April 19, 2020
Working from home, a routine that was not easily accepted in the Pakistani society is now being adopted widely as coronavirus has forced local organisations to think beyond conventional practices and shift towards digital which is a bit late, but the pandemic has finally pushed us into it.
The News contacted several professionals and asked them about their experience, the hindrances they were facing among other things that came with WFH.
Moiz Ahmed, a content editor at a private organisation, said: “WFH is a good experience and transitioning was not an issue for me, as my work is digital. I feel comfortable because no one is watching over me.”
Ahmed noted that despite all the advantages that come with WFH, the work gets delayed a bit. “If a task was completed in 15 minutes, it now takes 20, although that is not much but yes, it has affected the output.
“Post-lockdown, this method can bear fruit as well, companies can ask an employee to WFH if they are sick or have other reasons to not come in,” he added.
Dr. Kinza Naeem, CEO at the Umang Mental Health Helpline, said that her patients have doubled after the pandemic surfaced in the country.
“We have more patients calling than before. The number has more than doubled. Mostly between the age bracket of 17- 28,” she said, adding: “The present situation is a nightmare for our patients. Especially since they are always keeping themselves updated with the disease-related news. It is a task to get them to calm down, specifically the ones who suffer from mental illnesses like OCD and hypochondria.”
“Umang is an online consultation service. Since the beginning, we have a team of around 100 clinical psychologists working from home and so the lockdown didn’t affect the nature of our work.”
“Some of the most common cases we tackle these days are anxiety and panic attacks. Because of the access of flow of information from the media, coronavirus has become a taboo for a lot of patients and this is causing panic,” she said, adding: “Since there is a lot of hopelessness, I believe we will receive more patients of depression and trauma, post COVID-19.”
(Umang is free of cost, available 24/7 helpline for mental health.)
Mansoor Majeed, a dentist, said that he was unable to do much as the dental council had prohibited dentists from using several of their tools. On the other hand, it had allowed him to offer his services to people in need.
“I help patients suffering from dental problems, free of cost, via telephone and prescribe the needed medications to them,” he said.
(Majeed is consulting patients free of cost and can be reached at 0321-2661979)
Even the most unorthodox professionals are making an effort to adapt to the trend. Speaking to The News, Abdul Rehman Momin, a young poet, said: “I never thought that a poetic symposium would be conducted online, but for better or for worst we have been pushed into uncertain territory.”
Momin’s first experience in an online symposium was certainly not good, but he wouldn’t call it bad either. “The funny thing is that right before the beginning of the symposium there was a power outage in my area, lucky for me I had data, or I would have to cancel at the 11th hour.”
“The ambiance wasn’t that of an event where you have several poets sitting beside you and you read out your poetry in front of a huge crowd to get praises,” he lamented, adding that no one would’ve thought that poetic symposiums would be held online, but in the age of the coronavirus, human beings were still trying out things they never thought they would.
Zain Siddiqui, editor Thenews.com.pk, said: “Not being able to interact with the team on a personal, face-to-face basis throws up quite a few challenges, especially in terms of coordination of workflow, I’m learning.”
“It’s also a little difficult to juggle domestic responsibilities and work sometimes when working from home, especially if one has children. Children – toddlers especially – expect their parents to be focused on them all the time, which is not possible if both parents are working from home,” Siddiqui expressed.
Siddiqui feels that the output has not been affected and that everyone was putting in extra effort to cope with the disparities. “Another problem that has arisen out of this current situation is that the boundary between work and home has been erased, so you don’t really know when you’re supposed to log out and disconnect from your professional life. It’s like you’re always available for work.”
While advising journalists on WFH he said: “It is also critical that we keep our lines of communication open and running with our expanded team while we’re logged in to work. Using community platforms like Slack and Workplace really helps them keep connected to their teams.”
Hassam Chundrigar, a machine learning engineer at a private organisation, said: “WFH is like you have been employed for your whole day but it also has flexibilities of working. When the offices are open, I only put in work hours from 9 to 5, with restrictions of a single lunch break and sitting on a chair. At home, I feel more flexible since you can work lying down on the bed or sitting on the sofa, it feels like I am more task-oriented than before.”
“It is also easy in the sense that you can do your work freely — adjustable timing — you can take nap if you feel exhausted and difficulties, as in, some disturbances of children, and when you’re told, “Dahi Lado” (go and get yogurt).
“I think I am more productive at home. But some of the difficulties are engaging in requirements. Face-to-face meetings are more productive than virtual meetings,” he added.
Mahira Mirza, a lecturer and research coordinator at a private university, said that her overall experience was good so far, albeit, she faces connectivity issues. However, her institution was playing a tremendous role to overcome the hindrances.
“Initially, transitioning to WFH was a difficult task but with time we are getting familiar to the system and are highly motivated to complete our tasks,” she said.
Replying to the question of whether the output has been affected or not, she said: “No, not at all. It is almost the same as it used to be while working within the premises of the organisation.”
Saad Khan, an executive at an audit firm, said: “I have done my tasks from home earlier, but that was just me. Now everyone is at home and that makes our job a bit harder. In audit, we need teamwork and coordination which is not ideal during WFH,” he added.
Khan noted that WFH had affected his team’s efficiency to a great extent — the output had gone down nearly three folds as a majority of his workforce was not tech-savvy. “Another issue is that we audit our clients and in case they are not well-versed with technology, it creates several hurdles for us in procuring data.”
Mirza Noman Baig, a development officer at a solar solutions company, said: “Being a professional engineer WFH is a mixed experience — the convenience of working without moving to the field but on the other hand , it is not easy to perform the duties.”
So far, he has faced several difficulties, lack of formalities is one of the major issues, Baig mentioned. “The daily client meetings and site visits are disturbed as the teams cannot move around. Our productivity has been affected a lot as almost more than half of our work has reduced due to the lockdown,” he said.
“The experience has been good. Barring a few frustrations that come from the extra complications we’re all facing in communicating with our teams, there’s very little to complain about. It’s a refreshing change to be working from an environment I’m comfortable in,” he added.
Supply chain manager
Fahad Moin Qureshi, supply chain manager at a multi-national corporation, said: “Since this is for the very first time in years that I have to work from home, my experience has been good and quite exciting. It is interesting and challenging as well.”
There are some advantages to it, such as, saving energy and commute time. WFH is more comfortable, one can work in convenient dressing, he said. “This was not very common in our country before the lockdown and I feel like people are reluctant in adopting it,” Qureshi said.
“Problems do surround me for example, during meetings there are electricity issues, disruptions in networking and clearance problems — getting approvals from the upper management,” he noted.
“The output from working home was enhanced in some areas, such as paperwork, presentations, planning, and making policies and strategies. Visits were not possible which are an integral part of my work — as it maintains pressure on the service provider,” he said.
“Teamwork’s not as effective as it should be because all members do not possess all technical accessories, such as a smartphone, computers, and laptops,” Qureshi added.
The cover photo was taken from Unsplash (@Djurdjica Boskovic)