Remote Working in COVID Times and After: India Inc. Speaks

Remote working or work from home, as a way of work, has been around for more than a decade. Not as that of mainstream work, but more as a measured and conservative model of work, to engage with talent that had work flexibility as a key aspiration, specifically women.

Come 2020, the tables have turned. The world was hit unexpectedly and almost unsparingly by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a response to contain the contagion, governments world over declared lock-downs. Businesses – large and small were left to devising smart ways of keeping their employees connected to work. Those organizations which were more strategic about flexible working found themselves rolling out their remote working policies with greater vigour, others took technology by their side and created new normal. Estimates suggest that about 60-70% of the world’s workforce are working remotely, today and there are about 6.4 crore remote workers in India.

Amidst this evolving situation, this research was undertaken by Avtar, India’s premier Diversity & Inclusion Solutions firm, to gauge the Indian workforce’s response to COVID induced remote-working, the key areas examined included Perceptions of work effectiveness, Comfort in virtual collaboration, View on technology and tools, Revenue impact as perceived, Engagement levels and Overall well-being.

The survey recorded a total of 1504 responses. The demographic dimensions of the respondent sample were as follows:

  • 69 % of who were male and 29% of who were women.
  • While 46 % were in the early career stage (0-5 years of work experience), 37% were in the mid-career stage and 17 % were in advanced career stages.
  • Professionals from across sectors took part in the study – Sales & Marketing (10%), Accounts (16%), Technology (19%), Engineering (19%), HR (9%), L&D (4%), Others (23%).

What emerged from this deep dive into the Indian workforce’s psyche are their preferences towards remote working in a post COVID era. These insights are extremely critical for businesses looking to restore their operationally efficiency even as experts predict a staggered and slow return to normalcy.

To highlight the most significant insights:

  • 69% of respondents feel they were more effective at work, when they were working from their offices. We observe that it is professionals in the accounting sector who experienced the maximum drop in effectiveness while working from home – 79% of accounting professionals felt so as against 62% of engineering/design professionals, 73% of HR professionals, 63% of L&D professionals, 66% of IT professionals and 58% of Sales & Marketing professionals.
  • When it came to team collaboration, 44% of remote workers felt that they were finding it difficult to collaborate and function on virtual platforms, another 10% was unsure of this experience. Early career professionals reported encountering more challenges interacting with supervisors and team members as against mid and matured career professionals. While 82% of matured career professionals and 89% of mid-career professionals felt that collaborating with supervisors virtually was not a challenge, 81% of early career professionals felt so.
  • 77% of respondents said that they were able to keep with the designated productive work hours and they did not anticipate a challenge in keeping up with their contribution to the company’s revenue. Professionals in the mid-career stage were most confident of their investment of time in generating revenue for their organizations – 84% professionals expressed confidence.
  • When it comes to managing work along-side responsibilities at home, 64% employees felt overwhelmed integrating the two. Equal percentages of men and women reported feeling overwhelmed catering to the responsibilities of that of home and that of work – 64% of men and women said so.

As the world of medicine continues its pursuit for effective vaccines/remedies to COVID-19, it is important that organizations address key employee expectations for effective remote operation. With blurring work-life boundaries and work zones entering employee homes, it is important that organizations take initiatives to help employees across career stages pro-actively avert work from home burnout. Interventions to drive flexi working efficacy, leadership messaging on organizational strategy to tide over the crises and guidelines for remote work hygiene, require cross-industry attention. Organizations can also explore the opportunities that this crisis has presented us with – that of engaging with a diverse talent pool, across gender, geography and generation.

We are in a historical phase – unprecedented and unexpected. It is our collective synergy in tiding over this phase that can lead us on to better times. Even as we brace ourselves to walk into a no-COVID future, let us take forward the learnings of this challenging phase, for a more inclusive future!

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