Remote Work — Broken? Not really!
I head a software services company which employs 110 plus employees across Indian states with a larger concentration in Metros and 15–20% in non-metros.
Covid certainly changed the workplace and made Work From Home (WFH) mainstream in Software companies across the world. It was easy for us to roll out WFH guidelines as each and every employee are given a laptop to start with on first day of onboarding itself. All they needed was a stable internet connection to get going. The important question which we forgot to ask ourselves was “is it all”? Is it just about a laptop and an internet?
Perhaps not! Issues started surfacing after a couple months and the primary ones were availability and responsiveness. Though people took laptop home and connected to internet, companies expected them to behave as if they were inside an office in their home. And employees largely felt they are at home and started accommodating the major asks of being at home. As a result of WFH neither company’s expectation nor the employees expectations were getting fulfilled. Somewhere there was an equilibrium established in a couple of months between productivity at home and expectation from remote employees.
We noticed that for almost 15–20% employees, the major cause of concerns were : availability and communication.
Availability — Few people assumed that remote work means freelancing work where all you need to do is get work done at the time of your choice and at your convenience. This also led to distorted version of expectation from them and hence the success criteria of their role.
Communication — Startups function with small teams which are close knit. Many a times they have overlapping work responsibility and needs high degree of collaboration. With remote work in play, people overlooked the importance of communication.
Not having a core working and overlapping hours actually resulted in lesser team interaction and thoughts huddling thereby hampering the team rhythm and cohesiveness. Ideas originate when team converses and engages in discussion; majority of the conversations in remote work mode are very transactional in nature.
Collateral damage of remote work apart from decreased team collaboration and communication is also mentoring. Folks who are early on in their career learn a lot from their colleagues and the discussion with them.
Perhaps to establish a win-win is why a hybrid work mode is being agreed to in Tech.