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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Work from Home Rules

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Context

  • Work from Home – which became a common feature for almost everyone during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, is here to stay.
  • The Department of Commerce has notified an amendment to the 2006 Special Economic Zone rules, allowing up to 50 percent of total employees of IT and IT-enabled Services to work from home.

Why did the Centre intervene for WFH?

  • The new rules came after there were calls from the industry to make a provision for a countrywide uniform WFH policy for all SEZs.
  • Incidentally, the work from home rules come shortly after the Netherlands passed a law to establish home working as a legal right, in the process becoming one of the first countries to enshrine such flexibility in the law.

So what do the new rules say? Why is work from home in demand? And is it going to be the future? Let’s find:

What is Work from Home (WFH)?

  • Employees work from home by using a dedicated laptop/PC connected to the internet and business applications to collaborate and communicate with their team members.
  • While some employees work primarily from their homes, others work occasionally from home and travel to their office half of the time.
  • WFH means employees can set up their workspace in their homes and manage their entire work right from inside their houses, without the need to necessarily go to the office.

What are the new guidelines?

  • The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has released new guidelines under Rule 43A for work from home (WFH) for employees. 
  • According to the notice issued by the Commerce Ministry, there is flexibility granted to the Development Commissioner (DC) of SEZs to approve a higher number of employees (more than 50%) for any bona-fide reason to be recorded in writing.
  • Furthermore, this fresh rule provides a transition period of 90 days to SEZ units to seek approval, whose employees are already working from home.

Who all are covered under the new rule? 

The new rule 43A provides work from home for the following category of employees of a unit in SEZ:

  1. Employees of IT/ITeS SEZ units
  2. Employees, who are temporarily incapacitated
  3. Employees, who are traveling
  4. Employees, who are working offsite

Major challenges of working from home

[A] For employers

  • Remote collaboration: Collaboration is one of the biggest work-from-home challenges for companies as employees no longer work from the same physical office space.
  • Employees working from different locations and time zones: The big downside of this perk is that companies end up with a completely distributed workforce with employees working from different locations and time zones.
  • Building and maintaining trust: When employees don’t have face-to-face interactions, there are some obvious trust issues that can arise because of it. Continuous mistrust from team members can often end up demotivating employees and making them feel left out.

[B] For employees

  • Working too much:   With no excessive breaks or long commutes to the office, remote employees are 20-25 percent more productive than their office counterparts.  
  • Loneliness and depression: With no informal social interactions with colleagues, employees can feel isolated and even develop communication issues with the rest of the team.
  • A lack of community: When you only have face-to-face interactions with your team members on weekly or monthly video calls only, it can be rather challenging to create a sense of camaraderie and bonding within the team.

WFH benefits both employers and employees

Here is some work-from-home benefits for both employees and employers:

  • Cost savings: When there are fewer employees coming to the office than usual, organizations need fewer equipment, desks, and space to accommodate them which will directly lead to lowered infrastructure and rental costs.  For employees too, working from home can lead to a lot of cost savings. No morning commute means no extra costs to travel to the office every day. Also, employees no longer need to pay high rents just to stay close to their offices.
  • Flexible schedule and more freedom: When employees work from home, they get the freedom to create their own schedule, according to their productivity levels and personal commitments. They can work in the early mornings or through the nights if that’s when they feel most productive.
  • Hire and retain global talent: Retaining talent becomes easier when companies offer work-from-home perks. For 83 percent of employees, the ability to work from home is a big deciding factor when they consider a new job offer. For companies, that means, allowing employees to work from home can make it easier for them to hire and retain top talent without any kind of location limitations.
  • Better work-life balance: When employees work from home, they no longer have to spend hours driving in the traffic every day, chatting with coworkers near the watercooler, or organizing dinner parties with team members which directly saves them a lot of time that they can in turn use to spend with their friends, family, or just to do things that they like. With more downtime, enough rest, and better work-life balance, employees are able to better focus on the work which leads to higher efficiency and productivity.
  • Positive employee experience: With more flexibility, no everyday bumper-to-bumper commute traffic, and better work-life balance, work from home ends up improving the overall employee experience within the organization. This in turn creates a company culture of high performance where employees want to perform at their best and continuously improve at work.
  • Increase in productivity: When employees get the freedom to create their own work schedule and workspace, they feel more positive and productive. Moreover, with no excessive breaks or disruptions from co-workers, work-from-home employees end up being more productive than their in-office counterparts as well.

Conclusion

  • Work from home is truly the future of work and it is here to stay.
  • Even though there are some challenges to it, the pros of working from home easily outweigh the cons.
  • Of course, incorporating a work-from-home strategy for the first time can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

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