The new normal isn’t as new anymore.
The world has functioned for the better part for a year from at-home jobs as the Covid-19 pandemic pushed people indoors. As India’s cases go down, and office spaces slowly open up again as individual states lift restrictions - does it mean there’ll be a return to office spaces again?
A survey conducted by News18 in partnership with market research company YouGov found that a sizeable chunk of people wishes to return to offices like before.
he survey, that was conducted between December 29, 2020 and January 3, 2021 collected data from 1015 urban Indian respondents and found several interesting inferences about people willing to go back to work. Almost seven in ten people who answered questions for the survey said they will be comfortable in returning back to their offices.
A December report found that net office space leasing fell 44 per cent year-on-year during 2020 to 25.82 million sq ft across seven major cities as corporates deferred their expansion plans and adopted ‘work from home’ policy for employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by JLL India.
Led by the southern markets of Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru, net absorption levels in 2020 reached 81 per cent of what was observed between 2016 and 2018, he added. “The office real estate market was most impacted as lockdown measures disrupted the way we work. Corporates had to adopt work from home as an alternative, which brought in its wake, a new set of possibilities and challenges," JLL said.
While this may be good news for the company for a huge chunk of savings on lease, Internet - how does it affect the individual workers if work-from-home is a long-term, permanent solution? Pretty adversely, finds multiple studies.
From just physical health, sitting for long hours in an improper office chair is already leading to problems: As vital as the spine is for the body, problems occurring due to the sedentary lifestyle in lockdown have amplified manifold in the ongoing pandemic.
“Poor ergonomics and sitting on laptops all day has resulted in back issues for many professionals. Those who were used to such work had to sit in bad postures," said Dr Samir Salvie - Consultant Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon, P. D. Hinduja Hospital and MRC.
Add to your physical problems, the adjusting to the ‘normal.’ In October, Professional network LinkedIn released the findings of the Workforce Confidence Index ‘mental health’ edition survey ahead of the World Mental Health Day, and it does not make for pretty reading. The report says that in India, 2 out of every 5 professionals are experiencing increased stress or anxiety due to COVID-19.
The rather worrying stat is that as the pandemic shifted everyone to the work from home routine in the past few months, only 1 in 5 professionals in India were offered more time off for their well-being.
The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index ‘mental health’ edition survey says that only 1 in 4 professionals in India were offered flexible working hours and well-being support, that may have otherwise included emotional well-being initiatives. The findings also show that only 1 in 5 professionals were getting more time off through paid or unpaid leaves.
As many as 40% of Indian professionals are continuing to experience financial instability, which is leading to high levels of financial stress.
The same month, another report found that more people than ever are facing burnout, and too much communication may be the reason.
41% of the workforce in India is dealing with increased stress levels because of the blurred lines between work and personal life. The blurring of lines is as a result of increased communication with colleagues and fewer boundaries. The blurring of lines is as a result of increased communication with colleagues and fewer boundaries with regards to time, and longer workdays. Workers in India, as many as 23% as per the survey, also say that too many meetings and not enough focus time are also contributing to the stress while working from home.
It may not just be too much communication, but longer hours too: A Harvard Business Study confirms what many work-from-home employees already know: We’re swamped.
The study, which was conducted on over 3 million people in 16 global cities found that the average workday increased by 8.2 percent—or 48.5 minutes—during the pandemic’s early weeks. Employees also participated in more meetings, though for less time than they did before COVID-19 sent many workers home.
The most striking point was the average workday becoming longer: The average workday lasted 8.2 percent longer, an extra 48.5 minutes. While it’s unlikely that employees worked continuously during that period, the researchers feel that employees adopted more fluid schedules to accommodate interruptions while at home.
Murali Rao, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavorial Neurosciences, Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago, said that WFH has destroyed personal boundaries in August.
“Previously, people used to get up, get dressed, take transportation and go to their workplace. The travel time used to give them the shift from home mode to work mode. When they were coming back, it would give them the time to plan and think about home and vice versa.
“There were clear boundaries. Now with work from home, partners have different work timing; then there are children, cooking and other activities. The timings are messed up. Those who organize well are performing well, but the majority of people are not organized.
“No wonder people are ready to go out and go back to organized living," said the doctor.
In September, a survey by an anonymous professional network reveals that 53% of professionals claim that their career has taken a hit in the pandemic.
It may be worse for women, found a study in September. Nearly one in two Indian women (47 per cent) are experiencing more stress or anxiety, a new survey said on Thursday.
Worryingly, more than two in five working mothers are working outside their business hours to provide childcare, nearly twice as many men (25 per cent), according to the ‘Workforce Confidence Index’ survey by Microsoft-owned LinkedIn that was based on the responses of 2,254 professionals in the country.
For working men, the number stood at 38 per cent, pointing towards a disproportionate impact on women.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates in an online panel said he feels that the WFH culture has worked well so far and many companies will continue with the system even after the coronavirus pandemic ends.