain states of mind.
Therefore, working from home while wearing your pyjamas might end up reminding you of sleep. As a result, you might feel like procrastinating for a little while, and then some more.
The desire to snooze might follow soon.
Research reveals that even remote workers perform comparatively better when they work wearing clothes that have “symbolic meaning,” such as a formal shirt and trousers.
Keeping these factors in mind, you must never forget to take a bath before you sit down to work from home each day.
Otherwise, your mood, your productivity, and your work quality might suffer.
Daily Motivation and Career Ambition
As a remote worker, you can easily start to miss the competitive environment that your office used to cultivate.
The lack of in-person teamwork, coordination, healthy differences of opinion, and driven colleagues can take a toll on your performance, let alone your will to put in the dedication and concerted efforts.
In addition, you might get too comfortable while working from home for long periods, which might lead to complacency. In the corporate world, complacency is synonymous to a career wasted.
Thus, it is imperative for you to have clear long-term goals and a vision for your career.
Then, you can take help and advice from your manager and boss on how to realize your ambitions.
Even as a remote worker, you must communicate your career goals and put in blood and sweat to realize them.
Reduced Ability to Network
Even if you work remotely, you must never go into a shell where you cut off all contact and refrain from interactions; updating yourself on the latest changes in and provisions offered by your company will keep your career afloat within your employer organization.
In addition, you can start building contacts with industry experts and interesting folks outside your workspace but within similar or interconnected/overlapping industries.
You must never compromise on relevance.
Keep yourself update on the latest advances in your professional industry and keep building your network web so that you can tap into essential contacts whenever the need arises.
Becoming an active member of business-specific groups on social media is a great step in this direction.
Constantly keep in touch with your industry friends. If not in person, then via email or other social media platforms.
✔ Given below are some challenges specific to remote workers:
- Inability to manage specific schedules,
- Work-life imbalance,
- External distractions,
- Lack of consistency due to decreased supervision,
- Decline in quality aggravated by muddled performance metrics,
- The monotony of home clothes,
- Reduced daily motivation and erosion of career ambition,
- Reduced ability to network.
The will to work from home is gaining popularity among employees across various sectors.
Corporate, manufacturing, service sectors alike are witnessing a growing incidence of workers who ask that they be allowed to telework, if not permanently then at least on a customized basis.
The positive effects of remote working are already numerous, and they are only increasing, thanks to fast-paced developments in technology and digitization.
Working from across national boundaries, contributing to reduced pollution levels, increasing productivity and quality, decreasing enterprise costs are just a few of the endless advantages for both employees and employers.
Even though there are certain challenges to working from home from a custom workspace, they can be easily overcome with meticulous planning and execution, along with efficient management and supervision.
Even after the deadly coronavirus leaves us, working from home is here to stay!