Hybrid work environment is a welcome evolution of management
D.C. PATHAK | 17 May, 2022
| Top Stories
Work from home, a practice businesses were compelled to adopt due to
Covid, was initially seen as a 'disruptive' outcome of the pandemic
lockdown for both the corporate body as well as the employees -- it had
particularly forced the latter to remain indoors and thus put on them
the onus of proving their continued utility for their pay masters.
Established organisations, however, quickly realised the
importance of striking a 'give and take' for stabilising the
arrangements of working from home for the benefit of both sides. The
challenge primarily was for the human resource development leaders who
were suddenly required to get off their high horse and take to the
'hands on' business of getting the employees attuned to the altered work
environ, maintaining the level of productivity and retaining
organisational loyalty in a situation of remote connectivity.
real test for them was to ensure that employee engagement remained at
par. However, what was initially a grudging acceptance of a 'compulsion'
by both sides soon became a comfortable 'option' for the employee and
somewhere a 'cost-effective' alternative for the corporate body as well.
balance has since been struck and a hybrid model worked out to serve
the best interests of both. Studies have revealed many more dimensions
of the new arrangement and there are learnings that are enriching the
field of business management.
Perhaps the biggest upshot of the
Covid disruption is that all organisations were prepared to switch over
to a need-based adoption of a combination of work from home and the
physical presence of members for transacting business at the corporate
There is little doubt that the Hybrid Work
Environment is an evolutionary outcome of the exposure of businesses to
the pandemic restrictions and since 'evolution' always had a positive
connotation, it is not surprising that a balance of work from home with
duties in the corporate 'office' has come to stay with most
As already mentioned, a new burden has fallen on
those handling human resource development in terms of using re-skilling,
up-skilling and multitasking to improve the utilisation of the
available man power and enhancing efficiency that was by definition, a
measure of 'productivity per unit of time'.
Methods had to be
devised for 'messaging' it to all employees that they could bank on the
organisation's 'nurtural' response to any mental distress caused to any
member working from home, on account of personal or family illness,
introducing an appropriate form of supervisory interaction to ensure
that the employee did not recede into a zone of 'personal convenience'
at the cost of the corporate good and restating the 'mission' of the
organisation for everybody from time to time.
human resource management programmes needed to be devised to cope up
with the new situation. Welfarism had to become a more visible element
of these programmes even as care was taken to get the optimal best out
of the employees, for the organisation.
Employee's work place
experience was always valued by the corporate body, but in the new
situation, the feedback from below was even more important for the
practicability of its application for maximising productivity.
any organisation, the lower half of the pyramid comprises people who
implement the decisions and policies coming in from the top, including
the 'team leaders' who took responsibility for successful delivery.
these were the senior executives leading different verticals who with a
clear understanding of the corporate strategies -- to which they might
have contributed in varying degrees by providing inputs at the time of
policy formulation -- provided broad supervision to the employees below
and also solution for a contingency at work arising out of 'labour
issues', staff problems or the questions of logistics.
part of the top of the pyramid was always reserved for the 'owners' of
the business including the members of the Board of Directors who set the
policies in mutual consultations after taking the 'risk assessment'
into consideration and obtaining the advice of any consultants
commissioned for the purpose.
Before the Covid crisis, all
businesses ran a certain 'back office' component besides assimilating
largely the call of computerisation in their functioning and work from
home became a larger version of these methodologies, primarily for
overcoming a transient difficulty.
With the passage of time,
however, a conscious adoption of the Hybrid Work Environment has been
taking place on a combination of employee's preference, assurance of
output and the element of cost-effectiveness accruing from dispensing
the need for maintaining an ostentatious corporate headquarters where
every employee wants to be accommodated, stoppage of allowances for
travel and reducing the budget on hospitality.
Work from home cut
differentially between the two broad businesses -- manufacture and
retail with the latter drawing heavily on IT-based delivery systems,
from before. Technology could enhance production efficiency but never
replace human hands at the assembly line beyond a certain degree of
application of AI in its processes.
Incidentally, AI could help
expand both the manufacturing and service sector but did not really
alter the work from home scenario differential that existed in the
businesses of both 'production' and 'delivery' -- the two basic lines of
It came as no surprise that the biggest
gainers of the Covid restrictions were the home delivery businesses led
by Amazon, which also happened to have one of the largest IT networks in
its support at the global level.
Expansion of retail and
delivery is a gift of the pandemic and this will come to stay on a path
of competitive growth because the demand is reaching new levels and what
is provoked by compulsion of lockdowns has become a facilitator of
customer's choice and convenience.
The classic IT industry has a
natural growth and what the pandemic did was to give it a fillip through
the work from home dynamics. Globalisation of this industry boomed as
the Covid did not come in its way at all and IT drove it all through as
Sustainability of the Hybrid Work Environment is the big
point of debate now as the question is about whether it is going to be
the new normal. IT industries had the existing logistic pattern of a
very large number of employees working under one roof which had a
built-in cost-effectiveness and brought the advantage of 'togetherness
at the work place'.
A statement from TCS forecasting a share of
just 25 per cent of employees attending office in future, however, shows
that the balance would continue to be in favour of work from home.
the same time, TCS has projected the need for 50,000 of its partners
coming to office thrice a week. It is true that many jobs could be
performed better from the peaceful atmosphere of home that allows for
better concentration and hence a higher output.
However, as far
as the policy makers are concerned, nothing could be better than the
serene Board Room for sharing of thoughts and putting multiple minds
together for reaching a strategic decision. It can be said, therefore,
that Hybrid Work Environment would be adopted with flexibility about
timings and proportion of employees called to work place at a given
point of time.
The arrangement will be sustained by the
excitement of variables created for everybody and the pervasive
expertise of human resource management that would be called into play
all the time.
Three more features of the new normal have come
into bold relief. First, in the hybrid work situation, the merit of the
individual employee stands out and it would be difficult to hide
mediocrity behind the crowded environ of the normal workplace.
of leadership and decisiveness of the individual also shows up making
it easier for the senior echelons to reach a correct performance
evaluation. In a sense the evolved situation further underscores the
principle that the individual is the centre of all productivity.
Covid proved to be an equaliser for businesses -- big and small --
because the same parameters governed the available human resource for
all entities. Those who fostered organisational loyalty by taking better
care of the employees wielded an advantage. It was necessary to know
what a subordinate was facing beyond the work relationship -- at home --
and show an accommodative and sympathetic response.
Environment has made it easy for the organisational leaders to do that
for there is flexibility about allotment of duties, and the suspicion of
helping a 'favourite' -- which was deemed to be a commonplace
phenomenon in normal times - is not there.
Seniors and juniors
have been brought closer to each other and 'coworking' spaces have been
made more harmonious. The bosses cannot afford to be aloof from their
men and have to get used to the new requirement where they would be
available for giving their guidance asked for by the subordinates, at
The advantages offered by the new normal have to be preserved.
finally, the importance of information or business intelligence has
multiplied because human channels are less active for lack of mobility.
For planning a new venture or affecting a course correction, a proper
evaluation of risks and opportunities has to be made and this exercise
was rendered more difficult in Covid times.
on how the enterprise is fairing would now include examination of the
protocols for 'securing' sensitive transactions and processes against
unwanted disclosure, in place and the need for improving them.
is important to ensure that organisational discipline in relation to
security guidelines is being followed. The pandemic has forced an
equality of sorts on all players but it has also made the business world
more competitive in as much as early readings on risks and
opportunities would become a distinct source of advantage over others.
short, in the Hybrid Work Environment, higher principles of management
would come into play and there would be a greater convergence of the
interest of the employees and the legitimate commercial objectives of
the business enterprise.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)
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