Yesterday, one of my friend, who has been working at a Corporate Office for the past three years shared a very interesting information with me. She is very close to fulfil her dream of having a wardrobe with adequate number of Fancy Dresses!! Presumably, my immediate reaction was a big ‘Wao’ and I simply attributed to the good salary package that she gets from her job. Surprisingly, my friend said something else, that actually made me think back afresh and look at the reality from a different perspective, perhaps from the eyes of a youth, the category I myself belong to!
The fact that I learned from my friend is that, the newly introduced ‘Work from Home’ (WFH now onwards as we call it normally) system is the reason behind her dream wardrobe with more number of fancy dresses! As she narrated, now she doesn’t need to attend office regularly as it was before the pandemic, this means, she doesn’t require formal dresses every day and so, she can spend the same amount of money or even less to purchase fancy dresses. She’s very happy with this and she believes that this situation of fulfilling unmet desires made her happier and dedicated towards her work.
While writing this, I am a little apprehensive about the reactions from the ‘wise people’ around me! I really don’t know whether we can call it a positive effect or not, once the stereotypical norms are coming in place. Can we really make it a point that my friend, who spends her 60 percent of salary to run her family should feel happy with her fancy dresses and can we (please read the young professionals) claim it as a benefit of WFH norms? There are so many ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ imposed on us regarding the way we look at life. We very frequently come across several reasons for being self- centered and less concerned about others.
We grow up with a common statement that thinking about our own pleasure and happiness is something that makes us inferior to our previous generations. Innumerable times I heard that women earlier were very sensitive to the needs of family and they kept aside their own feelings and pleasures. For that matter, my 10 years’ elder sister is also better than me, because I crave for my own pleasure of wearing good dresses, expensive make up and unnecessary expensive gadgets such as mobile phone, branded earphones etc.
I always had the question that I could ask for sure that, what is for ME in the whole life? I am supposed to study properly to get good marks, manage a good job, spend the whole day to travel to my workplace, wearing a decent dress that might not be of my choice. And after all, I would have to bear the pain of hearing the comments from my colleagues that I spend more time on my attire and that causes ‘Late’ to reach office. I saw my female colleagues trying hard to maintain a balance between family and job, while I heard somebody in the senior management to opine that it’s always less productive to hire female staff. Being a young woman at workplace, I am the softest target for all these comments, in spite of me being a good performer.
For now, let’s keep the question of productivity in job, we really need to change our mindset. As women take equal responsibility of earning and managing the family, why can’t a man be bold enough that they also have the same feeling and then express their judgmental comments about a woman at workplace? If I consider it my responsibility to make arrangements for the whole day for my ailing mother at home and then start for work, how come my brother considers it his generosity to of asking a few question about our mother’s health before leaving for job?
I strongly support the new rule by the government of India to legalize the practice of WFH by the employees in the special economic zone, for one year initially. Yes, the rule has come as a continuation of the preventive measure to combat the pandemic, but it opens up a new world for us, the women to negotiate for their rights at workplace as well as at home. In case there are two earning members in a family, why can’t they attend their office on an alternative manner and the responsibility of managing family- work will be divided. Pandemic has prepared our men folks to do some household chores, mostly restricted to some activities like washing dishes or cleaning the table after food, it’s time for them to start practicing sharing the responsibility of managing family- level activities and more specifically those activities that are very much suitable for women, like cooking, helping kids to do their studies etc.
Rule 43 (A) introduced by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry allows employees in the special economic zone to avail of the work-from-home model for a period of one year, which can be extended by the Development Commissioner. This is definitely something more serious than the happiness my friend got after purchasing the Fancy Dresses, but it’s time to relook at the entire context. Let’s not restrict ourselves into some stereotypical thought about fixing ‘Dos’ and Don’ts’ for us. It’s time to look at ourselves.
Yes, I agree that my points do not qualify for being a ‘Wise’ way of explaining the latest policy change around ‘Women’s right at workplace’ as this change does not cover those huge number of women who actually remain outside the purview of it. But, to me, this is not only a scope for everybody in the society to reassert the role played by women in the entire spectrum of life and livelihoods. WFH does not only help women to save time of travelling and anxiety of managing the day at home from office. It also opens up the possibilities of allowing them to manage their lives in their own terms.
So, give it a try guys, and remember, the world can become a good place to live only when we all acknowledge and respect the struggle and contribution of everybody who makes it a life!
Preeti Roy is the Youth Coordinator and Lead Content Developer at Markzin Business Services.
For further communication please write to Preeti at firstname.lastname@example.org