Employee Experiences: Choosing Between Work From Home or Returning to Office after Covid 19 Pandemic

Introduction

Millions of office staff around the world hurriedly packed their desks in March 2020 to set up shop and work from home, expecting to be back in a few weeks. Weeks turned into months of unimaginable health, economic, and emotional destruction as the coronavirus pandemic spread from a few epidemic areas to the rest of the planet.

Big tech firms were publicly vying to be the only ones back in the workplace by the summer. First, companies like Facebook and Google continued their remote leave till the end of the year; later, companies like Twitter and Square went even further, saying employees could operate from home "forever." Facebook, Google, and a slew of other companies have also expanded work-from-home opportunities to 2021.

COVID-19 has presented human and humanitarian issues that have never been seen before. Many organisations around the world have risen to the task, moving fast to retain staff and adapt to a new way of operating that even the most detailed corporate continuity strategies have not expected. Leaders from a variety of companies will use the insights learned from this large-scale work-from-home trial to reimagine how work is done—and what part offices can play—in new and innovative ways.

sumHR shares WFH experience

To understand the ground reality of this conundrum, a survey was made with three questions and presented to the employees of SumHR. We are developing a modular and configurable end-to-end HRMS with a full-suite HR app on the cloud to help HR teams simplify the mundane, streamline the turmoil, and enhance the employee's HR experience. 

We are based in Pune, India, but because of the changes in recent times, our employees were asked to work from home. We have always believed that employees are a key to a companies’ success and were among the first few companies to allow working from home from mid-march.

This report helped us get an insight into what our employees experienced while working from home during the pandemic and their individual working reference after the pandemic ends. This report critically analyzes their responses to 3 questions:

1. How was your experience working from home?

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Ankita Srivastava, Customer Success

1. How was your experience working from home?

My experience has been good so far. I expected my daily routine to be a mess, but over time, I have become more punctual than before. I have the extra time and energy that I used to spend on travelling, getting dressed, etc. I can work at my own comfort, which, in turn, increased efficiency and productivity.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would prefer work from home over work from the office, any day. However, work from home does come with disadvantages. For instance, I didn't get to know the team really well, which would have been easy if it was for work from the office.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Since I have been working from home, I had extra time in my hands post my office hours which I utilized to learn new things pertaining to my field and grow my knowledge.

Neelam Somarde, Engineering

1. How was your experience working from home?

The experience was good. There are so many benefits of working from home. We can sit comfortably anywhere in the house and work. We can spend more time with family by saving travelling time and eating healthy and good food with them. We can work with a relaxed mind so we can not feel stress while working extra hours.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

Despite the many benefits of working from home, I want to go back to the office. Working from home came with cons like weight gain and lack of social interaction. Moreover, the house is not a working space, so there will be noise and distraction at home, which can affect work sometimes.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

These 365 days have taught me a lot. Sometimes we take so many things for granted, but now I think differently. For instance, I learned to love myself more and focus on my mental health. I also realized that learning is important in a career to grow. Lastly, I learned the value of family, as I spend quality time with them.

Rashmi Manatkar, Engineering

1. How was your experience working from home?

It's really great to work from home; no everyday rush, traffic, pollution to face. We have our own peaceful place to work with a relaxed mind. It's a good experience.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

Frankly speaking, I want both. Working from the office makes us be groomed and help us interact more and better. On the other hand, working from home is comfortable.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

When we had to go to the office, there was a lot of time wasted on daily commutes. Working from home gave me the option to save that time. But as I mentioned, going to the office helped me groom better as a person and learn much more. My learning outcome from WFH was the bare minimum, I’d say.

Kajol Jain, Customer Success

1. How was your experience working from home?

I had a great experience working from home. Since I am fresher and I just joined sumHR, I never got the chance to work from the office much. So I have been enjoying working from home and I’ll say I am used to it now.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I never worked in the office of sumHR to give an unbiased judgment on which one I would prefer more. I would like to experience that once of course, but I am as of now comfortable working from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Even though I was working from home, I got an opportunity to interact with so many clients on a daily basis.

Kushalraj, Product Management

1. How was your experience working from home?

It was a life-altering experience. The circumstances (Covid 19 breakout) due to which we had to work from home left a mixed feeling to the entire experience. 

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

There is no going back to permanent office-styled work. Remote work has allowed me to work from home as well as travel and work from remote locations, which would have been otherwise difficult. I am, however, looking forward to remote office retreats as a viable bonding option with my colleagues once a quarter

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Remote work has let me experiment with asynchronous communication and work. The last 365 days have advanced my understanding and ability to work under multiple constraints.

Heramb Khanvilkar, Design

1. How was your experience working from home?

Working from home has been a bag of mixed experiences. There are so many good things about it. Not having to commute, which was not only lengthy but also quite exhausting, was the highlight. If managed well, that time and energy can be used for something more fruitful. Also, being able to work in your PJs is a plus in my books. However, working from home comes with its set of problems. The one affecting me the most is the lack of face-to-face communication. I feel a team needs to have great communication in order to function well. 

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

Ideally I would like to do both; work from home for most days and come to the office once or twice a week to catch up with the team and discuss big-picture things. I believe you can learn a lot with such a hybrid approach.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I got to learn a lot about my strengths and my shortcomings in the past year. During the first four months of the pandemic, I was staying without my roommates, giving me enough time to reflect upon myself and think. Introspection is necessary to realign yourself, but it is very difficult to do it in a distracting environment.

Kavita Patil, Payroll Support

1. How was your experience working from home?

Good, it is time and money-saving, as I stopped having outside food and transportation costs, were saved.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I personally prefer to Work from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I learned that we can work from home and still be productive, contrary to popular belief.

Kiran Dhokane, Engineering

1. How was your experience working from home?

Working from home feels good, and doing it for a whole year has made a big difference in my life. While I got to spend a lot of time with my family, working from home also affected my productivity as a developer due to a lack of team coordination. WFH once or twice a month is good, but when one has to do it long term, it reduces the sense of connection with your coworkers and reduces the alignment or belonging with the company mission

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would like to go back to the office, and work from home occasionally (as flexibility, not compulsion).

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I have learned many things, especially in the last 1 year. I’ve started to care more for myself, family members, etc. In my professional life, I have learned many things like how to handle the people, the team, and work when working remotely.

Kiran Dethe, Billing

1. How was your experience working from home?

It was nice. I love the quiet atmosphere I get when working from home.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I will mostly prefer to work from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Honestly, I still believe I am in the training period. I want to know more about SumHR software. In the last 6 months, I just did payslip uploading things I want to grow myself in SumHR.

Numaan Tole, Customer Success

1. How was your experience working from home?

It changed my perspective towards work-life-balance. When I look back at the time, it was unfortunate and yet the best thing that has happened so far.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would prefer to work from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Traveling to work was the absolutely unnecessary thing that many of us have been doing. The freed-up time from travelling helped me work better, and I can now also use this freedom to travel to other places and work from there.

Sushama Chavan, Payroll Support

1. How was your experience working from home?

It was really good. WFH helped me to adjust working hours and personal life. It helps us to stay close to the family, and we can work in different places. Now, office life is not limited to 10 am to 7 pm; I can work anytime!

In the past, I used to waste 1.30 hour on the way to reach the office and get back home, but now I can utilize this time for self-care, to do yoga, daily walking, etc. Have completely stopped outside food, and I cook healthy food daily (it helped me improve my cooking).

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I’ll prefer to work from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

It showed us how to value our lives. We got a new mantra of life- Stay home, stay safe. I have found things I enjoy doing. Now I'm more focused and self-motivated. I have the confidence to handle the worst situations! The time I got in 2020, I have utilized my knowledge, and now, I'm the one helping tech to build our 3.0 Payroll Module more effectively and efficiently.

Maheshwari Waghmare, Payroll Support

1. How was your experience working from home?

I never thought that work from home could be so convenient. No timing issues, no burden of schedules on the other side, reduction of expenses - no formal clothes, no makeup. No-Fuss No Muss, I hardly even comb my hair.

In the past, I used to waste 1.30 hour on the way to reach the office and get back home, but now I can utilize this time for self-care, to do yoga, daily walking, etc. Have completely stopped outside food, and I cook healthy food daily (it helped me improve my cooking).

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I will mostly prefer WFH. We can work with more efficiency as travelling time to the office can be used in various working situations.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I'm still under training, period. In this virtual era, learning & WFH got perfectly hand in hand for me. All I did was virtual training sessions, meeting clients virtually, handling clients' tasks from one end of the world when they are on the other end.

Mohammed Faizan N, Online Marketing

1. How was your experience working from home?

Work from home has helped me balance my work life and personal life better

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I prefer working from home; it's comfortable. I am eating on time and am able to be more productive. However, to be honest, I would like to go to the office at least once in 2 months

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I was able to upskill myself during this pandemic to learn new things like basic household chores, but I did miss out on cooking which I want to do soon.

Gajanand Sharma, Engineering

1. How was your experience working from home?

I really like the flexibility in hours that a stay-at-home position offers. I had a much better work-life balance when I worked from home.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I am in love with this work from home thing; I don't want to quit the benefits of WFH.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I learned how to be focused, deal with people, handle complex situations, be calm in the middle of a storm, and above all, be disciplined.

Pooja Joshi, Human Resources

1. How was your experience working from home?

Working from home was an experience that allowed me to multitask in my daily activities, which I couldn't do when I was working from the office.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would prefer to work from home!

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

Things I learned in the last year: Multitasking and new skills, allowing me to evolve better in the current role.

Shubham Verma, Design

1. How was your experience working from home?

This has to be one such question I've had to answer on multiple occasions, to multiple people. Looking back, my array of answers have been at both extremes of the scale in determining happiness and acceptance of this change; and that came with new learnings, difficulties, and agitations that unearthed the path of being forced into a new routine of life. But at the place I reside now, sipping my tea at the comfort of my couch, surrounded by my family, and still being able to grow as a designer, I'd say it's been a fun and welcome experience.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

If it were a strictly binary decision, I would undoubtedly go with continuing working from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I learned and experienced so much; the list is just endless. Here are some of the most meaningful things I learnt; goodbyes and closures are important, an untidy planner is always better than an empty one, and no matter how difficult the situation, you will always find people who are helping.

Uday Abnave, Hardware Support

1. How was your experience working from home?

It was a pleasant experience to work from home but I always had some issues with power and the internet connections, which caused hurdles in finishing my work on time.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would prefer going back to the office and working because my productivity was at its peak when I worked with my colleagues and at my office desk.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I learned a lot of things while working from home. One is how to separate my office hours from my personal time. So all in all it was a great experience for me.

Ganesh Manchekar, Finance & Accounts

1. How was your experience working from home?

My house is located a few kilometers away from our office in Pune. This is why I worked from the office in the year 2020.

2. Would you prefer to work from home or would you like to go back to the office?

I would prefer to work from the office itself since I did not have ideal conditions to work from home.

3. What was your learning outcome in these last 365 days?

I don’t know if it falls under the term productive, but one thing that I learned is how to work in my office with concentration, while all my colleagues were working from home. I used to work in my office space, all by myself. So that was something new I had a chance to experience during this pandemic.

Thoughts moving forward

Most of us are waiting to go back to normalcy, but for many, that may not mean going back to the office. Work from home can be the new normal for many employees after this pandemic ends. 

It has become such a “hot topic” that even the founder of CRED, Kunal Shah, tweeted about this from his Twitter handle. 

One of the reasons to do a report on the experiences of the employees of sumHR while they work from home was inspired by his tweet. 

His tweets, often a source of knowledge and great insights, gave us the idea to expand on it and share our employees’ experiences with you.


More than 50% of our employees have preferred Work From Home over the office and even a mix between two which was what we understood by Kunal Shah's Poll Tweet in which the question "Do you like work from Home?" got 47.1% votes.

Remote workers posted a Workforce Happiness Index of 75 out of 100, compared to 71 for in-office employees, proving that remote work increases job satisfaction. Furthermore, remote workers are more likely than office workers to be happy with their careers (57 percent vs. 50 percent). Overall, people who work from home showed higher levels of happiness on nearly any topic about their employment.

Founder's experience

SumHR's founder Jay has also shared his feelings and thoughts on this issue as an individual and as a company.

As an Individual 

  • I believe that we should value our life, think about our loved ones more. Before the pandemic, we were all so caught up in the race, focusing too much on work and taking the people closest to us for granted. 
  • Working from home has also helped us understand the value of time and how much of it we used to waste commuting to and from the office and stressing about being punctual and traffic conditions, and more. 
  • We have also learned to communicate better during the one year of WFH. Earlier, we use to walk over to the desk and speak in any style that we were comfortable in. But with virtual work, we had to up the game by effectively communicating through typed word on internal messaging systems like Slack and MS Teams.


As a Company 

  • Working from home has made us, as a company, realise that it is possible to work more with less. We learnt that simply throwing people at problems will not solve anything. 
  • There was a common misconception that teammates working from home would be unproductive. This notion was proven wrong with the boost in productivity that we experience since WFH started.
  • Mental health is something that became the centre stage during this time, as we, as a company and part of the society, learnt to be more humane and empathize with each other.  

Pros and Cons of WFH

Pros of work from home

  • More self-reliance

Working at home will give you job control and flexibility that you would not have at a typical workplace. Furthermore, these types of jobs necessitate sufficient self-discipline and determination to effectively handle time and complete work assignments.


  • There is no reason to drive to work.

Working at home allows you to avoid commuting. You drive less than working from the office.


  • Spend less money

This advantage may have a wide variety of consequences. For example, by eliminating driving, you can save money on gas and transportation. Telecommuting will even help you save money on things like office supplies, groceries, and even childcare.

Saving money on childcare can be particularly beneficial for parents who work from home.


  • Enhanced technological abilities

Telecommuting often necessitates the usage of electronic resources, including online conference, networking, and team sharing channels. You will learn technical skills that you wouldn't normally find in a physical workplace.


Cons of work from home

  • Increased isolation

Working from home will make you feel lonely if you spend the bulk of your time alone and on your own. Schedule trips and celebrations with friends and relatives to alleviate boredom and alienation as a remote worker. To promote socialisation, some remote workplaces organise frequent team activities.


  • Costs in maintaining a home office

To complete critical tasks and projects, certain remote roles require specialised equipment such as headphones, webcams, or apps. You should expect to pay some upfront expenses to get your home office arranged if you want to set up a desk, chair, and other furniture. Spend just what you need to do your job to keep your expenses down.


  • Overworking dangers

Telecommuting carries the risk of working later than necessary. This will almost certainly result in burnout and heightened work-related stress. You will prevent this by creating a consistent calendar and allocating separate hours for work and personal activities. For certain individuals, having a dedicated office where they can leave after the workday is over is important.


  • At-home distractions

Distractions such as the tv, cats, or domestic tasks will all have an impact on how well you do your work. A lack of efficiency and enthusiasm can result from so many distractions. You will prevent this by limiting everything in your home that distracts you. To shut out sounds like cars and street crime, wear noise-cancelling headphones and listen to soothing songs.


Productivity levels, outputs and goals achieved

  • Productivity increases

You could be more effective if you work alone in a quieter environment. Increased productivity is linked to several other variables, including the freedom to walk easily about your home and take breaks if you need to. Being willing to take a break from your job anytime you need it will help you stay focused and avoid burnout.


  • Productivity is at risk

Working from home can make you more creative, but it can also be a struggle. It will be impossible to remain focused on the projects you're focusing on if you have the right to travel around and take breaks anytime the mood strikes. This will lead to a reduction in productivity. Implementing productivity software such as time trackers and job management frameworks is one way to tackle this.


According to a Stanford survey of 16,000 employees who worked from home for over nine months, increased productivity by 13%. Many calls per minute were made as a result of a cleaner, more convenient working climate, as well as working more minutes per shift leading to fewer breaks and sick days. Staff in the same sample showed higher job satisfaction and a 50% reduction in turnover rates.  

Poll: WFH or In-office?

There are four approaches to making a well-informed decision.

1. Reconsider how organisations operate

Organisations had to adjust to continue collaborating and ensuring that the most crucial processes could be carried out remotely during the lockdowns. Most also actually replicated what was achieved before the pandemic by transplanting existing systems to remote work environments. For certain organisations and systems, this has gone well, but not for others.

Organisations should define the most critical processes for each big industry, geography, and work and fully reimagine them, often with employee participation. This initiative should look at their career growth pathways (for example, being physically present in the workplace at first and only operating remotely later) as well as the varying phases of projects (such as being physically co-located for initial planning and working remotely for execution).


2. Determine whether you choose to bring work to people or people to work

The talent competition has been fiercer than ever in the last few years. Around the same time, certain talent clusters are less eager than in the past to move to their employers' places. Organisations will make decisions about which tasks must be fulfilled in the person, and to what extent when they restructure their job processes and determine what can be achieved remotely. When understanding the importance that remote working can have, roles can be reclassified into employee segments:

  • Employees who can work completely remotely providing a net positive value-creating outcome
  • Employees who can work in hybrid remote mode providing a net neutral outcome
  • Employees who can work in hybrid remote by exception providing a net bad result, but it can be handled remotely if necessary) 
  • Employees who can work on-site 


3. Restructure the workplace to support the organisation's aims

Organisations should build workspaces explicitly for the types of interactions that can't be done remotely when an organisation's room is mostly used to accommodate unique moments of teamwork rather than independent work.

The distinctions of being physically in the workplace and out of the office must dissolve to retain efficiency, communication, and learning, as well as the organisational community. In-office video conferencing should no longer consist of a group of people looking at each other around a table as others watch from a side screen, unable to participate effectively. 

Asynchronous teamwork and operating models, always-on video conferencing, integrated in-person and remote collaboration environments (such as interactive whiteboards), and always-on video conferencing would soon become a common procedure.


4. Use your imagination to resize the footprint

To redesign workplaces, a transformational strategy would be needed. Rather than incrementally changing the current footprint, organisations should rethink how much and where space is needed, as well as how it fosters desired outcomes for teamwork, competitiveness, culture, and the workplace experience. This strategy would also address the topic of where offices can be situated.

These improvements could not only enhance the way work is done, but they could also save money. For certain companies, real estate is the highest expense group outside of compensation due to rent, capital expenses, building procedures, repairs, and administration.

From the survey, it can be claimed that the maximum employees of SumHR have opted to work from Home as shown in the Pie Chart. SumHR should follow the above steps and have to ask an important question: whether or not they want to work according to their employees and move towards the future.

Future of WFH and Guidance

According to a McKinsey report, 80 per cent of those interviewed say they love working from home. Fourteen per cent say they are more active than they were before, while 28 per cent say they are the same. Many workers who no longer have to commute or fly have found more convenient ways to invest their hours, have more freedom in juggling their personal and professional lives, and have concluded that working at home is preferable to working in an office. 

Many companies believe they can tap into new talent markets with less geographical limits, implement creative processes to improve efficiency, foster a better community, and dramatically minimise real-estate costs.

These same groups are anticipating the reopening and its obstacles. The office experience would most likely not be the same as it was before the pandemic before a vaccine is available. Employees will be expected to wear masks at all hours, rooms will be redesigned to ensure physical isolation, and travel in congested environments will be prohibited (for instance, elevator banks and pantries). As a result, views toward workplaces are likely to change even after the reopening.

Is it likely, though, that the happiness and efficiency people enjoy when working from home as a result of the social capital built up over endless hours of water cooler talks, workshops, and social engagements before the crisis? Without physical touch, can business environments and societies deteriorate over time? Will expected and unplanned partnership moments be harmed? Will there be fewer talent growth and mentorship? Is working from home just effective when it is used as a temporary solution rather than a long-term commitment?

Both sides of the debate are possibly right. Every business and its community are special, as are the circumstances of each employee. Some people have welcomed this new experience, although some have grown bored of it. At different moments, the same people have felt different feelings and degrees of satisfaction or unhappiness. 

Employees who do a variety of jobs have seen a rise in turnover, while some have seen a decrease. Many types of interactive communication perform well, although some don't. Some individuals receive mentorship and can engage in informal, unplanned, and meaningful discussions with coworkers, while others lose out.

The pandemic has compelled the introduction of modern operating methods. Organisations must rethink their work and the role of offices in ensuring that workers have healthy, profitable, and pleasant jobs and lives.



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