It seems that technology firms in India such as Infosys and TCS are perhaps still not ready for a 100% Work From Home (WFH) situation.
According to many analysts and experts, COVID-19 pandemic can lead to Work From Home (WFH) becoming a regular thing. Still, it needs thinking beyond the universal WFH and ask if it is the best alternative for all companies and employees. We know it is critical to stay at home during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. But, we also need to ask if WFH is causing damage to the efficiency and productivity of companies or if it is all hunky-dory by just getting all the work done remotely.
After PM Narendra Modi recently announced a 21-day lockdown owing to COVID-19 pandemic, all organisations in India except ones that are essential have been closed shut. Most private companies are completely shut. But, if you look at the Indian tech sector, the situation is a little different.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic concerns, Indian IT firms have still retained more than a fair percentage of employees in offices, which is dangerous to the health of those employees and their families. The situation is deemed by IT employees as very hypocritical of the CEOs who are staying at home while defending their stance on Indian IT services being an essential industry for foreign clients.
As bad as the situation is given employees are still working from offices in India, the fact is that companies don’t have the alternative unless they give up their contracts worth billions of dollars. If large Indian tech firms such are mandated permanent WFH guidelines, it is a probability that it would hamper their IT infrastructure support services and further harm the technology sector in India, potentially lead to massive job losses.
When it comes to WFH, there are also fears related to cybersecurity and IT firms are scared to death about securing sensitive data of their clients, which can become a target of attackers if sent over cloud-based tools.
Why Companies Are Not Rapidly Adopting 100% Work From Home
The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) stated recently that while worker safety was important, some steps must be exercised to assure that IT services firms can nevertheless help maintain critical infrastructure from worldwide healthcare, telecom networks and banking organisations.
“Unfortunately, most of these mission-critical services cannot be processed outside of the highly secure work premises. Hence, it is necessary to ensure governments allow the IT-ITes sector to work as essential services and retain those critical services operational,” Nasscom said.
“Infosys continues committed to meeting its client deliverable mandates and assuring that our critical client offerings do not get impacted. We are working each day to ensure that there is no interruption to any of our clients’ critical operations and frequently communicating with clients in case we anticipate any unavoidable disruptions.” Salil Parekh, CEO of Infosys also said.
It seems that tech firms in India are not ready for a 100% Work From Home (WFH) situation. Amid the outbreak, businesses are urgently thinking about what tools and resources they already have so as to build capacity to not go out of operations and achieve a broader scale for people to do their jobs from home.
Can Technology Replace Complex Team Coordination?
So, let’s say you are a new employed developer in a company as part of a team with other mid-level and senior developers. As a fresher, you would consistently want to take help from senior once you face challenges in using a particular tool or on technical debt or a software bug. This will make it very challenging for you to work remotely. Because a lot of the time, if you make the call for an in-person meeting, it’s to have a fairly complex, dynamic conversation for which the communication bandwidth of Slack, video chat, screen sharing or email is not enough.
It also depends on the productivity of employees. While some may like work from home when they need to get well-defined, focused, independent work done on a fairly rigid timeline. At other times, they may like to work from the office fairly often to take advantage of easier conversations when complicated coordination is required, and use team collaborativeness in a way which cannot be captured at the moment using digital tools. For those who say that Slack or email or VC are perfect substitutes: there’s no substitute for the high-bandwidth, low-latency medium of personal communication.
Other Factors To Consider When It Comes To WFH
The fact is countless jobs depend on face to face interactions, not social distance and remote working. Sectors such as construction, manufacturing, logistics, research lab work and even server administrator depend directly on being present at the location. So, why are we fooling ourselves into believing that WFH is the perfect thing for all corporates?
Yes, technology can help companies eliminating unrequired processes and things like meetings, which can be replaced with telecommunication, or team-based collaborative applications. But, many other job roles are needed on site for any industry to remain functional.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.