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Opinion

When Zoom became a verb and home into an office

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Until February 2020, the 29-year-old (name reserved to protect identity) was an upstream mobile driver in Chennai. In 2016, he bought three cars at a cost of more than Rs 35 lakh, to transport passengers for an aggregation service. His Equivalent Monthly Dues (EMI) are Rs 26,000, but he hired two drivers and his own expenses were low. Having emigrated from a village in Villupuram four years ago, he was living with three other single men like himself in a hostel in Teynampet; He enjoyed his job, drove through the streets of the big city, struck up conversations with people from all over the country and sometimes the world.

Then, in March, his life turned upside down when India declared closure.

“I have not been able to pay my EMI since March,” he said. After the moratorium on loans announced by the Reserve Bank of India ended on August 31, he asked his bank to forgive him until the end of the year. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next year,” he said. Although it has been back on the road since June, when Tamil Nadu allowed taxis and cars to circulate again, passengers are few. Its drivers left their jobs for a long time and returned to their villages. “I don’t know how long we can depend on driving to live,” he said.

About nine miles away, the 15,000-square-foot office of SaaS (software as a service) company, Kissflow Inc, in Tidel Park, complete with a pool table, cafeteria, and swings as seats, is getting ready for the 225 and a litle more. employees will return from January 2021 in a “3 + 1” workflow model adopted by founder Suresh Sambandam. They have been working from home since the national shutdown was announced.

In the new system, every four weeks, a group of teams working together will be asked to attend the office; it’s voluntary, Sambandam added. “We want them to come to work, go out together, huddle together. This will help the teams come together and it’s okay that only 50% of the work is being done that week, ”he said. The rest of the time, they will continue to work from home. And town hall meetings, which were held every Friday for all employees, will continue to be held by videoconference.

The pandemic has affected work and life in an unprecedented and disruptive way.

Zoom, once an app, is now a verb, and it’s not the only indication of its meteoric rise in popularity. On August 31, video conferencing application makers Zoom Video Communications posted revenue of $ 663.5 million in the second quarter. In comparison, last year, its revenue was $ 145.8 million. When offices started asking their employees to work from home (FMH), India’s largest software services company, Tata Consultancy Services, announced that up to 75% of its global workforce will work from home by 2025, for example, it became clear that such tools would become the norm.

However, the pandemic was also a year in which unemployment soared. According to a livelihood survey conducted by Azim Premji University researchers among nearly 5,000 self-employed, casual and regular salaried workers in 12 states, nearly 87% of self-employed in urban areas reported that they had lost their jobs. The survey also found a massive rise in unemployment and a dramatic drop in income. Even those who were still employed saw a drop in income.

For Ganga, 35, who was selling fruit in Delhi’s Shankar market before Covid arrived, this year has pushed her even further into precariousness. Ganga, who lost her income when the blockade was instituted and markets closed, finally found work in a small factory. However, their income was considerably less. To spin a wheel that wrapped bicycle tires, it would receive as little as 40 countries per wheel; it amounted to between 5,000 and 6,000 rupees a month. In December, the factory asked Ganga to leave because the supply of wrapping wheels ran short.

Experiences have been mixed, but a common concern emerged around the world: Companies were forced to consider how the open office could be more secure for groups of employees.

In an online webinar in April, Delhi-based architect Manit Rastogi, a founding partner of the architecture firm Morphogenesis, predicted that larger companies may consider a hub-and-spoke model: smaller offices or radios that meet near the homes of your employees who don’t. require them to risk contracting or spreading coronavirus by traveling to the main office or downtown. In this solution, technology serves as a bridge. “We have gone from an industrial model of work, where everyone comes in and goes out, to a post-pandemic model, which is about productivity,” Rastogi said.

Furniture manufacturers have partnered with scientists to investigate what constitutes a safe open office. In June, American furniture company Steelcase announced that it had partnered with disease transmission specialist Dr. Lydia Bouroubia, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Disease Transmission Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, which has been studying the spread of pathogens through fluids like droplets in the air.

Other companies introduced new products to the market taking advantage of that basic need of any office assistant: comfortable workspaces. Subodh Mehta, Senior Vice President (B2C) Godrej Interio, said his work from the home furnishings range, which previously “comprised around 3% of sales, increased fivefold” during the closing and subsequent unlocking months. This included the sales of the 30 new products launched this year.

However, author Aparna Piramal Raje said that the WFH was more of a “live at work” situation, which is not sustainable. Most companies, he argued, will propose a “hybrid plan.”

Sambandam’s Kissflow is already on it.

(With input from Divya Chandrababu)

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