The work from home culture has worked well and many companies will continue with the system even after the coronavirus pandemic ends, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said on Wednesday. Various parts of the world have been under strict lockdowns following the Covid-19 outbreak, forcing organisations to let their employees work from home.
"It is amazing to see how well the work from home (WFH) culture has worked and I hope will continue even after the pandemic is over," Gates told an online business summit organised by financial daily The Economic Times.
"But once this pandemic ends, we will rethink on what percentage of time we spend in offices... 20, 30, 50 per cent. Lots of companies will expect their employees to spend well below 50 per cent of their time in offices and maybe the rest of the companies will go the normal way," he added.
Gates, who co-founded Microsoft and also the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said he has not travelled for work this whole year. "Honestly I have got time to do much more. It's been.. eye-opening for me," he said. However, the world's biggest philanthropist said WFH has not been as engaging, for which software has to improve a lot.
Software engineering has surprisingly worked well but when kids are home, homes are small and there are chores, it is difficult to work. For women, they have too many things to handle so WFH comes with its own drawbacks, he pointed out.
On his outlook on the end of the pandemic, Gates said "the message from me and others resulted in very little... Even the US, from which you would expect to have the best response with the great scientific research, did a very poor job in getting ready with this and now we are faced with incredible damage."
"Hopefully we will learn our lessons and be better ready next time but in the meanwhile, we have so much work to be done," he emphasised. Stating that China did not do a perfect job in getting the data out initially about the virus, he said this led to wasting time.
On whether the strict two-month lockdown has worked in India, he said the country did some "incredible things" like use of digital infrastructure to transfer money to households in need. But the challenge for India is its population, he said, adding a lot of people live in slums and dense areas and they cannot be asked to maintain social distancing. Besides, many people have jobs where remote working is not possible, he said.
"India was always going to face much bigger problems compared to Europe and the US. We hope as we get into fall, things don't get worse although the cold temperature is not good for containing the virus. "Right now some great things are happening, the Premjis, Primals, the Tatas etc are stepping up efforts to minimise the damage," Gates added.