As India Inc. slowly moves back to offices, communicators are coming to terms with what the new working model will look like. While the work from home vs. work from office debate rages on, the issue divides the PR community as well.
All are agreed on one point though. Office culture will be defined by keeping together while working in a flexible and hybrid work structure.
Office landlords are out, work from where you are is in
Sandeep Kalsi, CEO, SKRIBE, believes that, "Workplace rulebooks have already been rewritten. COVID-19 has struck the landlord off our ‘essentials’ list, the office lease was terminated in April 2020 and there are no immediate plans to return. Hybrid working is here for the long term and conversations about returning to an ‘old office’ workplace are almost irrelevant. Our focus has not only been on developing management systems via cloud infrastructures to support a remote delivery model but equally to address the cultural and coaching vacuums that have emerged from isolation."
"2021 success metrics will be defined by a leaner remote organisation with a cultural affinity; high speed horizontal and vertical communications; and above all, a synchronised leadership team practicing new routines and rituals to achieve business goals. Sandeep Kalsi"
Nidhi Sharma, assistant manager- PR, India at Global Indian International School agrees that a hybrid approach and flexibility are much needed for employee engagement and greater productivity in 2021.
April could see greater focus on work from office
Sumit Singh Jamwal, senior account director, Adfactors shares that, "As life returns back to normalcy, clients have started demanding meeting servicing teams in person and this is slated to increase going forward. We expect to start resuming office from Mid-April onwards. Till then we are taking meetings physically also, while adhering to all Covid guidelines."
Work from home not the new normal?
Vineeta Singh, co-founder & CEO, SUGAR Cosmetics believes that, "This lockdown time has got opinions and decisions about operating efficiently, sustainably and remotely, to evolve. But I think it’s a bit premature to comment on whether WFH will sustain in 2021 for all companies as we still need a few more months to figure that out.
I do believe that for a young company like us a hybrid work model would work better, as the culture of creativity, hustle, helping and motivating each other is very difficult to maintain remotely. For jobs that have specified roles, rewards, recognitions working remotely for a long time gets easier."
Alok Dash, PR manager with leading digital payment platform Phonepe, thinks that companies will start including greater WFO options, especially PR firms who find it harder to service clients while working at home.
He adds, "The hype around WFH being the new normal and changing the way we work forever will give way to a more realistic approach. WFH will evolve and many companies might want to opt for a blended model of offering WFH and WFO to their employees.
Startups, in my opinion, will get back to WFO sooner or later depending on vaccination penetration and receding of the pandemic. It might take a couple of years for commercial real estate to pick up and regain the pre-pandemic levels of absorption."
Shashidhar Gowda, co-founder, Broadnection has a different take saying, "The main advantage for bootstrapped companies and startups like us is that we were spending a fortune on renting an office space. Since we have moved completely virtual, we are able to cut down the operational costs and transfer it to the clients."
Plug and play work models
Anand Mahesh Talari, co-founder, Mavcomm Group, says, no doubt, operational costs have come down with WFH. Talari offers a hybrid model that, "Will evolve further in 2021. An effective solution that we see is a project management structure where different members and teams can plug in and deliver as a whole."
Missing the beanbags, free coffee and chatty smoke breaks?
Saikat Pyne, manager - communications at Times Internet points out that, "The biggest benefit of WFH is the lack of distraction and the flexibility it offers. Unfortunately, the fewer social interactions and risk of siloed knowledge is real."
Pyne also lists his pros and cons about WFH, "As an introvert working out of open-plan offices until last year, the transition to a remote model has been a bitter-sweet deal. Love skipping the fake pleasantries in corridors, hate feeling out of the loop, love the cardio chasing down business heads between meetings, hate the cafeteria queues and jam-packed elevators, love getting more work done, hate forgetting to clock out."
Sunami Paigankar, manager- integrated communications, TATA SIA Airlines- Vistara who is currently working from both office and home is convinced that WFM helped team bonding, "Our digital infrastructure ensured effective collaboration among colleagues. Employee well-being took centre stage as managers ensured teams were not over-worked, but engaged, and motivated."
Evolving workplace model
Mehernosh Pithawalla, head – brand and strategic insights, Godrej & Boyce says the company is moving towards partial work from office based on government permissions and business demands.
Pithawalla adds that, "The heavy dependence on digital technology to make our lives easier while we balance office and home responsibilities has never been higher. This has pushed many organizations to rethink certain processes and do away with any inefficiencies that may have existed, by smartly using digital tools.
At Godrej & Boyce, we have a platform created internally by our own employees that helps them achieve better work outcomes using readily available, curated digital tools. The hybrid work model is also gaining popularity and many organizations might find themselves adopting it."
WFH redefining client-agency ties
Sushmita Bandopadhyay, communications leader, BD India/South Asia believes the pandemic will force great employee customisation and focus on work communities rather than one blanket workstyle.
She says this will be especially true of the client-agency ties, "As we all continue to explore the working options, I believe we will find out more ways to reconnect, and redefine the straight-jacketed ways of client management. Unless the client-agency relationship is authentic and both are invested in it, the relationship might crumble with the uncertain times."
Work-life balance better with WFO?
Chavi Taneja, account director, Value 360 Communications offers the downside of WFM, "We can rely on remote working to a certain point or for certain activities, but at the end of the day, business critical functions like client servicing, training, upskilling, require the element of physical interaction.
As far as work-life-balance is concerned, I believe it is best achieved when we physically enter and exit an office on a daily basis. Working from home, those boundaries are blurred and one seeps into the other for sure."
Devika Sekhar who handles marketing communications and PR for 'The Bay Club' has now begin working 5 times a week says, "Personally, in the role I'm in which would normally involve meeting people over time, this could pose a problem if it were just working from home. As we're in the pre-opening stage it's been easier. As for the work-life balance.. That's one thing I predict to be a struggle for those working from home still."