Mr. Gerald Manoharan, Partner, J Sagar Associates (JSA) & Ms. Prerana Damaraju, Associate, J Sagar Associates (JSA)

Gerald (Jerry) has over 20 years of experience as a corporate commercial lawyer and has worked with several clients on diverse matters, including investments, corporate advisory, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, contracting, dispute advisory and real estate. Jerry advises technology companies on entity setup, structuring, compliances and contracting. Having worked with technology companies as their in-house legal counsel, he is able to advise technology companies and service providers in a pragmatic manner when it comes to drafting, negotiating and finalizing outsourcing, managed services and software development agreements.

Prerana is a Junior Associate at JSA, Bangalore with experience of one year. Her practice areas primarily include Real Estate, Corporate Commercial Transactions and Estate Services. Prerana has been involved with some of the largest real estate transactions in Bangalore and other regions across the country.

 

Remote working, also known as, ‘Work-From-Home’ (“WFH”) has long been an option for many organizations. However, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic (“COVID-19”), many such organizations were forced to rapidly move towards the remote working culture. Since then, the organizations have undergone various changes to implement the remote working model as against the traditional centralized permanent workplace model. 

Not only did COVID-19 have its impact at an individual level, but it had also impacted countries at an economic level. With 2022 on the horizon, it is likely that the COVID-19 would very much still be a fact of life for many of us, which is why it is even more important for organizations to predict and effectuate new workflow trends shaping the year ahead.

Remote working model

Before the pandemic, the idea of remote working was a fantasy to many people, but such practice was not considered to be practicable. There have been mixed reactions from the market in relation to the application of a remote working model. Many studies have shown that employees working from home have displayed a more positive attitude and less exhaustion from work. Studies have also shown that employees working from home have displayed an increase in productivity and flexibility. Remote working also acts as an incentive to attract new talent. The employees also tend to trust their employers a lot more since the working relationship is not as closely monitored, and the employees are allowed a greater degree of autonomy to get on with their work.

Factors to overcoming vis-à-vis the remote working model.

Build Trust and Morale 

Building trust is a key factor to be considered, especially in the remote working model. The employees do not get to ‘live the culture’ of the company since they hardly spend any time in the office. It is difficult for the new hires to get a feel of their organization’s culture and people from behind the screen. It is also harder to maintain team spirit when employees are working remotely.

Continued Productivity

For the remote working model to be successful, it must ensure that the base level productivity of the employees does not dwindle. As long as there is no impact on the base level productivity, such remote working arrangements can be adopted with ease. 

The 2Cs of the virtual environment

‘Communication’ and ‘collaboration’ are the two Cs of the virtual workspace that are probably the most important factors which determine whether the remote working model is sustainable or not. Since there is no physical connection, communication can be established only by depending on the virtual forces. Communication and collaboration are hence the key factors that are to be maintained to help bridge the gap between the offline and online workspace.

Dependency on digital tools.

The organizations now have an increased responsibility to ensure that the technology-based tools are developed in such a way to promote effective collaboration between the employee vis-à-vis his/her ‘e-team’. The disconnect between the offline and online workspace can be bridged by the organizations only by ensuring a robust technology such as adequate bandwidth, impenetrable security is in place to avoid any chances of a data breach. Organizations should also ensure that they install effective and advanced encryption software and related applications to provide secured access to the remote computer through the internet so that the data is accessible yet secure. 

Hybrid working model- a revolution in the work culture.

In the wake of COVID-19, many organisations around the world have introduced the hybrid working mechanism wherein the employees have been given the right to choose between WFH and physically working from the office space. Hybrid structures range from companies maintaining centralized permanent offices to accommodate the staff who would work from the office space to doing away with the concept of permanent offices entirely and relying on a co-working space structure. What’s more likely to change in 2022, is that the employees will have the choice of work model, rather than being forced to align with the model which the organisation had chosen earlier. Organisations such as Credit Suisse, UBS Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Inc. and Tata Consultancy Services have already begun to implement the hybrid working mechanism. 

Deutsche Bank AG was one the first major multinational company which had rolled out the ‘hybrid working model’, whereby it had implemented the ‘40-60’ model, under which the employees were given the flexibility of working from home up to three days a week. It had implemented this model basis the study conducted by it amongst its employees across the world.

Further, grabbing on to the benefits of both, working remotely and working face-to-face with colleagues in the office and to enable a better work-life balance, Credit Suisse, a global investment banking company, having its offices in India as well, has launched the ‘The Way We Work’ model, wherein it gives its employees more flexibility on working hours and choice of workplace. As per the press release issued by the company, it stated that “The employees shall be able to choose a working model that gives them maximum flexibility, depending on their area of activity, and allows them to determine for themselves, in conjunction with their teams and line managers, how and where they wish to work.” Apart from this, the employees, together with their teams and line managers, shall also be able to choose and decide what percentage of their time they would want to spend outside of the office and which days they wish to spend working in the office, so that their individual needs, plans, and life stages can be even more closely aligned with their working life. However, the office will continue to play an important role as a place of work, due to social factors such as face-to-face collaboration, social contact, and workplace discussions. Credit Suisse is also developing other technology-based tools and guidelines to extend collaboration in both cases – whether in an office setting or via remote access.

Tata Consultancy Services, an information technology services company has announced ‘25/25’ model, wherein its employees will spend only 25% of their time in office by 2025. Tata Consultancy Services also aims that by the year 2025, only 25% of its employees will work from offices at any given point of time.

UBS Group AG, a multilevel investment bank, had gone a step further in relation to the flexible work culture space and went on to state that the employees who did not wish to administer the COVID-19 vaccine were allowed to work from home. Further, it had also rolled out a permanent hybrid working model by which it allowed at least two-thirds of its employees to mix work-from-home and office, at the employees’ discretion.

Conclusion.

Basis the studies undertaken at a worldwide level; most employees prefer a flexible working model rather than a traditional centralized office space model. Though studies have proven that employees with the most flexible work models were the happiest and most productive, whether this can be implemented on a long term basis depends on the magnitude of technology to be adopted and implemented by the organizations. A hybrid working model will put to test all the previous working models which had been in practice for decades and which were thought to be indispensable. Organizations still have a long way to go to determine whether such a paradigm shift of working culture would stand the test of time or not. The organizations can either continue to believe that they will deliver in the future because they have always delivered in the past, or they can embrace this opportunity and collaborate with their employees and staff to discover a new and better way of working.

Related Articles