For Rishav Pokharel, working from home was a boon during the Covid pandemic in the past two years. A software engineer by profession, Pokharel was enjoying staying at home and working. It saved him a lot of time and as he spent more days working from home, he realised that he also saved a lot of money.
“I didn’t waste time talking to people at work, which meant I finished work very quickly. I think this should be a norm,” says Pokharel.
This was during 2020 when the pandemic was in full swing. His office allowed people to work from home for over a year. But, as the pandemic subsided, he was asked to come to work in the autumn of 2021.
“It made zero sense. Efficiency wasn’t a problem so they should have allowed me to work from home but sadly not everyone thinks working from home is possible and that is quite disappointing,” says Pokharel.
Working from home became a norm during the pandemic. Banks, law firms, IT companies, NGOs, INGOs, financial institutions, stock traders and even journalism personnel worked from home for most of 2020. But, with the pandemic drastically subsiding, many companies have asked their staff to physically come to work. This has come as a disappointment to many who enjoyed working from home. They say that people who want to work from home should be allowed to do so. Nonetheless, the other half is pleased to start working from the office again as working from home gave them mental fatigue that affected their ability to work efficiently.
Like Pokharel, Ashim Shrestha, a data scientist at an IT company also worked from home for over a year. But, unlike Pokharel he hated it. An extrovert by nature, Shrestha says working from home was mentally fatiguing. Stuck at home, he started to get anxious as he started to hate online meetings and just wanted to get back to going to the office physically.
“My days were spent either on Zoom, Google Hangout or WhatsApp. Sometimes my day started at 6 am and ended at 10 pm. There was a time I didn’t get out of the house for five days. I can’t express how glad I am to be back at work and socialising with people in person rather than on a computer,” says Shrestha.
For women, things are even worse. Even though they tell their family they were working from home, they would still burden them with household chores. Take Shivani for example. She works at a reputed INGO as a programme officer. During the pandemic, she was on constant call to the point that she felt overworked. Despite that, she had no respite.
“I would tell my family that I’d do the chores during the weekend, but they never let it slide. Working from home is a great idea, but, in reality, if you are a woman, things aren’t that easy,” she says.
This shows how there are both positive and negative aspects to working from home. This is not just for the employees. The employers also feel the same. A representative of an IT company based in Kathmandu says the company loves the idea of its staff working from home.
The HR manager, who does not want to be named, says working from home saves the company a lot of money.
“We have the option to come to work physically too, but we’ve left the option to work from home too. This has increased the efficiency of workers and also cut down the office’s operating cost,” says the HR manager.
But, the manager des add that there were problems with many people who just did not work as well as they did in the office.
“Under supervision, they work fine, but we realised that when not under supervision, they had the tendency to get complacent. We had no option but to call everyone back to work so that it doesn’t affect the overall work,” says the HR manager.
Efficiency is a major issue for most IT companies. Most of them outsource from countries in the west and have to work with real-time data and that causes issues when you do not have a good internet connection.
In many cases, people are just lazy to work from home. Ajay says his efficiency drops when working from home. He says home to him is a place where he does not want to think about work. But, when he had to do so during the pandemic, he had no choice but to try.
“My efficiency was so bad they threatened to fire me. I had to explain that I couldn’t work from home so they allowed me to come to work. I know it sounds odd but working from home is boring,” says Ajay.
Bharat Gautam, a clinical psychologist at TPO Nepal, a psychosocial service organisation, says it is common for people to not enjoy working from home because usually working from home is associated with a crisis.
“Covid was one of the biggest crises that people of our generation had to face, so it [a lack of motivation while working from home] is natural. There was uncertainty all around with jobs and even life and that is sure to have an effect on people and their thinking,” says Gautam.
He says even though people tried to create an environment to work at home, they could not because they could not find the same ambience that they found at the office.
“It’s a matter of not having the motivation to work in this environment because you have so many distractions,” he says.
On the other hand, for banks and financial institutions, working from home is impossible, say both staff and management representatives. A share broker says that while things can be done from home, clients like to come in to discuss investments on a regular basis.
“We have no choice. I know at a time when there are issues with fuel, working from home would be effective, but sadly as we’re in a more personal sector, we can’t work from home,” says Prajwal Upreti from Arun Securities, a stockbroker firm.
But, people like Pokharel feel like Nepal missed out on setting a benchmark. He feels that most offices should have given an option of working from home to their staff.
“The pandemic showed that remote working is possible. Sure, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works and there should be an option because it saves time, money and energy. I’ve already started to look for a job that will allow me to work remotely,” he says.