Work In The Wake Of COVID-19

Work From Home may not entirely ease things for employees since such a setting often expects employees to remain 'connected to the system'. And the traditional perception of work will turn out to be equally precarious.

 

These days, while scrolling networking platforms, it is inevitable to come across posts about how the present health crisis is leading us to the new future of work or how this has come about as the ‘new normal’. Most of the influencers build on the fact that Work From Home (WFH) is a moment of solace for individuals to catch up on their hobbies, upskill themselves, or even learn a new craft. However, if this emerges as the new normal, things would collectively not come about as highly bright. We are treading the precarious line of converting work into labour.

 

Labour consists of all the activities carried out by individuals as a part of their daily routine. Sayers (2007), in his paper, ‘The Concept of Labor: Marx and his Critics’, mentions that labour is the direct appropriation of human beings’ natural condition. Hannah Arendt, in her famous book, The Human Condition, defined labour as “...the activity which corresponds to the biological process of the human body, whose spontaneous growth, metabolism and eventual decay are bound to the vital necessities produced and fed into the life process …”

 

Whereas the concept of work is assessed merely on the grounds of performance, and once work shifts home, the usual innate activity of individuals such as care and home support is merged with their existing work activity. And, to derive a balance among the two would be a challenging task for individuals, as ‘work’ includes measurement. Hence, it is no surprise that even when people are working from their homes, there is an overt sense to be hyperproductive and of achievement.

 

In all this, digital technology plays the vital role of wiring human beings to their work and organisation. In such a wired environment, employees sitting at home must operate like digital natives. Digital natives across the world curate their lives and leave digital traces across different digital platforms such as Zoom, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter among others. The courses they undergo, the people they mentor, their writeup trends and the causes they believe in are all digitally achieved.

 

Surely, WFH would formally be a part of HR policies. However, the work lives of individuals, especially women employees, are bound to be hectic with the stress of logging into their respective platforms vis-à-vis caring and supporting their families. WFH arrangements may further glamourise hustle-based culture which seems to have become an institutional norm in the digital universe. 

 

In such a context, enterprise-led WFH may lead to employee burnout. As in the realm of work labour, the personal-professional would be bound to have a similar spatial setup, with employees navigating their home chores along with meeting their professional deadlines. While we cherish every moment to be at home with our loved ones, WFH may not entirely ease things for employees, as such a setting often expects employees to be ‘connected to the system’. The traditional perception of work, if replicated in the digital universe, will be equally precarious.

 

 

Mrinmoy Majumder teaches courses on people strategy, industrial relations and qualitative methodology. He can be reached on [email protected]

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