The hallways of Goa's offices register an upward occupancy trend these days. The familiar hustle and bustle has been replaced by a scattering of employees alternating days at their desks and workstations at home. Companies across the State are delicately calibrating the remote-office equation, but finding the right chemistry continues proving a formidable challenge.
Consensus suggests a compromise may be the key, but finding the right equilibrium remains a complex pursuit. Many IT firms in the State have called employees back full-time to improve collaboration and oversight. But this invites push back from employees favouring location flexibility and travel comfort.
Even though the majority of IT companies today are working on fully onsite working model, they face huge challenges in terms of employee dissatisfaction, as the other side of the coin always has a different view. Companies with hybrid work model and/or fully remote working model are most attracted by enthusiasm within the employee space. India is huge in geographical space as well as population. There are many fully capable candidates in the IT arena who are restricted to their locations due to various reasons such as elderly parents, children’s educational locations, traffic discomfort and attentiveness towards multiple responsibilities.
While speaking to different organisations who chose to keep the onsite model prominently, it was evident that they chose this model out of bad experiences. Fully-remote positions have downsides like employees becoming unavailable during business hours. Companies had invested heavily in remote infrastructure during lockdowns to keep operations running but due to a limited set of people not responding to calls for long stretches, accountability is always a question of concern for many organisations. Without accountability, projects get delayed and productivity is not measurable for many organisations. While not a widespread episode, even a small number of detached remote employees risks cascading delays. Custom-tailoring oversight for each individual is unrealistic for companies. Striving for a culture of trust is ideal, but certain incidents that have breached that trust and affected timelines, turns out to be the major reason for businesses to choose the traditional model. Without reliable reciprocal communication, organisations struggle to sustain full-fledged remote workflows.
This conundrum has many companies moving to either a fully onsite or hybrid approach, with fully remote working becoming a deprecated option. Having physical office presence optimises coordination. Offering staff schedule flexibility for family or health reasons is equally important to build an inclusive culture, however the blending does not come without obstacles.
Clear ground disciplinary policies are essential for hybrid effectiveness. Employees leveraging full-time remote or flexible schedules must uphold work ethic standards, especially availability during core business hours. Schedule synchronisation between office-based and home-based staff is another key.
Corporate IT infrastructure such as enabling virtual system accesses, cloud infrastructure and secure access is enabled by organisations to aid in keeping distributed teams connected. But government need to make conscious effort to ensure infrastructure is enabled for digitising Goa. This means that electricity and internet is stabilised across all areas of Goa so that repetitive episodes of ‘Sorry, my Wi-Fi dropped’ or ‘I had no electricity at home’ are not encountered by organisations as a repercussion of offering flexibility to the working society.
As Goan firms chart the direction for the different work models, a one-size-fits-all solution appears improbable. While challenges persist in recalibrating workplace dynamics, the expanding hybrid model indicates an acknowledgment that flexibility and employee autonomy have become essential components of a modern, competitive employer value proposition. The coming months will tell just how well companies are able to walk the line between employee satisfaction, operational effectiveness, and their bottom line.
While challenges persist in recalibrating workplace dynamics, the expanding fully onsite model within Goan IT companies indicates lack of right company-wide policies and employee commitment towards productivity.
Hybrid model is however the future and best suited for both organisations and the employee world which is agreed upon by both ends. To bring this to fruition, it is essential that the employees realise the breaches they make today in misusing the flexibility is a boomerang that would lead to a transition in the organisations decision making process towards a stricter and restrictive working model.
Designing strategies that can bridge this gap with small steps such as mandating video calls for conference calls to keep the employee engagement much closer to real life, maintaining the right team spirit with clear collaboration and respectful communication and fostering a culture where every employee feels responsible and takes ownership towards their commitment is the real leadership values to nurture in the organisation. For organisations, it is imperative to understand that flexibility and employee autonomy are the essential components of a modern, competitive employer value proposition.
(The writer is an author, technologist and CTO/Co-founder of InBetween Software Development with over a decade of steering Goa’s digital growth)