Since March 2020, I have been working from home. Although I am in the USA, I have worked with my team in Chennai, India. And there are team members in the Central time zone. After working in this mode for the last few months, I am writing this post as I think I know enough now to conclude. I will share my thoughts on Can IT Employees Work From Home. I have worked in India for quite a while and managed a team remotely; every team member, including myself, has never been to the office or met face-to-face. I am updating this post after working from home on the project since December 2020 in India for Indian IT companies; now that I experienced the issues we are facing in India, I think a changed but the better perspective from both sides.
So, Can IT Employees Work From Home?
I think yes, IT can eventually shift to work from home mode, primarily onshore. But, at offshore locations or even where freshers are trained will take time. Freshers who are learning the work or other skills need to watch and learn. And that is usually easier when the trainees are near the experienced folks. I stick to this view I had a year back; I think freshers cannot come back to work soon enough. I had two freshers in my team, and they constantly needed training and mentorship; it was difficult for them or the leads over Microsoft Teams.
In the scrum model, the team is supposed to be collocated. While most companies adopted scrum, but they defined their agile scrum. And often, teams are not collocated. And due to that, communication is a challenge. But the latest communication tools such as Zoom or MS teams are lifesavers. It is possible in the USA because you have stable internet and electricity all over. And rain or small storm does not disrupt anything.
Both TCS and Infosys have commented that a significant chunk of their workforce will move to work from home mode; I see tremendous merit to that. I have been in the onsite location for more than nine years now, and I can function just as fine, if not better, if I am working from home. In the initial days when you need to learn few things, it is easier if all team members are collocated; otherwise, as long as you have 24/7 power and internet, you will function just fine. You save on commute time and other hassles so that you might be more productive. But, I have seen people are kind of tired of working from home. They want to go back to the office to socialize. So they can interact with people in person. And for managers, it will be helpful too, which will apply to all Indian IT companies. Teams coming back to the office will mean members will have stable internet, electricity, and face-to-face availability.
Indian IT companies had a reason to be happy because they would save money on administrative costs and real estate in the long term. But initially, they had to invest in laptops and security (websense) software. I found out Indian IT companies have found ways to onboard employees online, interview to exit process, everything ae being handled online.
But our managers are not used to trusting employees, and employees are also not used to working in an unmonitored environment. So, I am not sure how that part will work out. When I used to work in India, I saw the culture of employees staying back till late at night to please the manager and others in the team. Otherwise, it would have impacted the rating. I do not know if this will continue or not. But being head of delivery, I noticed, team members took advantage of frequent absences due to family priorities came first.
While offshore can function from home, I do not think 100% of work from home is possible for different reasons.
In India, Work from home has some real challenges. Let me list down a few as I faced while I was working with my team-
- People lose power, laptop dies, mobile dies. The bad monsoon and flooding caused frequent power cuts.
- Internet is not stable, calls and video chat becomes a problem. Many a times people used mobile internet.
- Small rooms, noisy environment might be embarrassing when you are in a call, but this did not seem to be a big issue, although I had a team member in my team, whenever he joined a meeting we could hear the TV in backgroud and that was annoying.
- As I mentioned, people are not used to working unmonitored and that is a problem, they are often not online when they are supposed to be. And I found out they always prioritized family emergency over work.
Now, here are few other issues I faced in calls where primarily people from America were there-
- Wife talking while husband is in call – husband forgot to mute the phone
- Listening to Bruno Marsh while at call – forgot to mute the phone etc
While the people in India have fundamental infrastructure issues, which can be fixed quickly, those will take time; people in the USA do not have similar problems. So, I do not think it will be 100% work from home here in the US. My current client is waiting for the pandemic to end so we can report in the office. But the client might want the consultants onsite. Otherwise, decent internet speed, stable power, and internet that will not get disconnected during every rainstorm will benefit.
Will Indian IT companies Continue Work From Home?
Not for very long; I think by November 2021, December many of us will get emails asking us to join the office. Indian IT companies might extend the work from home in case there is a third wave. I heard from my manager that higher management is considering that as a real possibility. And trust me, your manager does not want you to catch covid. Because it is hard to find a new resource, train them. It is better to continue with existing resources and maintain the status quo.
I am also looking forward to going back to the office. I realized the social life is missing. And I can tell you many other employees are in the same situation. Moreover, not everyone enjoys working from home thing. So worst case, Indian IT companies should ask us to go back and join the office by March – April 2022. And I understand you might have gone back to your village or wherever your native place is and will have to find a house if you have to go to the office. Get ready to pay more in rent as the demand will jump at the same time. Otherwise, your manager should have first-hand news, and they will inform you when the organization is planning to bring everyone back to the office.
How The WFH will Change the World As We Know It?
Since this blog is on investments, I want to share some other thoughts; due to increasing traffic, I always pondered the idea that the future might have us working at home. The onsite opportunity for IT employees can be impacted, as now everyone knows that projects can be run remotely. That means more business for collaborative apps, firewalls, antiviruses.
On the other hand, companies can negotiate better on salaries. Fewer expenses on relocation expense, work from home means no relocation expense, and wages will be less as there would not be a cost of living allowance. On the other hand, employees will have a stable life, and prices will not be an issue. In big cities, rental and real estate prices see deflationary pressure. Quality of life might increase as employees spend less time in traffic and maybe invest those hours in the gym or yoga.
Many people opened Demat accounts and started trading and investing, thanks to apps like groww, zerodha. I think this will help these Indians to own equity and get rich in the long term. And they can generate passive income.
My last thought on Can IT Employees Work From Home is we cannot; it is tough to communicate and keep a tab on all employees.