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What does the future of 'work' look like?

Pandemic has led to a seismic shift in how we work and forced businesses to adapt to new realities. So, what the future of work will be like, will it be more flexible? Let's try to find out

Workplace flexibility | employee productivity | Indian workforce

Krishna Veera Vanamali  |  New Delhi 

India’s biggest FMCG company Hindustan Unilever last month introduced a new flexible work model for its employees in a bid to challenge the traditional work structures. About 8,000 of its office-based staff are eligible to apply for this. The scheme gives employees a flexible association with the company and yet provides financial, security, retirement, and medical benefits.

The workers get a monthly retainer and in addition they get paid for each assignment they work on. And between assignments they are free to do other things that are important to them. The company gains by having ready access to skilled people who can hit the ground running.

Employees today are increasingly putting their families before work after having spent two years working from their homes and native places. They want to experience an improved work/life balance. And employers have come to realise that flexibility should no longer be viewed as a privilege but be made available to all workers.

In India, companies are once again re-adapting to work from home. This time with much relative ease. They wanted to get people back to offices in a hybrid model where they visit the office only a few days a week, at least for tech and other office-based roles.

But there is still some pushback to this idea.

A long-term solution for this is offering flexible work where employees can work from anywhere permanently and make office visits only on certain occasions. This also broadens the talent pool for hiring. But a common complaint that companies have is that it makes it harder for them to maintain and reinforce their company culture.

At same time, attracting talent is difficult when companies don’t offer flexibility. No one has articulated this better than Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji who said people don’t only leave for better opportunities but they also leave when they don’t feel connected to an organisation.

Premji said that hybrid work environment will continue. And that the companies will have to work on creating stronger engagement with employees in order to retain talent. The statement comes against the backdrop of high attrition rate in several tech companies.

But that need not be the case for all. Take the example of Razorpay, which employs just over 2,000 people. 50% of them were onboarded during the pandemic and nearly half of this group has not experienced a physical work environment. Yet the company hasn’t seen an unusual attrition rate among them.

The startup has attempted at making the employees feel comfortable no matter where they work from by focusing heavily on their wellbeing. Its initiatives range from team building calls where anything other than work is discussed to non-work activities like quizzing and online games. Employees are also encouraged to speak openly about the stress of working remotely.

While no one has cracked a winning formula, companies are starting to understand how to better manage remote working in the long-run. Even as flexible working is emerging as a win-win scenario for organisations and employees, there is a question mark on the best way to execute it, so the impact of isolation can be mitigated.

It may seem like a challenge and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But employers have to be mindful of the changed expectations of their workers so their experience can be enhanced as flexible work is here to take over.

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First Published: Fri, January 14 2022. 08:30 IST