Business Standard

Back to office, everyone

- AMBI PARAMESWAR­AN Ambi Parameswar­an is a brand coach and founder of; he can be reached at

“Not cutting down on hiring, but want to end WFH,” read the headline of an article quoting the MD of TCS (Business Standard, February 21, 2024). It left me wondering what was going on.

It seemed like yesterday when all IT majors were singing the praises of the #Workfromho­me practice. There were even reports that said many companies were planning on moving to #WFH permanentl­y. A few of us saw challenges along the way. I had penned a column in this paper pointing to the importance of ‘Employer Branding’ and how WFH might come in the way of building a corporate culture, an essential glue in the employer retention and branding of companies (Business Standard, October 12, 2022).

Let us be clear, none of us expected WFH to really work. As an adjunct faculty at a leading B School, I was blown away by the way the faculty and students adapted to the remote way of teaching and learning. In the corporate world too, especially in the ITES sector, WFH was a lifesaver. It saved jobs. It also saved companies. An admirable job was done by the IT majors to help their employees adapt to the new way of working. And it seemed to work. It seemed to work so well that many leaders were ready to pronounce the death of the office and end of highpriced commercial real estate.

And then all that changed.

We will not get into why the mood has shifted, and there may be many reasons. What I want to examine is the way we can all get caught in what Gartner calls the ‘Hype Cycle’. Gartner is a technologi­cal research and consulting firm based in the US. I came across this term while reading the book, Angel Investing, by Sanjay Kulkarni. While investing in startups, angel investors need to watch out for the Hype Cycle, says Kulkarni.

Any new idea goes through what is known as Diffusion of Innovation; the first set of consumers who adopt the idea are the innovators; then come the early adopters; then the early majority; then the late majority; and finally, the laggards. Many ideas don’t go beyond the innovators and early adopters. Geoffrey Moore spoke about the need for new ideas ‘Crossing the Chasm’: The idea has to attract the early majority; if it doesn’t, it will die an early death in the chasm between early adopters and early majority.

If a technologi­cal idea is hot, Gartner’s research says it can get caught in a Hype Cycle. The first stage is the Innovation Trigger: The new idea gets a proof-of-concept story and becomes the darling of media and investors.

Often the idea is yet to prove its financial viability. Then comes the Peak of Inflated Expectatio­ns: The idea has several success stories that get glorious reviews; the failures don’t get much exposure, and many companies rush in to adopt the new idea. Then comes the rude awakening, or the Trough of Disillusio­nment: Interest starts waning, bad news gets written about, investment dries up or stops, a few survivors struggle to find a stable ground to move on. Then comes Slope of Enlightenm­ent: Companies figure out how the technology can be of help to them, second- and third-generation products come in, companies start funding pilots, and new hope or green shoots are noticed. Finally comes the Plateau of Productivi­ty: The new idea gains acceptance, broad market applicabil­ity gets establishe­d and a new phase of growth starts.

While Gartner’s Hype Cycle was created for tech products and ideas, I think it is equally applicable to any new concept. Ideas like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), cloud computing, and several other innovation­s went through the Hype Cycle. Currently, Gen AI is possibly going through the same circle. Coming to WFH, friends from the US and Europe tell me that it is nothing new. My good friend Rajendran Pillai has been a WFH veteran for over a decade. But his job could be done remotely sitting in Minneapoli­s while his company was headquarte­red in the East Coast of the US. And he was a senior executive who did not need constant supervisio­n.

I don’t think WFH will vanish. We will see WFH emerge from the Trough of Disillusio­nment to the Slope of Enlightenm­ent this year. Companies will figure out how they can continue with WFH in a way that it does not affect supervisio­n and mentoring. WFH practices will get tweaked to ensure that it aids in the creation of an engaging corporate culture and a much in demand employer brand. Hybrid models will emerge. The hype will be over. The real work, or as they say, Plateau of Productivi­ty, will emerge.

We will not get into why the mood has shifted, and there may be many reasons. What I want to examine is the way we can all get caught in what Gartner calls the ‘Hype Cycle’

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