WFH blurs distinction between professional and personal lives

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Maintaining the balance has been tough for moms

Anoop Rao, who works for a US-based bank, starts his work at 5:30 pm. His mind is clear, not clouded with the unpleasant honking of cars. He grabs a cup of coffee and secures a quiet corner in his apartment. He doesn’t have to make his way through traffic jams, nor is he worried about returning late at night. As he works, he can hear his wife humming and his son babbling in the next room. No longer does he feel like he is missing out on family life.

“I am saved from the long hours one has to wait in traffic. The commuting cost has been reduced considerably for me. Working from home is so flexible. One can choose one’s surroundings, sit in nature, take a walk in between and have a meal with one’s family which is so important,”      Anoop said.

Asked whether work from home leads to extended working hours and reduced family time, he informed The Observer: “It differs from company to company. We all have a good understanding with our management, and there is hardly any issue around work timings. There is mutual trust between employees and employers. Also, the work is systematically monitored. If some     day I have to sit a little longer, I won’t mind doing extra work….”

Urmila, Anoop’s wife, has a different stance on the situation.      

“It is always good to have your spouse around; we have more time together now. But the problem is that this type of set-up comes with compromise from both ends. I usually take extra care while working in the kitchen, making minimal sound to provide him with the kind of space he requires to work peacefully. My husband has to bear with the distractions as it is difficult to make the child understand that his father is up to some serious work,” she said.

Work from home has erased the distinction between one’s professional and personal lives. It has evoked varied responses from professionals who strive to maintain a work-life balance in a pandemic-induced regime.

Urmila, who has worked for an India-based company in the past, said: “Most of the Indian companies have managers who believe in micromanagement as there is an inherent mistrust towards the employees. They have a notion that it is OK for employees to work overtime as they are working from home and must be taking frequent breaks. I had to quit my job because of extended hours as my family life was being ignored.”

Working from home has created ambiguity around lunch breaks and closing hours; it is difficult for employees to draw a line.    

Manan Singhal, who works for an MNC in Bengaluru, shared: “Currently, I am working from my hometown. Due to continuous work, sometimes I have to skip my lunch. My mom keeps waiting for me and asks me to have food again and again.”

Another downside of working from home is that there are no clear metrics for determining productivity. As a result, if a person is not working for the specified number of hours, their work comes under question. For some, it is the number of hours one puts into a task, whereas for others, it is the final output that is important.    

Om Mohanty, who works for an IT company, said: “Everybody has a personal laptop now, and since all work is virtual, there is a notion that everybody can be present virtually all the time….”

For mothers, maintaining the balance between work and the family has become extremely difficult. Children demand a lot of time as they are dependent.

Manjiri, a working mother of triplets, said: “Workspace and family time must be separate. For married women, it is very difficult to make the family understand we need space to work and can’t be involved in household chores during those hours.”

Manish Arora, the CEO of Mahindra and Mahindra Vadodara said: “Work from home will never overlap with one’s family time if one maintains discipline like getting dressed in formals, finding a secluded space and keeping track of time. One must try to think that they are in the office, and distractions will fade away.”

Dr Pallavee Walia, a psychologist, said: “A lot of my patients who are working from home are having low concentration span because the family is always around. They are physically with the family but the mind is torn between work and (their) loved ones.”

According to a study published by The Guardian, Bloomberg and The Economic Times,           working from home has led to a 2.5-hour increase in the average working day in countries like Austria, Canada, the UK and US.                              


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