The technology required for working remotely has existed for almost a decade before the pandemic. It was only during these times however, that people started getting used to the concept of working remotely. Today, senior management of a number of organisations believe that work from home is the new normal and that investment in technology for this purpose is essential.
Having a keen interest in technology, I have been following the newest emerging technologies very closely for the past two decades. Additionally, being into real estate and having worked in various business sectors before, I have gained a vast knowledge of human behaviour. Even as a former tea planter, a huge amount of experience was also gained when I had to ensure that a large number of people behaved in a certain desirable manner. Certainly, I believe that systems need to be revised. However, work from home may not survive as is being predicted today, simply because the environment is not fit for functioning and being creative.
For example, during the pandemic I too made an office at home and the problems I faced were innumerable. Every time a visitor would ring the bell, being at home I was expected to open the door. I would usually be engrossed in making reports and studying certain things to enhance my professional knowledge. I would be absorbing the knowledge or writing something and my mind would be completely concentrated on the task at hand. The ringing doorbell would often break my flow and rhythm making it a challenge to finish the work that I was meant to do that day.
Other times, my mother who is 83 years old would walk into the room and tell me that her phone is not switching on. She is the number one priority for me so I would always drop everything I was doing to give her all my attention. I would offer to take a look at her phone and it would turn out that she had merely turned down the brightness to zero. I would brighten her screen back to normal and it would make her feel extremely happy.
She walks with a walker so I would often tell her to give me a call. However she insists that this allows her to do a bit of walking within the house and I absolutely agree with her. It is better for her health that she keeps moving. This way she will live longer with me and that makes me happy.
Nonetheless her intrusion invariably leaves me, for a certain amount of time, clueless about what I was thinking or doing. It would take me at least 15-20 minutes to start focusing back on my task, hence lowering my efficiency.
On the other hand, while I am working the cleaning maid would require me to lift my legs because she wants to get her job done. This never happens in an office because the office would be cleaned, swept and vacuumed much before I came. Houses function differently.
If I ask for coffee in an office it is delivered in a few minutes but when I ask for a cup of coffee at home, I am requested to wait because something is cooking on the burner. There is a huge difference in the environment alone. I’m irritated because I want to have coffee but I can not get it. Therefore my creativity is hindered.
It was nice for a few weeks to be wearing pyjamas and working but quite soon lethargy started to set in and my working hours slowly decreased. I was becoming a sloth.
Dressing up, wearing a nice crisp shirt along with a well ironed trouser and shoes and a tie makes me feel fantastic. When I look out of the window from my office cabin, I feel like the lord of the city. I am not filled with the same emotion when I am working from home. Working from home will eventually lead to mental sickness. However, we continue to believe that it will be the new norm.
Pre-pandemic, we would all wake up and go to our designated workplaces. Through these regular practices, our work and productivity has directly started to respond to our physical surroundings and social forces. This is something we are deprived of while using virtual platforms. A proper workspace eliminates distractions and sharpens concentration. Therefore, work from home is unlikely to continue post pandemic.
Companies should instead look at the satellite office system.
A satellite office is similar to a branch office in the sense that it is a physical office that is in a different location from the company’s main office. Depending on the needs and goals of the business, satellite offices can be extremely beneficial specifically for the purposes of remote work. Owing to the technology that exists today, satellite offices can be very well connected to the main office despite the physical distances.
Rather than working from home in an unprofessional environment where one’s creativity might be compromised, employees can work in these remote satellite offices without having to move to metro cities where living costs are higher or having to commute long distances every day. This can be a beneficial arrangement for both parties as front line executives can stay in the city of their choice rather than having to move locations. On the other hand, companies would not need to pay them more to allow them to sustain a higher cost of living.
Ultimately, the salaries can be reasonably paid and if a young executive works remotely from the satellite office of his city, his efficiency is certainly going to be high.
To put this into perspective, consider a five day work-week where you would have the weekends off from work. Since during the week, you are working remotely in your company’s satellite office, over the weekend, you will be able to spend more time doing things you love rather than dealing with chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Moreover, at home, you will always have a warm home-cooked meal, love and affection.
We believe the direction people need to go in is not work from home but rather remote work. According to us, satellite offices are the way forward as technology has proven that teams can smoothly function from anywhere in the world.
Let us look at Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) as a case study. It has three satellite locations that are very well connected by road, air and railways. Now, corporate offices in Delhi need to move out of the NCR region. Certainly, there are exceptions to this. For example, offices that would require liasoning on a regular basis would need to have offices in Delhi NCR.
In most other situations, it would be more sensible to have satellite offices in locations such as Dehradun, Jaipur, Chandigarh, etc. Consider real estate for example. It would make more sense for a real estate developer anywhere in Haryana to have satellite offices in Chandigarh as the Chief Town Planner for Haryana operates in Chandigarh.
Further, the pollution levels of cities like Delhi have been rising and continue to rise far beyond bearable conditions posing a greater health risk. As seen recently as a result of the global pandemic, the Covid-19 virus was more prevalent where the population density per square kilometre was greater.
Of the three cities previously mentioned, Dehradun boasts of excellent weather all year round (an average temperature of about 19°C) being close to the hills. On the other hand, Chandigarh’s connectivity and its proximity to hills makes it an ideal location. The wonderful infrastructure coming up on PR7 (Proposed Road Number 7 also called the Airport Road) will allow the tricity to be even more connected by bringing Panchkula and Mohali closer. Further, PR7 will carry traffic all the way from Delhi to Manali, Shimla and even Jammu and Kashmir. It will play a pivotal role in changing the shape of the city.
Along with commercial projects numbering to eighteen, a beautiful infrastructure is coming up which can be compared to the Northern Periphery road and Southern Periphery road of Gurgaon now called Gurugram when compared to the potential of growth.
Out of these eighteen projects, some projects are likely to outperform the others purely because of the vision of the developer and the brilliance of planning.
One can easily be lost in this maze. We as real estate brokers have worked in Gurugram and due to the pandemic, for the last two years, we have been working locally in Chandigarh. We know both the cities very well. Right from selling Unitech to Vatika and some other properties, we think it is time now for Chandigarh to shine and it will.