By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
What percentage of Indians are vegetarian? A huge seventy one percent of Indians are non-vegetarian. Then there are flexitarians. That may help us predict how the workplace will look like as more people get vaccinated.
There is a growing demand for alternatives to meat that is driven [mostly] by a flexitarian population, or people who eat non-vegetarian food but realise its implications on the planet. The Flexitarian Diet is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.
This flexitarian model may serve as a great metaphor for the way the workplaces will look.
The pandemic forced several people to rethink their assumptions about the workplace. Traditionally work has been done by everybody coming to a common place of work. During the pandemic even call centre employees were reluctantly told that they could take the calls from home. Clients grudgingly gave the outsourced partners the flexibility to let its employees work from remote locations. There was a scramble to provide desktops and laptops to employee homes. Employers paid for the high speed broadband connectivity.
With the vaccine rollout happening at a steady pace, employers are having to revisit their policies about people having to come to office. Googlers may start returning to some of its US offices over the next month. Returning to office is optional until September 2021 for them. Amazon is planning to get most employees back to the office by fall. Twitter will “allow most employees to work remotely”. <Read more>
After a year of working remotely, some employees are not keen to go back to the office, and, so far, employers are being receptive to their concerns. Working remotely means saving on commuting time and being able to use that time for chores. The CEO of Goldman Sachs called remote work called remote work “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.”
Rethink your assumptions
The pandemic made us we reexamine our assumptions about what kind of work could or could not be done from home. If you read articles in the popular press you will gather the impression that everyone was working from home. That is not true. If you are highly educated and in a white collar job chances are that you have the hardware and software necessary to send your work over a high speed internet connection. Everyone is not so lucky.
Those who work with an equipment or machinery cannot work from home. If their work requires collaboration with others, then many are not that effective when they work from home.
Will remote work persist?
McKinsey says that the potential for remote work is highly concentrated among highly skilled, highly educated workers in a handful of industries, occupations, and geographies. Before the pandemic only 5% of people were working from home. Now “more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office.”
The second order effects are profound
The retailer Brooks Brothers (founded in 1818) generated more than $991 million in sales a year before the pandemic and had more than 200 stores in North America and 500 worldwide. They filed for bankruptcy in June 2020. People aren’t wearing suits anymore, and that shift in workwear is responsible for losses made by companies like Brooks Brothers and Men’s Wearhouse.
If 20% of the workforce works from home, the economics of public transportation, infrastructure, urban economies could be severely dented. During the pandemic the health workers, the manufacturing plants and the last mile delivery teams had to keep working so that the rest of the population could work from home.
Online vs offline
Ask the parent who has had to juggle endless video calls along with a wailing infant, a sick parent and having to babysit a distracted child as the primary school teacher goes through the curriculum. Those who advise participants in video calls to sit in a “quiet room free from distractions” often forget that these are luxuries for most of the team members. People with flexibility are twice as productive.
Some people are keen to get back to an office – especially those that are early in their career. Connecting with colleagues and getting to know them, watch how they learn can be done by observing others. Read this
Delivering online classes when most participants are off-camera and limited to sharing their views on chat boxes is ineffective especially for building soft skills. trust me I have been on both sides of that table. Online learning can transfer content but only 10-15% of learning is about content. The rest of it is done through the human interaction and responding to non-verbal cues.
In virtual courtrooms, some defendants lack adequate connectivity and lawyers, and judges worry about missing nonverbal cues in video conferences.