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Working from home: management pain or business gain?

There has been more than a storm in a tea cup following Marissa Mayer’s directive for people to show up in the Yahoo offices and cut back on working from home.  Her decision needs to be contextualised in the context of Yahoo’s stage in their journey as a business and more importantly as a new team that is trying to rally around a new strategy. Trying to generalise the decision will meaninglessly dilute both what Yahoo is attempting and the issue of flexible working conditions. The issue needs to be viewed and assessed in line with each individual business and also within the concerned societal framework.

In developing markets like India, I see the implementation of flexible working conditions or working from home (henceforth WFH) as a powerful business and social enabler.

From a business perspective, allowing limited / managed WFH will provide better work-life balance for the employee, improved productivity and cost efficiency for the company and unleash creativity all around – you won’t imagine the synapses that occur when you WORK from an outdoor cafe in a noisy street or find a quiet spot in a public garden or just your dining room (sans kids). WFH is equated to personal expression by younger employees and this translates to better retention and employee satisfaction, both prevalent areas for improvement in India. India is a unique market because it has a very young population – more than half being under the age of 25 (http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/view-from/a-view-from-india/index.html). We need to be looking at models and new ways of working that allow this generation more creative freedom and an assumed level of (structured) responsibility.

As a social enabler, WFH is a powerful catalyst. Some of the benefits include the opportunity to widen and diversify the employable population, lessen the stress on urban infrastructure and keep family units closer. It is the first one that I am particularly attached to – WFH creates more possibilities for women to fully / partially join the workforce, for inclusion of the elderly in certain industries where skills are short and bringing / taking work to lesser developed regions.

In her paper ‘Work-family balance policies’, Professor Margaret O’Brien of the University of East Anglia (UK) speaks of ‘the squeezed middle generation’ in many families which sees increased pressure on the rising female labour force. More woman are now engaged in business, but the pressure on having time to properly care for their young, old and unwell members of their families still remain a pressing challenge. We, as employers need to be sensitive to these very real nuances in order to ensure we are not losing out on valuable talent within the industry.
Some things to be kept in mind while implementing WFH:

  • Given that the concept is relatively new in India, the implementation needs to be
    accompanied with clear boundary conditions and training for both employees and
    managers (do’s & don’t’s, tips for effectiveness etc.).
  • We need to assist with the development of the “WFH etiquette” that is adapted to
    local conditions – simply transferring practices from one country to another will not
    work
  • Leverage the collaboration technology that is readily available to ensure efficiency
    and business velocity are not impaired in any way
  • Engage the employees while building your policy and be ready to shape it as you
    gain experience
Vinod Kumar

Vinod Kumar

Managing Director and Group CEO Tata Communications

Vinod Kumar is Managing Director of Tata Communications Limited and CEO of Tata Communications Limited Group, part of the $96.79 billion Tata Group.

With over 20 years of experience in the global telecoms industry, Vinod has a track record in developing business strategies and creating fast growth organisations around the globe. He has been at the forefront of Tata Communications’ shift away from traditional network services towards managed services and, recently, cloud computing.

Known for his quick wit, he is also an avid polo player and art collector. He offers a unique take on global business that matches his passion for speed, competition and the arts.

10 comments
  1. Ash

    I agree totally with Vinod.. It also depends on the manager to think through the details and the benefits of such an arrangement and help his team benefit as well.
    If you are lucky like me to have a understanding and helpful manager, productivity wont suffer and work will happen smoothly.

  2. Prasad Paradkar

    As an employee I really think WFH is a good option it will reduce resource requirement for the company in various ways. As we are seeing TCL is now focusing on cost cutting by automating various processes, why not promote WFH as it will reduce infrastructure cost. We can asked our level 2 and level 3 employees work from home as they will only see escalations which is not that frequent. And eventually they will be more satisfied and worked extra hours willingly as they were supporting their families during free time.

  3. beena

    Work from Home in paticularly in IT industries is very prevalant in India and definately is a business gain, as on many ocassions rather than an employee taking a leave if he is unwell gets the privlege to work from home.. also for those who are living away from their families, can go to their hometown and work from home also enjoy being with family..

  4. Abel

    I liked the term “managed WFH” , WFH can be used as well as misued, hence bringing in accountability is of essence. In a country like India wherein the infra is still developing , WFH can be a boon and bane, 2 examples are power and travel times. The way forward will probably be a hybrid model , we cannot have people working exclusively from home.

  5. I love reading through a post that can make men
    and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for
    me to comment!

    • tata7090

      Glad you enjoyed the post – thank you for your feedback.

  6. Deepali

    Completely agree with Vinod. This is one of the inspiring best practise which the world has adapted gradually.

  7. Ramesh

    “Managed WFH” is a good concept and this is a really a good post. Many Indian employees lack a work life balance, leaving a negative impact on effectiveness. WFH is a very good initiative which should be managed by employee and his manager. Employee must demonstrate discipline and adherence to succeed. Many employees in India spend a lot of time on travelling to and from their place of work, leaving them exhausted. A well managed WFH system will yield high performance results and also give improved cost benefit, savings on infrastructure costs. Thanks to Tata Communications for enabling telecom infrastructure which enables to stay connected. In a better way to state “Always ON”

  8. Sid

    I agree with the WFH concept and its benefts. However, the challenge will always be to bring in a change in traditional mindset among organisations and employees as also inculcate a policy with effective do’s and don’ts with clear measures. Once done, it will remove personal perceptions of WFH concept and create confidence among employees.

  9. Nitesh

    It is certainly an effective way to gain operational efficiency, increase employee performance, and keep up the employee retention ratio. However, this definitely needs a well organised approach to managing, as well said ‘Managed WFH’, to keep employee contribution & involvement on par with organisational standards and goals. Moreover, that gives future generations a boost in maintaining a great sense of work-life balance.