When is Work from Office Better?

Shreevar Chhotaria asked a great question on Twitter recently:

As an aside, and before we begin, he’s got a podcast with a very cool name. I haven’t listened to it, I should be clear, but can’t help but grin at the name. Now, back to business:

If I was in the corporate world, my vote would have been for working from home, 95% of the time. If my choice is to be between sitting at home in shorts and a t-shirt and working, or battling traffic in whichever city I happen to be in to reach work and attend offline meetings – well, it’s not a choice.

But if I were to talk as a professor about I and students being in the same place – well, this is also not a choice, but the answer is the opposite.

Maybe ten percent of your learning as a student takes place in a classroom while you’re in college. And if that estimate is to be wrong, it is because I’m being a little too optimistic. Learning happens in arguments, discussions, debates over endless cups of chai on kattas outside classrooms. It happens by walking into a professor’s office for a chat. It happens by working with your batchmates on projects, not all of which need be academic. It happens by working together on plays, annual events, quizzes and sports fests. It happens through the inevitable arguments, scuffles and fights that ensue.

Learning how to get along with other people in a semi-professional context is a great way to learn how to pretend to get along with people in a professional context. And that learning can never come by “logging on” to a classroom. The shared ennui that you experience in a classroom is no substitute for keeping a Google Meet tab open in the background.

Peer networking in all of its myriad forms is an indispensable part of the student’s experience, and the pandemic has taken at least two years of these experiences away from students. For all the students who still have time left in their degrees, it is imperative that we in academia encourage as much of on campus activity as possible.

Not doing so, in my opinion, is a moral crime.

And on that note, a warm welcome to the FYMSc students from GIPE! I’m in Delhi right now, but will be back in office on Monday. I’ll reiterate my offer: please, drop in to my office to say hello, and have a cup of (black, no sugar) coffee if you like!