Shouvik Roy
Guest Article

Workplaces are human again

Work from home (WFH) has changed some things temporarily. Shouvik Roy talks about what it may have changed permanently.

Yesterday, I called up a credit card helpline. After almost three minutes, I realised that the lady (on the other side) was speaking not from a terminal in a large office, but from her own home. Soon my angst on some transaction turned into a gentle chatter, which basically led me to believing in her promise of – ‘I will do my best’ a lot more than I would have in the past.

That got me thinking that while WFH has changed some things temporarily, it may have changed some other (read better) things, permanently.

The optimist in me started looking for patterns and thinking about all our interactions in the past 15 days, and isolate the ‘better’ patterns.

So, here goes:

1. Everyone is kinder – People have realised very fast that conflict is not the best thing under these circumstances. While it does not apply to everyone, and some continue to defy logic – most of us want to end every meeting or chat on a positive note. The importance of positivity is more than ever before. It is almost like an antidote to everything around us that is ‘gloom and doom’.

2. A more responsible workplace – It is very difficult to find a place to hide as we are not hunting in packs anymore. There is a lot more individual accountability than there was. We should hope that this habit is carried forward when we are back into our usual, normal routines.

3. Leadership skills are enhanced – Many will tell you that managing a remote workforce is way tougher. The answers and lessons are in the ‘why’. Leaders have to be more organised and follow more routine. They have to be clear in their communication and need to be a lot swifter in their decision making. The additional pressure of keeping everyone in your teams motivated – while working remotely – is an all new skill that many are fast acquiring.

4. No playing to the gallery – This one is highly missed by some. There is hardly any time or opportunity for this now. Also, most jokes and smarter comments don’t work on video calls and even a patronising tone is almost always missed. When we return to work, I hope we can still stay interesting having given up trying too hard.

5. Brewing an idea alone – Usually, we are surrounded by people who we can run our ideas past and build a strong case on why it works or does not work. In the absence of easy availability of our colleagues, we have no choice but to ask all the questions ourselves. And to be the best Devil’s Advocate we can be to our own ideas. We are learning valuable lessons in sharing iron clad ideas, which has passed the most stringent filter – ‘You’.

(So, the) next time anyone feels there is a lot we are losing these days, think again.

(Shouvik Roy is the president and head of office at Ogilvy.)