The year is 2020, and a nationwide lockdown has just been declared. More than the panic that was enclosed with an emerging pandemic, people were confronted with a lot of perplexing questions regarding their future, lifestyle, and career. Let’s say, earlier, it was only a matter of entitlement to certain professionals to work from home during weekdays but now it came to everyone whose companies provided work-from-home facilities. Especially, yes as you have already guessed, the I.T. company employees. No, I’m not disregarding any other employees who were persuaded to work from the office even during the wavering times. It’s just that this article focuses more on the work-from-home culture.
What makes working from home special?
Waking up every day a few minutes before your stand-up call, working on your cosy bed wearing your most comfortable clothes on, having meals fresh and hot enough to get your taste buds tingling, taking breaks and power naps to get your inner beast to boost up for a more vigorous round of code writing or test case running, working during all the more flexible hours with a pleasant smug on your face, watching a newly released series or movie during meetings, … Haa.. who doesn’t love this life, right?
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For a person with a family and many responsibilities to take care of, it was a benefit of convenience. They could spend much time with their kids, take care of household chores, look after other family members, etc. The time to commute to and from the office, money spent to relocate to the office location, energy spent for the extra activities required, etc are saved into the bargain as bonuses.
The invention of flexible working hours created greater productivity due to the increased working time and all the conveniences mentioned above. Not only that, companies benefited by getting exempted from all the infrastructure maintenance, management, and facilitating. (Hmm .. Hmm.. )
I know this is a lot to count on. You will find more if you think. Now, the question here is, why exactly are most companies switching back to work from the office or to a hybrid mode of work environment?
(The following points I’m going to mention are strictly from my POV and experience. So, feel free to disagree or discard).
Experience and knowledge are two key components that let you progress in an environment that requires constant updating in terms of emerging changes of trends, whatever the field you work in. The industrial experience and work culture a person learns from a team collaboration during the initial years of working is crucial for the development of basics. And a virtual environment can only enable this up to a limit. The limitations don’t seem obvious until you experience what you miss out on.
Having been onboarded on to professional life during the initial stages of lockdown, the office environment experience was a distant dream for someone like me. The virtual learning tools helped a lot, and so did the possibility of meetings to get clarity on certain things we work on. But getting into a completely hostile circumstance without meeting any person for real was different too. How can I contact someone, when shall I call, how long should stay on a call, how often shall I ask someone, what if they have their work, is it the right way I have started this, etc are some of the gazillion questions that popped up during these initial stages of a baffling mystery.
The virtual connect sessions became a window through which a piece of this mystery was revealed periodically.
Days passed, and the initial mystery turned to misery when more work piled with newer challenges. But still, most weren’t aware of the impact this could have on their career growth. It was only a matter of time until the quarantine period elapsed and work from office was reinstated and it became a completely different affair. Not much reality met with the expectations of a WFO culture that I anticipated. (Stares in “The Office” mode). But, prettily enough, it grew better and hectic too.
Why is Work From the Office important?
The work-life balance WFH facility imported was only for the need of the hour. Don’t get me wrong. This is only part of the life we have been living for the past two years. There is more to it.
Along with the many advantages WFH facilitated, other sides were not discovered enough. The work culture exposure and the office atmosphere are important for a fresher to start a career. The facilities and culture provided by companies vary and depending upon the requirements of a project, skill development also proceeds varyingly.
“New joiner struggle” is an actual thing and it was only after the companies reopened and the “real” team bonding occurred things became more clear to us. Mentoring is important in every field and it can only be achieved well enough with real people in real scenarios. The clueless fresh joiners in a company are the potential leaders or builders of tomorrow. For them to be completely involved in the office ecosystem, exposure to the same is highly important. Also, this actual state can bring in a sense of more commitment towards developing anything with team effort.
I can agree there are a lot of things you can save your time and money on. But, at the same time, the right professional atmosphere contributes to an individual’s career growth like how a foundation works for good architecture. Also, not even introverts would want to miss out on celebrations, team outings, all the extracurricular activities, and fun events that you will vibe out with a bunch of people who are a part of your professional and at times personal life too. The work might be hectic and there might be some low blows to take home after a strenuous workday. But, everything you learn will be a matter of personal takeaway. (No, my company didn’t pay me).
What’s the future?
As most companies have suggested, the future can only be a mix of both these work cultures. WFH and WFO are two extremes and a blend of the two can be a solution for meeting the needs of everyone who wishes opposingly. Productivity achievement is proportional to the level of comfort a person has with their job and it is with them to find whether the proportion is inverse or not. For example, some people might need discipline, a little stress, or push to complete jobs on time but for others, it might be an arduous task if they are pushed out of their comfort bounds.
So long story short, some emergency establishments might work well with the right environment and the right people but not always. A good balance is where a near-to-ideal solution exists. “Always do think about the commitment in both atmospheres”. We are what we are not only because of our hardships only but because there were kinder people around us to pave the way to teach and to learn together with.
(Hope no one from my office reads this!)