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The Phenomenon called…Work from Home (Part II)

Continuing from Part I and taking the discussion about the impacts of this WFH lifestyle forward:

(Read Part I at - )

Adding to the disparity in work, the frail job security and uncertainties linked with the compensation packages, or the timeliness of receipt, makes matters worse. Employees are stuck between a rock and a hard place, feeling suffocated, having lost their voice owing to their helpless state, coupled with the dearth of other opportunities and thereby doing anything it takes to retain their current job. Ironically even feeling blessed, feeling obligated to their bosses - that they even have a job in a time where the unemployment rates are skyrocketing. No longer is it an 8-10 hour job, topped with a 2-3 hour travel for the normal city employee, but a 14-16 hour day on an average, with no clear definition between a weekday and a weekend, no overarching distinction between professional and personal timings, no difference between a boardroom and a bedroom. Gone are the days when that advise of successful people suggesting that we leave our devices outside the bedroom 1-2 hours before sleeping could be used, when practically the work extends into the wee hours of the morning and the bedroom table or in other cases the bed itself is the working ground. Maybe not said in that many words, but with the entire WFH shift, there is great dilution in the concept of privacy. While it may have given us a window into the lives of people we look up to or admire, as to how they live, how they function, but on an individual level, there’s just no real privacy left. All this, while I have not even wandered into the territory of widespread data leaks and breach of trust and privacy, leaving that heavy talk for the experts.

As promised, this will not be another article highlighting the plight of migrant labourers or people having lost their property, livelihood or family, but restricted to the ones with work, coming to grips with the asks of this paradigm shift. Without looking too far, the worst affected with the rampant change in landscape and whom no one is talking about, are the poor. With a combination of factors that tie into each other concocting the most ridiculous cocktail ever, the poor are left on the brink. These factors, be it the rising unemployment, lack of fresh opportunities, massive layoffs, left right and centre, the shutting down of most operations leading to no income and some even losing what they were due to be paid for months and on top of it, still having to pay for rent, for their children’s school fees in full, braving the vulnerabilities of falling ill themselves, resultantly ripping through their savings – for even food and other basic expenses.

The adoption and changeover was so rapid from the traditional method of work and education to completely moving online, especially with no infrastructural or educational & training support as yet from the government or their private employers, that this class of people are further sucked into the whirlpool of expenses, having to sell their belongings, beg and borrow money to be able to afford smartphones, internet connections and more, just to be able to keep up, stay afloat and not be thrust back into the abyss yet again. While we continue to sell out the newly launched phones on flash sales every other week, for them, this is not just a hole in the pocket, but in several cases, their entire life’s savings, if at all any!

Unfortunately, the more we think about their plight, the worse the pain and angst. Leaving that thought in your head, the other pressing issue that remains is that of – what now, what next?

While we can feel the pinch, whine and complain all we like, but unfortunately this WFH model has triggered an irreversible chain reaction. Employers see savings in cost & a perfect reason to do away with several employees, employees bank on the growing convenience over time, after all they need to keep this job, governments see their own savings in cost, alleviation of some responsibilities with reduction in pressure or stress over resources, environmentalists see the positive impacts of people not wasting fossil fuels and adopting a cleaner greener way of life, large giant corporations can smell a buck by pushing their services right till the doorstep, further locking people into their houses and then there’s of course the ever advancing technologies, making it all possible and revamping the way we function. Does this mean we accept this newer way of life and like cloud kitchens, work in our own corners hereon and simply put out the deliverables or do we fight to still work the old way, in giant brick and mortar establishments? Do we start small establishments from our houses and start from scratch, riding the same wave of a product life cycle, until maturity, where most perish and again look to consolidate?

What we stare at is going to be radically different from anything that we have seen. Whether the dynamics of the workforce, the mediums we work on, patterns we work in or the generally accepted practices we abide by. It is no longer a sci-fi movies’ subject anymore; the next level is here, and we will need to step up or be lost in oblivion. We are stepping into the virtual plane, which is now the new reality, or as close to it as it can be. However, unusual talking to a screen may feel to you when recording yourself or hollow, being unable to feel, touch, smell the opposite person on a video call, this is the way forward. Bringing to mind Shah Rukh Khan's popularly coined term - "demotional" - detached, yet emotional!

· Routine administrative functions have moved online

· Education has transformed into completely online or hybrid models, with entire degrees possible from home

· Official Meetings, even those needed for regulatory compliances have found acceptance if conducted online

· Birthdays, weddings, funerals and practically any social function you can imagine is happening from the same, common venue – your own home

You get the picture! So the point we come down to in the end after a deep reflection into the points left uncovered in other prominent articles, is that having considered both sides of this mammoth shift, there is one thing for sure, that it is not a temporary makeshift arrangement, but a sea change that has hit us. Whether we choose to ride the waves or drown, is what will determine our future direction as a species. So, while we keep our spirits up high and take one day at a time, making survival our immediate goal in these turbulent times, we need to have one eye, set on the bigger picture and be prepared, accept the change, but not surrender to it and now more than ever use our “jugaad” mindset to come out on top.

As promised in Part I - the info graphic! Since you have been made so habituated to receiving tips and suggestions for everything over the past few months. Nothing more than a starting point before you take on other established and complex philosophies and rituals on board!

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