The onset of Covid 19 had a significant effect on the whole world. The work culture was one of the areas greatly affected worldwide. Due to global lockdown and travel restrictions, most workplaces started seeing a cultural shift. Instead of working in a traditional office, people started to work remotely and most organizations started accepting this mode of work. Work from home, acronym as WFH, started to become a new norm everywhere. Work from home refers to a situation in which instead of commuting to and working in a traditional office environment, employees are assigned work and they do their job in the comfort of their own homes with the help of information and telecommunication technology which provides instant communication. Work-from-home policy revolves around the pre-requisite of an organization or company and the demands of the employee. Work from home has been considered to be a controversial topic. Work-from-home mode is an asset or a liability that still cannot be concluded.
LEGAL DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
The Commerce Minister of India introduced new Work from Home rules for SEZ employees in the form of rule 43A of Special Economic Zone Rules 2006. As per the rules, employees are permitted to work remotely in Special Economic Zones for a maximum period of one year and have also been permitted to extend this up to 50% of the total employees. The Development Commissioner of SEZ has the power to extend the time period or expand the number of employees in some cases for legitimate reasons. These rules are applicable to India’s eight functional SEZs. The eligible employees need to submit an application 15 days prior to working.
Working from home is considered a boon by a range of people because of various reasons. It has been reported that working from home significantly increases an employee’s productivity. A study done through the data collected in March 2021, found that nearly six out of ten workers claimed to be more productive while only 14% reported being less productive. Work-from-home employees tend to take more breaks in between work as compared to employees who work at an office. This helps them to avoid the mental and physical toll on their health while dealing with stressful situations. Employees tend to feel more in control of their lives while working from home. Additionally, employees are at less risk of being sick from a contact disease by not sharing the same workspace which helps them to remain healthy and be more productive. It also improves efficiency by reducing the time spent on commuting thereby increasing their availability at work and getting more work done efficiently. It also has been reported that working from home reduces absenteeism. Working from home is said to even improve environmental conditions. Due to people spending less time commuting to the office and home, there have been fewer vehicles on the road which in return decreases traffic and air pollution. India is one of the most air-polluted countries in the world, and in such a situation working from home could be considered a better alternative. Most Remote jobs have flexible schedules, meaning employees can start or end their day and take breaks at their discretion as long as they complete the work assigned to them. This gives employees a better work-life balance. They also tend to get more work done.
Working from home also provides a wide range of job opportunities to workers who were restricted due to location disadvantages. Especially the workers who live in small towns and rural areas where they might not find the particular opportunities that they are looking for. They now do not need to relocate to pursue their careers. Working from home also promotes inclusion. Working from home provides organizations to recruit people from across different socioeconomic financial and cultural backgrounds. Due to the pandemic, several women who are the primary caregivers of the family with responsibilities had to leave their job due to the closure of schools and childcare facilities. But with the advent of working from home, these women had an opportunity to work remotely with a flexible schedule while also managing family responsibilities. It also facilitates the inclusion of employees with physical or mental disabilities that reportedly face more discrimination in the workplace. Working from home has proven to be cost-effective too as it also reduces the cost of an office workplace and other equipment and supply expenses.
Working remotely is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people have a preference for routine and structure which they usually find in a workplace environment rather than at home where they can get easily distracted by household noises or any other member of the household. Some people consider that face-to-face interaction and contact with their colleagues and employers help them to feel connected which helps them in getting motivated to achieve their tasks. Remotely working can make one feel secluded and detached from the workplace environment and their colleagues which can lead to stress and depression in some cases. Some people face difficulty finding a balance between work and family which in turn takes a toll on their mental health in a negative manner. It gets harder for employers to keep the staff morale up at all times. Workers can get easily demotivated due to a lack of working environment. Other downside to working from home is that it is difficult to keep track of workers’ performance; workers might laze around and take more than necessary and longer breaks. It requires employees to self-regulate themselves, which could be a tough task for some people.
Some workers find it difficult to coordinate work-life balance and they might end up working longer than usual which results in increased stress levels and could lead to potential burnout which could disturb their productivity level. Working from home requires a stable internet connection and IT equipment like laptops and mobile phones and a big demographic of India, especially people from rural areas do not have access to such facilities at home and they may get left behind due to not having adequate access. A lot of these people might even face difficulty while operating such types of equipment. They would require training which in return would be costly and time-consuming.
The work-from-home model sure is a welcome step in the new technological era but it also has its repercussions. One possible solution as a middle ground to this problem could be by switching to a Hybrid mode of working. The hybrid mode of working is a combination of working in an office and working at home. It provides autonomy to workers by allowing them to choose where and how they want to work. In this way, workers would have the flexibility to design their schedules as per their needs. This mode of work promotes social distancing and safety. This would help them be motivated by working with their preference and employees would be less likely to feel disconnected and isolated as they would be allowed to interact with colleagues and employers and they would still be able to maintain a healthy family life and better work-life balance.
Author(s) Name: Aarya Shrivastava (Hidaytullah National Law University)