Amidst this lockdown, the good thing that happened to 22-year-old Rajyashree Chakraborty is her first job at a top multinational corporation (MNC). She had always dreamt of dressing in formals, wearing an employee ID card around her neck and having her own cubicle. But the reality is quite different. She wakes up at 9.30am, takes a quick shower, wears a kurti with track pants and settles on the sofa in her room to start work at 10am.
With the spread of the coronavirus pushing many people into enforced self-isolation, businesses are starting to see more extended periods of remote working. While there are some people who have been in the professional world for a while and are accustomed to the work-from-home culture, there are others still trying to get a hang of it even after 10 weeks of the lockdown. As companies start virtual onboarding for freshers, it is a new world for this generation of the workforce.
Persistent Systems Ltd, a Nagpur-based IT company, saw a batch of interns and freshers join during the lockdown. Supriya Chatterjee, the company’s senior HR executive, talks about the difficulties they are facing. “Freshers usually join in batches. During their training period they make new friends and work in groups to complete assignments, which is difficult right now. Because of zero experience of working in a professional environment, it is challenging for them to interact and connect with other team members,” she says.
Agrees Abhishek Shankar, the national HR director of Avian WE, a public relations company. “Remote joinees will not get to experience the culture of the organisation. They are also missing out on the initial hand-holding that they rightly deserve as they start their journey to get acquainted with systems, processes and policies. Personal attention or one-to-one connection with managers helps them to settle down faster,” he says. Though technology has been a great facilitator in managing inductions remotely, it can’t completely replace the benefits of face-to-face communication. And a lot of people face connectivity issues, making it all the more difficult for them. Shankar continues, “From the manager’s point of view, the remote working model does not give a clear understanding of the strengths and improvement areas of freshers, hampering their full utilisation.”
Puja Roy Gangopadhyay, head of corporate relations and communications of Team Future, an education conglomerate, has noticed freshers switching their chosen mode of work. She says, “Since the last two years, MNCs have been hiring many of my students for both work-from-home and office jobs. There are freshers who initially chose to work from home but quickly realised the disadvantages and opted for an office job.”
She emphasises the necessity of basic human connection that is lost in the work-from-home mode. “Young people start developing low self-esteem, lack of spontaneous communication, jeopardised work-life balance, loss of productivity and so on,” she says.
Netiquette means the etiquette of cyberspace and how to communicate appropriately through the Internet. Throughout the lockdown period, Gangopadhyay has been delivering sessions on best practices of netiquette over various demographies and age groups. She highlights the frequently asked questions: should I engage in a phone call or try messaging? Where should I sit during video-call sessions? Should I be dressed in formals or casuals? How should one present oneself as work-from-home becomes the new normal?
Shankar has some useful tips for freshers, “Get clarity about your role and responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clear doubts. Show curiosity to know about the company and its work culture. Get acquainted with the online tools being used by your organisation such as MS Teams, Outlook and Skype. And keep enhancing your communication and presentation skills.” The key to successfully settling down in a new remote job is self-discipline and regular communication with your manager or seniors. Since you do not have a person to supervise you, be your own manager.
Create an office environment at home. Identify a makeshift workstation area and ensure that it is properly lit. Get dressed as if you are going to office every day — even though the travel is only from one room to the other or from the bed to the desk. Make a doable to-do list for focus and clarity and stick to it. Exercise, even if it means a walk every half an hour inside the house. Provide yourself with breaks to keep yourself focussed and avoid a burnout. Avoid snacking and eat proper meals.
Chatterjee adds that the workstation should ideally be away from the living room, television and domestic distractions. She says, “It is important to be punctual and reply to e-mails within three to four hours. Keep devices charged and back-up available. One should try and finish the work within working hours.”
While working at home comes with the advantages of being at ease, more time in bed and lunch with family, it also comes with a horde of drawbacks. More distractions, increased amount of work because of lack of concentration and missing coffee breaks with colleagues. In an age of technology, working remotely or working from home does not have to mean working in isolation. It is all about doing it the right way if you embrace the new normal.