Indian Workers Miss Office as Work From Home Becomes the New normal

Lockdown initially thrilled the people to work from home, but now they have started to miss the office environment

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Shweta-Andrews work
Two months after working from home, Shweta Andrews, a digital editor at a publishing house, says she wants to head back to office because personal interactions with colleagues are important. (Photo Courtesy: Shweta Andrews). VOA

As she settled down to work from home when India announced a lockdown in March due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), Shweta Andrews thought exultantly “this is the way to go.” After all she no longer had to do the grinding commute between office and home in the Indian capital that took up two hours daily.

Two months on, the digital editor of a publishing house is nostalgic about that ride. “I miss my colleagues and believe it or not, I miss travelling in the Metro. I miss the rush. I miss the crowd.”

The unprecedented experiment of work from home that began in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has prompted some Indian companies to explore the possibility of scaling up remote work as they eye long term benefits such as smaller office spaces and lower rentals.

But at a time when a long, stringent lockdown has intensified social isolation, many are finding that an interactive office environment is hard to replace at home.

A New Delhi-based senior professional in a global company, Apoorva Bapna, dismisses the notion that remote work could be the “new normal” and points out that while flexi-hours are welcome, online connections cannot replace the energy generated by professional spaces.

Apoorva-Bapna work
Apoorva Bapna says office spaces generate energy that cannot completely be replaced by online connections. (Photo Courtesy: Apoorva Bapna). VOA

“There is just that much of bouncing of ideas I can do on a video call or a phone call. Sometimes you just need to sit across the table and have that heated conversation or a debate or just exchange ideas,” says Bapna.

India’s Information Technology sector appears to be blazing the trail for adopting the work-at-home model as the industry gears up to have nearly half the country’s four million I-T workers operate remotely – up from an average of 20 percent before March. The country’s biggest technology company Tata Consultancy Services says that it will have 75 percent of its workforce operating from home by 2025.

Some companies that rely heavily on online work could make the shift much sooner because they found it to be an efficient model in the last two months.

“From a purely productivity standpoint, we have seen a fairly smooth transition in work from home,” says Raghav Gupta, managing director, India and Asia Pacific with Coursera, a U.S. based online learning platform. He gives an example. “If I would go to Bangalore and meet two sets of people in a day, I can do five meetings today by sitting at home.”

As India eases its stringent lockdown and offices begin to reopen with a much leaner staff onsite, the debate has begun heating up.

Some assert that the personal touch provided by an office environment cannot be overlooked, even in the IT sector. “You get ready for the day, it is a mental shift you make,” according to Abhimanyu Mukherji, a service delivery manager in New Delhi with a partner company of software organization, SAP. “Just walking up to someone and talking to my team has a different impact. Now there is a loss of human touch and social interaction which we all are so used to.”

Abhimanyu-Mukherji-2 work
While it is possible to be productive even doing work from home, Abhimanyu Mukherji says walking up and talking directly to his team has a different impact. (Photo Courtesy: Abhimanyu Mukherji). VOA

While he and his team delivered to their clients’ satisfaction during the lockdown, he points out that working at home from living rooms and dining tables can pose challenges of the kind that some of his team members with young children faced.

“When the kids are at home, they expect a lot of attention from the parents and therefore they are having a lot of difficulty in actually concentrating on the job,” says Mukherji. “The children assume that you must be on leave so you should be giving them all the attention.”

There are also the constraints that living in small apartments or extended families throw up, especially in cities with expensive rentals.  “It is not easy for people who live in Bombay, in smaller homes with six to eight family members crammed up in two bedroom homes,” points out Bapna.

And work from home settings can be even more burdensome for women. “We do everything on the house front and we also manage our office work, which is fairly hectic,” says Bapna who was caught in the lockdown in Jaipur city where she was visiting her parents.

Amid the lockdown there have been no comprehensive surveys to indicate which way Indians would prefer going. But a recent survey by a Bengaluru based research firm, Feedback Insights, found that two-thirds of employees were concerned about personal wellbeing, a lack of connectedness with the team and overall anxiety about the job environment. They also cited frequent distractions at home as a key challenge.

Read More: These Books Can Drive Boredom Away in Lockdown 4.0

However benefits such as savings for companies, less traffic on roads, less pollution and less spending on fuel and daycare will inevitably lead to a greater push for the work-at-home model in the post Covid world.

“By choice and also by planning we will say – you go to office two days a week, you may or may not have a dedicated desk, and the other three or four days you consistently work at home,” says Gupta at Coursera.

But shrinking office spaces, thanks to technology and the new emphasis on social distancing, is something many view with trepidation. Andrews draws an analogy with reading a book on Kindle – it does not replicate the original. “The feeling of holding a book in your hand, that touch, that smell, that personal feeling you get – it’s the same as personal contact in an office,” says Andrews. “So yes technology and computers and zoom and Kindle don’t work as well as interacting with a real human being does.” (VOA)

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Couples Turn To Drive-thru Weddings Amid The COVID Pandemic

Dozens of couples anxious to wed in the midst of the pandemic are taking advantage of a drive-thru wedding facility in Brazil

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Love cant be stopped, many Brazilian couples are turning to Drive-thru weddings. Pixabay
Wedding in pandemic
Wearing masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, a couple at a drive-thru wedding of Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOACOVID

An official of the marriage registry, Alessandra Lapoente, said the drive-thru system allows more couples to move forward with their nuptials, despite the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

Brazil is at the top of the coronavirus epicenter in Latin America, with more than 430,000 infections, the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

Also Read: Dangers From Deep-Sea Mining Hazadous: Reports

Brazil has also confirmed more than 26,000 deaths. (VOA)

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Dealing With A Break-up while In A Lockdown

The normal breakup stress level has multiplied by a thousand times due to lockdown, here are some ways to cope with it

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Here are some tips on how to cope with break-up during this unparalleled time. Pixabay

BY SIDDHI JAIN

There is no right time for break-up and we guess there will never be one. Throw in an invisible potentially fatal virus that is spreading at an expeditious rate globally, lost jobs or work-from-home shifts, economic uncertainty, being isolated in lockdown, worrying about daily essentials, and the normal breakup stress level multiplies by a thousand. Beejal Gosai Psychologist, Mpower – Cell lists what one going through a breakup should expect and how to cope during this unparalleled time.

Difficulty in letting go

This is the most difficult step that comes with any normal breakup – be it holding on to the person or memories. In these times when we are forced to isolate ourselves from the outside world to add on to that woes of a lost relationship, are bound to make one feel lonelier than ever. We may tend to hold on to the memories that we created with a person more than ever which may help us feel less lonely. It is important to know what you deserve and who you want to become from the lessons learned in this relationship. Focus on building a relationship with yourself.

Feel your feelings

Please allow yourself to grieve. You will grieve the person you once were, the person who was less heavy with this kind of feeling. You will grieve the future and the memories that you had thought you would make with them by your side. You are allowed to grieve loss of your relationship you once had. So accept it and allow yourself to feel the hurt, pain and in certain cases also the feeling of being wronged. In the times when we are not allowed to have a physical social support, make the utmost use of the technology to receive support from your friends and families who will be ready to be with you from afar. Use apps like Skype, Zoom, Team link, Google duo, FaceTime.

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When in a relationship, we often tend to be dependent on our partner which makes break-up very painful. Pixabay

Let this situation sink in

When in a relationship, we often tend to be dependent on our partner or at some point in time, his or her presence helps us regulate our emotions or help us manage our lives in a more organized way and when that person is gone, it is very difficult to come into terms with the reality. After the initial pain and shock subsides, it is important to try and put things into perspective. Maybe several issues had been festering within the relationship and a breakup had always been a distinct possibility. It is important to ponder over the lessons you learned from this relationship and to also take care of your emotions which are probably all over the place at the moment. Treat yourself with compassion and kindness but most importantly, be there for yourself.

Stop over thinking

The last thing that you would want to do post break up is overthink. Don’t overthink about things like what if your old flame gets a partner and you don’t? After breakup, it’s highly possible that you will think, rethink, rewind, replay, analyze and dissect past moments. Do not get trapped in questioning yourself �what-ifs’ in your head. That is a vicious cycle and will just led you in spiral downward cycle. Instead, focus on what made you leave the table or relationship at the first place, what unhealthy signs you ignored just because you were too afraid of losing the person, did you notice any red flags in the relationship, what you do not want to allow in your future relationships. It is always important to remember that a break-up can actually make up for all the lessons that you never thought you needed. So keep the eyes open.

Also Read: COVID-19: Samsung Exclusive Stores get ‘Suraksha’ Certified

Bottom line

Even when they are the right thing to do and probably the most important thing to do, breakups are painful. If you follow through with your plan to break-up, make sure you stay focused on good self-care. Whether your turn to journaling, reading self-help books, or online therapy by seeking help to a professional, use this time to focus on your own healing process. (IANS)

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COVID-19: Samsung Exclusive Stores get ‘Suraksha’ Certified

The initiative is aimed at the security and safety of customers and employees

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Samsung
Samsung exclusive stores get 'Suraksha' certified in India. Pixabay

Samsung on Friday said all of its exclusive stores have been ‘Suraksha’ certified to ensure consumer safety at a time when social distancing is the new normal.

Suraksha Store is a public private initiative to ensure safe and secure environment for consumers and store employees.

The certification will ensure that consumers feel safe and confident when they visit stores to buy smartphones and other devices.

“The initiative will ensure that consumers and employees working at these Exclusive Stores feel confident about their well-being and safety,” Mohandeep Singh, Senior Vice President, Mobile Business, Samsung India said in a statement.

According to the company, to strictly adhere to government’s social distancing guidelines, the exclusive stores are encouraging consumers to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metre between themselves.

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A distance of 1.5 meters is to be maintained according to social distancing guidelines. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Also Read: Scam Spotter: Google Launches Programme to Stop Scammers Exploiting Covid-19

Meanwhile, customers are encouraged to use digital contactless payments and swiping machines will be sanitized before being given to the customer to ensure the highest standard of hygiene is maintained across our Exclusive Stores.

Only a limited number of customers will be allowed within the store at any given point to avoid crowd formation, said Samsung India. (IANS)