Thursday, February 7, 2019

Q&A - Should Indian IT companies encourage working from home? What can be the challenges and how can they be overcome?

This was an interesting question that came to me from an online forum. Work From Home policies continue to evolve around the globe. Organizations and managers around the globe continue to look at adoption of work-from-home policies in other industry segments.

Like their global peers, Indian IT companies have been updating their business and work policies in the past couple of decades. Policies on Work-from-home continue to evolve though they are not the norm.

Managers understand that may need to accommodate the need of employees to work from home sometimes. While some Indian IT companies allow some employees to work from home, such policies are unlikely to become the norm. This is because, most companies have invested in office space and infrastructure and want employees to come in and work with their colleagues. The challenges of encouraging work from home en masse are obvious :

Primary challenges

Level of employees - Much of the Indian IT continues to be bottom-heavy. Junior employees and those fresh out of college need to be mentored hands-on and letting them work from home is neither practical nor efficient. And if most of such junior employees are going to work from office, can you expect their managers to be working from home?
Culture - Perhaps the greatest barrier to letting employees work from home is the reluctance from young employees. Many Indians, especially youngsters take pride in the companies they work for. Many want to get-ready and head to work and be able to tell their neighbors, aunts and uncles that they work for XYZ multinational at a “tech park.” This way they can justify buying a new bike or leasing a car !
  • The above two are not easy challenges to overcome, and might take time as younger employees mature with the industry
Other Challenges (that may be overcome)

Measuring productivity - IT Managers have been trained to MBWA and are comfortable managing employees they can walk up to. Some of them are used to “seeing” employees being productive (or taking frequent coffee breaks) and can engage with employees
  • Managers in some organizations and groups that allow work-from-home overcome their MBWA practice by adopting technologies like web/video conferencing and other tools.
Effort in identifying and delegating tasks that can be performed independently. Some tasks may not be easy to break up and may require frequent interactions with groups
  • Creatively break up tasks that can be delegated and performed remotely by skilled employees

Wider adoption of WFH in the Indian IT will depend on individual managers and their teams, and comes down to Ronald Regan’s famous adage - trust but verify

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