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From Home Comforts to Office, the end of episode WFH

· 5 min read
D Balaji
Lead Design Technologist

In the army, the personnel are called soldiers. In tech companies, the personnel are called resources. The army trains in camps and carries weapons. Resources work in offices, GCC, and carry laptops. In 2020 due to covid pandemic outbreak, the resources were asked to work from home. Thats how the resources experienced work from home lifestyle, the episode started. Fast forward 2024, the resources are asked to leave behind the work from home and come back to office marking the end of episode work from home, lovingly called the WFH.

Some companies went the extra mile and allowed the resources to work from anywhere forever. In a similar time frame, I wrote an article about work from home vs remote working. The key takeaway was that working from home was a temporary fix unless the company adopted the culture mentioned in the book Remote, Office Not Required.

Fast forward to the start of 2024, almost all companies have given a first call, second call, or in some cases, a final call asking resources to get back to working from the office. This means that the comfort of working from home and the associated lifestyle is no more. But there have to be a few reasons why the back-to-office movement is happening. Of course, there are many reasons; here are a few as quoted by management.

Reasons to get back to the office

  1. Covid is out of the picture; we can get back to the old way of working from the office. Our senior management is already doing it.
  2. Operating in silos or as small teams won't boost the morale of the team or the culture of the company.
  3. Use the office as a space to build your personal brand.
  4. Please come to the office and use the building; we have purchased or leased it already for the long term. We have made it better in the recent renovation.
  5. The economy depends on your return to the office; the cab drivers, janitors, and realtors need you.

If you ask me, except for the first reason, the others should not be taken seriously.

How management is pulling resources back to the office

  1. The company-wide call announcing mandatory work from the office for a minimum of 3 days.
  2. Check if employees have punched into the office for a minimum of 3 days or 50% of working days.
  3. Bring in a policy that allows reduced pay for people working remotely.
  4. Bring in another policy that values presence in the office. No promotion if not working from the office. Personally, this statement is dangerous. Companies pay higher salaries to retain employees and not out of obligation. Having said that, more salary reduction could mean being on the layoff list.
  5. In-office meetings and not having the option for online participation from WFH resources.

My reaction to the back-to-office episode

  1. In late 2020, after analyzing the implementation of WFH, it was clear that this was a temporary arrangement.
  2. I condemn the press statements and town hall speeches by the management of tech companies in favor of working from anywhere. Everyone believed that working from home would continue forever.
  3. Later in 2023, the management was the first to step into the office, followed by their immediate teams. This set an example for the whole company that working from the office is the way to conduct business.
  4. Working from the office could mean perks like team lunches and client visits happening soon. Good for those with passports ready.
  5. Companies need to be mindful about the transition and set the deadlines accordingly. Some employees were working in their pyjamas for long hours at home. In the work-from-office arrangement, they will waste time commuting, etc.
  6. I am surprised when no management person said that working from the office is an opportunity for osmosis of ideas, easy to mentor juniors, or have fun moments. It looks like none of these happen at the workplace anymore or have been forgotten because of insufficient use.

Don't go to extremes

One person got into an argument where he refused to take the laptop home in the work-from-office arrangement, which led to tensions at the workplace. Accept that no system is perfect and software has bugs. In a long career span of 40 years, anything can happen. Many trends come and go.

We lived the WFH moment; it's time to move on.