Covid – 19 has brought in a world of change, and has made everyone think that the new normal is the only way ahead. Terms like social distancing, and online meetings become the new norm – and for the rare travel or outing, the accessories include matching face masks, sanitizers, and gloves.
For most of us, particularly in the IT and Services sector, the new normal is Work from Home, and we find an odd comfort in the belief that the pandemic has not affected us as expected, and we have good coping skills.
Each one of us have different experiences because of Work from Home. I read that WFH has given more business to groceries, snacks, local markets, and increased furniture sales, as fixtures suitable for WFH.
I too decided to make some changes, and one was having an office room at home with a conferencing facility.
The virus may become part of our life or decide to move on before the last quarter of 2020, having concluded that humans are not the right species to live in for a longer time – this only time will tell.
For the economy, it is business as usual, and the malls open up, masks become difficult to wear, stock markets are prepared to handle the new normal, public transport like metros, buses, local trains and airports get crowded as everyone forgets the new normal is new and get back to just being NORMAL.
When my office at home is almost ready with all the built in facilities, I ponder about how the new normal will be, in the year 2022.
Fast Forward – Year 2022
I email a prospective customer asking for an appointment as I am in his city. I enquire which office should I come to, and he states that we only meet through Zoom, and suggests that we meet there. I gently insist that I want an in-person meeting, as that is my way of checking out the genuine customer from a fake one. While I am thinking about this verification, my prospective client is checking out on my health background verification. Questions like, have you taken the Covid Vaccine, or have you had an episode of Corona that makes you immune. If so, do you have a certificate to prove that?
I am shocked. The impact of the virus persists even after two years since it has moved on to various other versions. But I am prepared. I have a digital certificate and I produce that as proof of my health. We fix up the meeting in one of the co-working spaces which follows all “new normal” norms like social distancing, and I am in a cubicle that is two cubicles away from the client, and we have speaker systems that help us hear each other. Coffee is from a vending machine, and there is a sanitizer in every table.
At the end of the meeting, I did not feel any different from a Zoom meeting of the 2020. I did not know my customer any better as a person than I would have, if we had met virtually.
To take the story forward, the prospective client had the potential to become a huge client, which meant that I needed the skills and competencies to ensure we deliver what we require. Which meant, new hiring! I collected my thoughts and set about writing the requirements from my new hires who will scale up to meet the business expectations.
The Job Description:
Freshers from Digital MBA institutes (graduates of the Corona year)
Open mind to use different tools for communication
Have digital gamification skills for engagement
Sincere, hardworking and give the best to my organisation (how am I going to measure this??)
And some more skills and competencies were added to make it a detailed JD.
The HR team has been working remotely, and they belong to the BC era – the Before Corona era; and I need them to give me resources suitable for the AC – after Covid era.
As we struggled with the evaluation criteria, some surprising information started revealing itself.
- The prospective candidates are looking to work from an office – and that is the experience they are looking for.
- They hold offers for WFH not only from India, but from across the globe – as it is virtual one market place
- The specific group of GIG workers who are okay with WFH do not want full time work – they want only project-based assignments.
- Giving the best is okay, but to one organisation only is not just done!
The new normal was not normal to me. And my BC HR suddenly has a brilliant idea – why don’t we enter into a deal with a gated community promoter and offer these prospective candidates’ live-in facilities, and tell them WFH is the same as office!!! (And, I was thinking I had cut costs by reducing my office infrastructure needs!)
My HR continued to update the employees status even before I could react about the gated community idea.
My current team of BC employees, who thought that WFH was the panacea to all their worries of taking care of home, kids and elders have a different set of issues to deal with.
- The pride of being a working woman/man/person has slowly faded away.
- Ladies want to opt out of IT as it is tough to find domestic help as well as creches to take care of children. They prefer a relatively less stressful work zone.
- The men have the same problem – participating in domestic chores and parenting full time is not as easy as it was glamorized in movies.
- No parties, no friends, no outside lunches, no pubs and no social connect with our business counterparts – there is no human touch (literally) anywhere.
- There is a feeling of being continuously monitored by the spouse – and this has caused some mental disturbances that is reflecting in the performance.
The government and labour department have removed the transport and Travel allowances and introduced Digital allowance instead. And as the globe has become one large working space, plans are on to move on to bitcoins as accepted currency.
As I am reeling with the current problem of new hires & the issues of my BC employees, the HR comes out with another googly – stating that there are some resources who were promised promotions in the BC era; and wants to know the criteria we should have to decide on the criteria for promotion and the expected skills. What should that be?
I looked at the roles in the organisation – the major tasks were
- Coordinating and participating in daily meetings
- Online counselling to explain about the core values and culture – as the only source of learning had moved on to YouTube, Coursera, LinkedIn, and what not!
- Digital tools manage everything, but the Heads need dashboards to have an holistic view – and that looks like war rooms with so many parameters and analytics.
OMG!! I put a break on my imagination and start thinking.
Will this be the way forward? Is it really a way forward or is the current idea of everyone WFH going to undo all the progress that we have made till now?
Some questions that come to the top of my mind,
- Without holistic training and exposure, how do I expect the employees to understand the company culture and be loyal?
- How many employees would love to flaunt their office to their near and dear ones, and have the pride of being associated with a brand
I think we are all reacting in haste. Cutting costs is temporary, building an organisation with trusted stakeholders is the foundation for greater growth. I am sure we would not be able to attract good talent without promoting brand loyalty, and providing the platform of belonging and ownership to employees. All this is not possible if we cut costs, close offices and just move in haste to a WFH model.
I woke up from my daydream, in front of the online furniture screen on my iPad with just one thought in my mind, how do I convince the management that we do need our office spaces to build a robust organisation.
Ah… I see the right desk that I would want in my Home Office – let me add it to the cart…