Home as Office

I had written this blog in 2010 on work from home, a practice widely followed in IT in the West but, eight years after I wrote the blog, WFH is still frowned upon in India.

Although WFH is more widely practiced today than eight to 10 years ago, coming to office is still the more accepted form of the two – and a large number of those who work from home sometimes do so stealthily either hiding it from their colleagues or their bosses.

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Many years ago, when I had heard that the son of my father’s close friend, who stayed in Japan and worked for a multinational company, had made his home his office, I was surprised. Today working from home is a very common practice among IT workers. The laptop and the internet have turned the old concept of office as workplace on its head.

A sizable part of IT population either work from home frequently or have become home-based workers. Until few years ago, this privilege was available mainly to managers, but now it is quite common for a normal worker to operate away from office.

But despite the ubiquity of the practice, the concept has received a varied response in different parts of the world. In the US, working from home is hardly frowned upon. And I guess even in other parts of the West, it is considered quite normal (although the non-IT sector, even in the West, has remained cold to such new-age work practices).

Not so in India. The practice isn’t more than five to six years old in India, but it’s catching up well with companies arming a larger body of their work force with laptops, a luxury which was limited to only IT managers until some years back.

But in India, the practice doesn’t enjoy the acceptability it has in the West. I sympathize with the Indian stand to an extent. There are certain problems. The concept is new to India and will take sometime to find acceptance (and it is getting some acceptance slowly). While there are people who work seriously regardless of where they work from, there is no dearth of work shirkers.

You need a good setup at home to ensure that you are as effective while working at home as you would be if you were at office (power cuts don’t help). It doesn’t help team bonding. And then, there are certain roles, even in IT, that can be better performed with your presence in office.

But, on the other hand, working from home has some advantages, too. It helps companies save infrastructure cost. The companies that allow their employees the luxury are seen as better employers than those that don’t. It helps working women immensely. It also helps workers avoid unnecessary office socializing and thus promotes productivity.

If you look at the positives and negatives of the practice, the points in its favor will far outweigh the points against it. And, while the advantages are actual business and employee benefits, the disadvantages (like lack of proper setup, powercuts, work shirking etc.) are problems whose solutions aren’t difficult to work out.