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Old 27th April 2020, 10:01   #16
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

I think that is awesome! If the Indian elephant is planning to learn how to dance then surely the more nimble creatures can too!

I can only speak from my experience of almost 20 years in the IT industry so far, so perhaps the following points are just applicable to the companies I worked for and may not be applicable to the IT behemoths.

*IMHO, there are very few jobs in IT that require people to be present in the office physically.

*'Challenges like only desktops, no laptops, slow VPN, client permissions can be overcome. These are technical challenges, not impossibilities. And this situation is the best time to do it. It's not like a manufacturing industry where you actually, physically cannot bring your lathe home!

*Discipline, well if your team members need constant supervision to do their jobs, then you've probably hired the wrong people, or there is something wrong with the company culture.

*Most IT companies have several tracking mechanisms in place to see that work gets done and shows the progress of work. And I think this is an important distinction we need to start making - to track WORK and not HOURS spent chained to the desk. As long as the work is progressing at the required rate, what difference does it make how many hours each employee spends at their desk? This is going to be the biggest and most difficult mindset to change.

*My last 4 managers (US-based) have worked out of home, from small towns at least 3 hours away from the nearest office location. And they've all been very efficient. The biggest change is the culture. No one there cares if you're stepping out for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to get some personal work done, or if your kid walks in during a video conference. As long as the work is getting done and you keep people informed, people deal with it in a mature way. Here I see our Indian employees think it's a shame if you say you're stepping away for a while or if you show that you have some sort of personal life. This is just a hangover from the old days. Culture shift, that's all. And in time we will develop a mature work from home culture as well.

*Similarly, a mature work from home culture allows a clear distinction between work and personal time even when both are happening physically in the same location, at home. Just like you would close your laptop at work, shut it down at home. Stop checking mail. [If you're the sort of person who can't help checking mail even on vacation, then home or office, that's not going to change (and I feel bad for you ).] Personally, for me I get to spend more productive time working AND have a better personal life when I work from home, because I don't have that pointless, stressful 1 hour+ commute each way every single day (and that's on GOOD Bangalore traffic days without rain!)!

*SEZs and tax breaks. Would be great to see numbers for bigger companies and admittedly I don't know those, so can't say how much of a factor that is for company bottom lines. BUT are tax breaks the only way a 30+ year old industry can show profits? I mean we keep talking about Indian IT being innovative, cutting-edge and all that. I've worked for a couple of companies taking advantage of tax breaks in such places...and at the same time they also used to take employees on lavish, weekend team-outings each quarter. Is that what the tax breaks were meant for?

*True there will be a cascading effect on support roles, cabs, drinking water suppliers, restaurants, security staff and the like. That is a serious consideration. But there could also be a redistribution of the workforce to smaller towns and a consequent improvement of economic activity there. Think of the diverse people you can hire. The entirely new talent pool a company will have access to. Like the very talented people from the North-East for example. And how great it will be for people from there not to have to travel to Delhi or Bangalore to find jobs. Of course the infrastructure there will need to improve. But again, that is a technical challenge and not an impossibility. And this is the best time to get it done.

*Frankly, the cascading effect on Bangalore real estate, I see that as a positive. If the demand for overpriced 'IT Parks', flats, PGs, built on encroached land, in the middle of nowhere, without proper papers and with the attendant corruption, requiring generators and 20-water tankers a day supply...if all that stops, I see that as a good thing!

*Don't need to even elaborate on the traffic mess, the pollution and absolute chaos. Anyone can just see what happens around the Bangalore 'IT Zones' every day. (Pre-Corona days of course.)

Last edited by am1m : 27th April 2020 at 10:26.
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Old 27th April 2020, 10:16   #17
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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Originally Posted by V.Narayan View Post
The IT-BPO industry provides indirect employment to a vast sea of semi-skilled humble people. Looks like a significant chunk of that could be in trouble.
If I were to spend most of my time working while at home, I would hire these semi skilled people to help me at home. Cooking, cleaning, driving and other chores. On those lines, such employment should increase, right?

IMO, the key will be the ability of middle management to read productivity while employees WFH.
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Old 27th April 2020, 10:31   #18
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

I am thinking of the impact of this news on the auto companies.

If others also decide to follow the suit, the car sales may actually fall. IT people are a huge chunk of car buyers; with this in place - commuters are definitely going to get reduced.

On a positive note - Bangalore will become drivable!

Last edited by BlackPearl : 29th April 2020 at 16:28. Reason: Minor Typo. Thanks.
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Old 27th April 2020, 11:08   #19
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

I'm not convinced:

1. Competitiveness & competence: working from home, you don't know what others are doing and how good/bad things are with others. There is very less competition between teams/employees/colleagues.

2. (linked to 1) Appraisal - one would never know if the appraisal/rating one got is justified, as he/she will not know the benchmark (best in the team), and no amount of online counselling will help if the person has not seen themselves how good/efficient others have been as compared to them.

3. There are always some people who are willing to be available 24X7 (either don't have a family/don't spend much time with family anyways) just to earn browny points with managers. I can already see emails/meeting invites coming at odd hours because different people (in same time zone) are working at different times.

4. Too many meetings: Small matters that we used to resolve by walking up to our colleagues/managers for a quick clarification/resolution, now necessitates setting up a meeting. There are simply too many meetings nowadays. And time is wasted in joining calls, making sure everyone has joined, everyone can speak and listen clearly, everyone is in mute/un-mute as and when needed.

There are a lot of other small issues which create hindrance in working efficiently. Sure, many of these might go off as we get used to of WFH or its' nuisances) . Still, I would prefer the usual office job.
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Old 27th April 2020, 11:27   #20
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

This is a welcome change. This was one area where companies were 'wasting' money and resources to maintain something which was under-utilized.

Underutilized office space
Even before COVID-19, my company allowed use of WFH. On any given day, 40-60% members in my team were WFH and the seats were lying vacant. So when we moved to a new office location, the management decided to implement 'dynamic" seating and allocated seats to just 70-80% of the total team strength.

A small portion of team, who turn up to office regularly (based on biometric tracking) have got fixed seat space. This list is revised every quarter. Remaining seats are 'floating'. We have to use an internal app to book a seat for few hours and upto 5 days at a time. However since we have more people WFH daily, there are still many seats lying unused!

During my visits to the offices in US, I have seen they maintain far fewer seats compared to number of employees. Employees have been using similar app to book a seat before they turn up. If they can't book a seat, they are expected not to turn up at the office. Good part, hardly any seat goes vacant. The seats are reused too when two or more employees book it for different time slots.

Based on my observation, I feel 25% seats for 100% employees is justified.


However we still need to see the terms and conditions of this WFH arrangement.

Working remotely
Based on special circumstances, only few companies allow their employees to work remotely. By remote, I mean from a different city than their base/reporting location. If WFH is going to be permanent, then this rule needs to change. All companies should allow people to work remotely.

If I am not supposed to go to office then I shouldn't be forced to stay in an expensive city like Mumbai or Bangalore (for example!). Why can't I move away from metros to a smaller city and then turn up at the office, once in few months, for some pre-planned meetings? What could be the potential challenges in this model?
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Old 27th April 2020, 11:32   #21
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

I provide work from home instead of leaves to manage staffing or as per their request at times. Covid-19 has forced us all in WFH, its certainly doable for small periods of time however I work with a lot of graduate hires who need the time in the office to learn and become the professional they aspire to become.

There is a reason office spaces exist and I do not see any reason to change that for now at least for our line of work, its so critical.

I also believe that office spaces and IT parks provide massive amounts of employment, the support structure for IT is much larger that IT itself and the most important driver of economic growth (across all tiers of the society) in India over the past few decades. Let IT parks and office spaces continue, road traffic is the least of our problem - unemployment is.
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Old 27th April 2020, 11:45   #22
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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Originally Posted by am1m View Post
*My last 4 managers (US-based) have worked out of home, from small towns at least 3 hours away from the nearest office location. And they've all been very efficient. The biggest change is the culture. No one there cares if you're stepping out for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to get some personal work done, or if your kid walks in during a video conference. As long as the work is getting done and you keep people informed, people deal with it in a mature way. Here I see our Indian employees think it's a shame if you say you're stepping away for a while or if you show that you have some sort of personal life. This is just a hangover from the old days. Culture shift, that's all. And in time we will develop a mature work from home culture as well.

......

*SEZs and tax breaks. Would be great to see numbers for bigger companies and admittedly I don't know those, so can't say how much of a factor that is for company bottom lines. BUT are tax breaks the only way a 30+ year old industry can show profits? I mean we keep talking about Indian IT being innovative, cutting-edge and all that. I've worked for a couple of companies taking advantage of tax breaks in such places...and at the same time they also used to take employees on lavish, weekend team-outings each quarter. Is that what the tax breaks were meant for?
You only have to connect the first to the second above to get an answer.

The West has all the right things in terms of culture of work; yet why do the MNCs keep expanding in Asia? If they can account for all or bulk of Development activities to happen in an Indian SEZ, that channels out a big chunk of their global revenue. We are talking in billions of dollars every year.

Indian IT salaries, especially in MNCs have matured enough to reach around the US Median wage for quite some time now --- the currency arbitrage works well for operating costs (read outings, parties, etc) and the tax breaks work well for channeling profits.

I have been with the industry for about 15 years now -- there is a general tendency to attribute "talent" in this industry to geographies. But then, people who have worked long enough know this all too well right ?

My favorite analogy -- working in S/W industry is like driving.
The first time you drive -- 99% do horribly and about 1% take to it like fish to water.
With time, about 80% evolve out to be average to good drivers when they follow the rules and learn the whole dance.
About 20% remain bad drivers through out because they are not just built for it.
S/W industry and the talents around the world are exactly like this.

It's operating cost + tax benefits + market that drives Indian S/W industry. You take one of these out, I am pretty sure the industry as we know wouldn't last. Can we build something new and fresh ? Of course we can, but one has to account for the entropy.
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Old 27th April 2020, 11:52   #23
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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You only have to connect the first to the second above to get an answer.
I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your point. So I will try and respond to what I think I did understand from your post, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

Naturally outsourcing happens because of lower costs. But wouldn't not having to maintain expensive offices and having access to lower cost talent from smaller towns lower MNC operating costs further?

Most HR departments think there is no talent outside of the metros simply because they have not changed their hiring processes and thinking to identify and hire from outside the metros. And that further reinforces the belief among prospective candidates that unless you are based in a metro, you will not even be considered for a job at the company.

'Entropy' is an awesome and accurate word you have used. I think that's all that's preventing this model from becoming a reality.

Last edited by am1m : 27th April 2020 at 12:02.
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Old 27th April 2020, 12:06   #24
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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Originally Posted by am1m View Post
I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your point. So I will try and respond to what I think I did understand from your post, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

Naturally outsourcing happens because of lower costs. But wouldn't not having to maintain expensive offices and having access to lower cost talent from smaller towns lower MNC operating costs further?

'Entropy' is an awesome and accurate word you have used. I think that's all that's preventing this model from becoming a reality.
My apologies if that wasn't clear -- with offshoring, definitely an MNC can reduce the cost. But there would also be a push to keep the costs there -- an example would be the tech hardware manufacturing sectors in South East Asia. This kind of model is followed still by a large percentage of companies in the IT Services business where they also keep salaries down (ie. costs down).

In the MNC product and services businesses though, the Indian salaries have been rising to the point where they are near to the US entry level wages. That is not sustainable without tax breaks. For an MNC making $100 million as profits globally, it can save about $25 million that it has to account as tax in US by just developing in India. So, they use the available talent, pay and treat them well, but without that huge tax break, it is not worth it, especially with the bad rep in press back home in the West.
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Old 27th April 2020, 12:08   #25
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

As someone who is part of these IT companies, I'll share my $0.02.
1. The reason why WFH, right now, seems lucrative is because people literally have nothing else to do. No one can even step out of their house. Once things normalize, there will a huge drop in productivity with people going out to do household chores, dropping a family member off to somewhere, hospital visits, local govt. office visits, etc.
2. Nothing beats physical connect and in person meetings. I'm not talking about your regular weekly/ daily op calls. When you need to take decisions on big financial/ deal aspects, nothing beats 5-6 people in one room sorting things out
3. Many folks simply avoid work. They do so in office and even at home and WFH will only exacerbate things which companies would like to avoid
4. Security is a big aspect. Many banking/ financial/ healthcare projects which require dedicated secure infrastructure cannot be ported home. These will stay and so will employees in office
5. Infrastructure at home. Meetings with poor net connectivity, power cuts, myriad background noises, etc. make WFH ineffective for productive meetings. Not everyone faces these problems but most freshers out of college who are still living in PGs do
6. The typical desi mentality. Somehow people still think clocking 10 hours in office is the hallmark of work. Once our office awarded someone for he stayed in office for 36 hours straight to counter a customer problem. The award was for the hours spent in office not the successful resolution. One can be fiddling his/ her thumbs in office but as long as 10 hours have been clocked, all is good
I can foresee WFH for few resources who weren't exactly constrained before either and a few more, but the dynamics of the IT companies doesn't change so fast. SEZs also mandate a minimum number of people coming to office to get tax exemptions so there's that.

Last edited by ValarMorghulis : 27th April 2020 at 12:10.
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Old 27th April 2020, 12:10   #26
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

While this sounds like a win-win situation for both employer & employee, in reality, it will essentially boil down to how the policies are framed.
  • For starters, this should be voluntary rather than forced. At the very least, employees should be able to cycle through this such that they get a chance to come to office on some of the days. This is important to maintain the social aspect of working in an office and I think for a few of us, going to office is also an “escape” from home.
  • Secondly a large part of the existing workforce will need to invest in setting up a home-office provided they can afford to and have the space in their house to do so. This is essential if you want to look at WFH as a long-term alternative; you can’t continue to work from your bedroom or dining table indefinitely without ruining your mattress or back. While some employers will likely offer to compensate for the personal infrastructure costs on a recurring (internet plan) or one-time(chair/desk) basis, this can also trigger a drop-in wage as the “city allowance” component can change to match the perceived drop in an employee’s expenditure.
  • Finally, I think the most important consideration here is that this will have to be an all or nothing approach in most cases. If an employee had relocated to a different city, he will be moving back to avoid the redundant living expense of running two households but then you can't expect the same employee to report back to office a few days in a week. Otherwise all of the conveniences/cost-benefits of WFH are lost.
All other things can and will fall in place.
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Old 27th April 2020, 12:13   #27
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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Originally Posted by ashokrajagopal View Post
For an MNC making $100 million as profits globally, it can save about $25 million that it has to account as tax in US by just developing in India.
That's a great point. So won't that US tax break still apply if the development is being done in 200 homes across India, or does it have to be done out of one physical glass tower in Bangalore for that tax break to apply? Seriously asking, I have no idea of the tax-break clauses.
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Old 27th April 2020, 12:26   #28
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

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That's a great point. So won't that US tax break still apply if the development is being done in 200 homes across India, or does it have to be done out of one physical glass tower in Bangalore for that tax break to apply? Seriously asking, I have no idea of the tax-break clauses.
Well, I don't know about future, but right now, the tax-break clauses only deal with SEZs. Meaning, its applicable not just in an actual office, but an actual office in a designated area or tech park. Would the government simply expand it or do away with it is to be decided by politics of future.

Must also say that tax breaks have evolved over time from the industry to cities to tech parks to case to case basis on companies' own buildings. Therefore, its an open end in itself. We have to look at it from the MNC's perspective -- in the absence of tax breaks, does it make sense to be an employer providing jobs to India, or to around the world ? After all, its Internet that's enabling all this, and why would any company limit jobs to geography ?
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Old 27th April 2020, 13:04   #29
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

One needs to invest for a proper home office setup - an isolated environment, power backup,a good desk,a good Bluetooth speakerphone with mic ,comfortable chair and atleast 2 different high speed ISP. Currently , i am working on a makeshift desk and chair which is causing me lot of discomfort. Cannot work for more than an hour at a stretch which makes me work for longer hours to fulfill my commitments.

Fulfilling the above needs will not be feasible for many people. I know many of my colleagues who stay in a small apartment with husband and wife working from the same room. I hear a lot of disturbing cross talk during calls which is unavoidable when working from such close quarters. Not many can afford a decently spacious 2 BHK apartment with all amenities for both husband and wife to work independently.Food is another problem. One has to spend an hour or so for preparing lunch.At work, we could go down to canteen and grab a small bite anytime or have proper breakfast/lunch/evening snack . And there are lot of bachelors staying in shared PG's. How can they setup a home office in PG? Not possible. They should rent out an independent house to have a productive WFH. It is not possible to sit on some stool and makeshift table or on a cot placing the laptop on a stack of pillows in a hot humid environment and be able to concentrate on work. We cannot compare our home working environment with the ones in the USA or Europe. Our logistical challenges are different and difficult to smooth out. For people to start having productive WFH sessions the employees will have to scout for independent houses. This will increase the demand for such houses and the already high rent will go up even more. Employers should start paying the employees more to offset this increased expense. It is like a water filled balloon. You poke it at some place and it will expand at different place. Poke it too much and it will burst.

I also am spending lot of time in short calls and meetings which could have been resolved with a short walk to my colleague. The team bonding and connect has definitely taken a hit which i feel is essential for the efficient co-ordination among the team.

Last edited by sagarpadaki : 27th April 2020 at 13:18.
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Old 27th April 2020, 13:28   #30
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Default re: Work From Home (WFH): Is this the future for many?

I see the evolution of instant chats to support a natural voice option where you can talk as if your colleague is next to you.

Currently people think they are at home and try to ask for permission to talk to each other over small voice conferences etc. I think the extension of office environment to the home setup needs to happen.

It doesnt take much with the good bandwidth for this to happen. People already work in new collaborative environments with much less physical separation at offices and noise is not an issue.

Personally, I have been working 80% of time from home for last 10 years. I dont find it limiting. Face to face helps but that is because we are still limiting the work from home experience as if its second class and fallback option.

Last edited by srishiva : 27th April 2020 at 13:58.
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