Case Study: Is It All Rosy?

Case Study: Is It All Rosy?

Announcements by SAP SE to declare 27th April as mental health day and Citibank earmarking 28th May as Citi Reset day, thereby allowing respective employees to take the day off are likely to work as a trend setter. This is also an indicator of the toll that the pandemic induced remote working has been having on employees and employers alike. This brings forth an interesting pitch. While the larger companies, who are keen to limit employee turnover owing to increased hiring costs, the onus is on the smaller organisations for whom a lot is at stake.




The date is 25th January, 2021. The preceding year had been unprecedented. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world forced changes upon everyone. Organisations scrambled to adapt to the new normal by going digital and enabling employees to work from home. This led to positive as well as negative reactions to the work from home situation. Many organisations were considering extending work from home indefinitely as they felt that employee productivity, had on an average, increased substantially. This could be due to less time lost at the office with social interactions or more pressure to perform owing to the uncertainty. Also, people have welcomed the time and money saved from the commute. It seemed to be a win-win since organisations were able to economise on administrative costs with some having given up their rented premises.


Rijika was thinking about the conversation that she needed to have with her HR. She is an Engineer and MBA from a reputed institute with a total experience of 20 years in various manufacturing organisations. And for the last years, she has been working as the marketing manager for an international IT hardware manufacturing company. As with all the manufacturing companies, they had resumed factory operations from July, and their technicians and sales representatives were visiting clients since October. All the executives though, were continuing to work from home unless it was absolutely necessary to visit office, since it was under renovation. For the last few months, working from home had been a blessing in disguise since she could spend more time with her family, and with their factory shifting to a location 50 kilometres from her home, she was saving on the commute to her office.


But now, with things opening up, she was in a dilemma about managing her work as well as home.


Rijika lives with her husband Alok and two children; Payal, her 8-year old daughter and her son Kunal aged 11. Her husband worked for an MNC and their operations had resumed a few months ago.


The children’s schools had not resumed, and it appeared as though they would open partially, only for senior children. Rijika’s children were in Classes 4 and 6. They had online classes every day. She recalled the conversation last evening.


Rijika: Hey everyone, finish your dinner fast. I have a meeting at 9 PM tonight.


Kunal: But Mom! You had a meeting yesterday too. Why do you have so many latenight meetings nowadays? Why can’t you have them during daytime?


Rijika: Everyone is busy during the day. This time most are free. And in the morning, I have so many chores to do. Why can’t you cooperate?!


Rijika sighed, thinking that the lockdown gave work from home a new perspective. At times, she wished that her office also made it mandatory for her to come to office so that she could get out of the chores she needed to do at home, but then, who would do them if she went to office? Who would look after the children? The day care where they went after school was not likely to open anytime soon. She supposed she could rely on her parents to look after the kids for some time, but she could not expect it every day.


She missed interacting with her colleagues at work. Sure, they talked, but not as they would in office. Other than work, they would hardly call each other, whereas at the office, they could chat and discuss their issues, and sometimes, come up with better decisions. And day before yesterday, they realised that they were on the verge of overshooting a crucial deadline because they had failed to take note in time, as everyone assumed things were being taken care by someone else. (The reason behind 2 consecutive late evening meetings). This may not have happened had they been meeting physically, as it would have come up in discussion. It was apparent that phone or zoom calls were not as conducive for general chitchat.


Every project was taking more time since co-ordination with all the team members took greater effort than just walking into someone’s room and clarifying a doubt or bouncing an idea. All meetings needed to be scheduled in advance, considering everyone’s convenience and that usually occurred at night.


She was speaking with another colleague a few days ago, who said that she is enjoying WFH and wished that this way of work continues in the future as well. Listening to this, Rijika thought, “Her children are all grown up and do not require constant monitoring. She can enjoy her time at home. For me, it is like, “God, give me a break.” Last week my son was asking when would my office reopen. He had more freedom when I was at work. Now I am constantly nagging him about his school work, mobile games, phone time etc. I feel I am not only stressing myself, but the children too. Also, since I am at home, it seems that no one can do anything on their own. My work seems to have quadrupled.


The worktime has extended to 14 hours from the usual nine hours as calls begin at 9 in the morning and meetings sometimes end at 11 PM. There is no concept of weekend, family time, or just simply “me time”. Earlier, at least when I came back from office, I could leave the work behind, but now, I am working all the time, whether homework or office work. The lines have blurred. Some days, I feel fatigued, not just physically but mentally too. I am starting to have doubts about my efficacy both at home and work.


I have had more arguments with my spouse and children now than in the last 5 years put together. I know it is natural because of the proximity, but I feel ‘Am I losing it?’ There is so much uncertainty about the future. I dread going back to office full time, but then, what’s the alternative? Work full time from home? Or quit? None of these alternatives appear to be very attractive right now. Is there a way out? I am thinking of discussing this with my HR manager. I do not want to speak with my Boss as I do not wish to give the impression that something is wrong without exploring options.


Rijika was stuck in a dilemma whether she should speak to her Boss or the HR.


Dr Poornima Gupta is an Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management. She has more than sixteen years of experience in industry and academics and has worked in NIIT, Lucknow, Himalaya Exports Delhi, Permo Marketers and Ask Consultancy. Dr Poornima holds a PhD in Management and is Post Graduate in Management.





Analysis By Ravi Mishra Senior Vice President - HR for Advanced Materials Business, Aditya Birla Group.




The pandemic, in its current form, is still in the making, and hence, no one knows how it will finally turnout in our life and to what extent. Rijika is not alone to pass through this unprecedented challenge. In fact, she is faring far better than a million others whose struggle is much deeper and wider. I recall a lady who lost her husband due to COVID-19, and after a month, lost her job as well. She now has to look after her 80-year-old fatherin-law who underwent an openheart surgery three months ago. Her two daughters are studying engineering and class X respectively, and she is finding it hard to repay the EMI towards the home loan. Everything in this world is relative, and at times, it enhances the power of motivation to look and move forward.


Rijika must rationally think about what is in her control to turn the situation in her favour, and where she can seek support from her colleagues and company. Rather than viewing with a blurred vision, she must learn to see the obvious and prepare herself to be the last man standing. She also needs to get an understanding of Goldratt’s theory-of-constraints which emphasises on the rising facts during crisis and constraints.


It is beyond Rijika to change the company’s policy which is evolving and building up to thrive and sustain in such an extra ordinary situation. And the first step of the Five Focusing steps of Theory of Constraints is, ‘identify the constraint’. This tells us where to focus our improvement efforts, since we know that only an improvement at the constraint makes a difference.


Rijika also needs to recall Stephen Covey’s principle of First thing first, sort the issues at the home front and read the situation as work-life-integration rather than work-life-balance. Secondly, Rijika is worrying about a problem which, like WFH, has no defined policy. Nobody can say with authority about what will be rolled out, the shape and longevity to continue etc. Therefore, she needs to prepare herself that she will manage it with an agile and constructive approach.


She must also connect with her friends and colleagues beyond the periphery of work and profession. She should try to learn whether they are coping with or happily challenging the challenges. One of the perspectives in life is, Fail Fast, Learn Fast to be future proof.


It is good if she connects with the HR to discuss about her own challenges and seek wider perspectives about how the others are dealing with in similar situations. She will also learn how her management and HR is looking forward to deal with issues related to people evolving in the ongoing pandemic. Most organisation are sensitive and empathise with its people and are making sincere efforts to address the issues plaguing them.


My suggestion to Rijika is to have a cup of coffee with a smile and enjoy family life. She simply needs to stop worrying about things which are uncertain to come. To quote Michael Jordan, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”


Analysis By Rohit Hasteer, Group CHRO for, Prop and





The world around us has changed significantly in the last year as also our workplaces. While Work from home provides flexibility, zerocommute, increased productivity, and quality time with loved ones, it challenges work-life balance. The new workplace boundaries are more psychological than physical, and is often difficult for people to unplug from the workday while working from home. Rijika’s case perfectly describes the conundrum of work-life balance iin today’s age of remote working.


Work-life balance is difficult to achieve since it carries a different meaning for different people. I believe many of Rijika’s problems are internal. While she should definitely speak to her manager or HR, she should also try to internalise on the reasons behind the current situation.


Rijika needs to understand whether anything is being done wrongly, adding to the stress and imbalance. E.g. the late-night calls, since Rijika and her team had missed the project deadline, leading to fire-fighting to ensure that the deadline was met. Later, she felt that had they been in office, someone would have reminded this during a general chit-chat. As professionals, everyone is expected to manage their work schedules and commitments and one should not externalise the problem. Better planning and not assuming that someone else was taking a lead on the project could have prevented the late-night calls, thereby ensuring work life balance.


It is a good to define core working hours when there are no physical working space boundaries. People need to balance their household chores and official work sitting at the same place. Evidently, every project was taking more time since coordinating with all the team members was an effort. Also, it was convenient for everyone to attend any meeting at night. When people operate from home, they often follow different work schedules which impacts the sync ups and the overall work. Hence, it helps to define core working hours by ensuring everybody’s availability, and scheduling group calls during these core hours. This aids to bring about a balance since people have the flexibility to work basis their convenience. However, common meetings and calls must be done within the defined hours alone. The impact of a stress-free mind on one’s productivity is indeed an area worth investing on.


HR must look to keep the people engaged and motivated and ensure that they get the desired breaks during the monotony of remote work. Facilitating ongoing informal interactions between the managers and their team can enable enhanced connect with the team and act as a platform to motivate them. Had Rijika felt that connect, she would well have approached her manager, instead of contemplating talking to HR when the situation was out of control.


Rijika should seek greater support and understanding from her family by sharing responsibilities at home. At the same time, she needs to prioritise better. Due to the blurred lines between work and personal life, we sometimes allow personal work to take precedence during office hours, which eventually hampers the work-life balance. Rijika should look at adopting a strict routine where there are defined hours for her personal and office work.


Changes to our working environment was sudden owing to the pandemic. Though many of us expected remote working to be temporary, we embrace and appreciate these changes and the humongous opportunities it brought with itself in terms of digital adoption, increased productivity, improved efficiency etc. In fact, experts argue that the future workplace shall be hybrid - a mix of working from the office and remote. Hence, organisations should enable the smooth transition of people so that they do not face any challenges like Rijika. At the same time, employees should also look at ways to prioritise and better manage their schedule better and avoid conflict between personal and professional commitments.




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