20 Jan 2021 18:44 IST

Setting the case for remote work and gig jobs

Organisations can eliminate real estate costs and hire globally, while workers get geographic flexibility

Most Indian companies cannot fathom what it would be like to work completely remote. They probably wouldn’t even consider having a weekly one-day work-from-home policy. In their mind, the only way to work productively is within cubicles, face-to-face.

To be fair, they do have fair concerns: What about the weekly update meetings in the conference room? What about the chai break? What about the whiteboards and all the post-its? What about commitment and diligence? It needed the pandemic to show companies the possibility of working from home. Once Covid-19 hit, the typicality of life fell apart. You had no option but to make your small study area a little brighter, maybe add some plants and books, learn to dress up with a strange concoction of formal and lounge-wear, and maybe even stay up super late to make that call with a colleague who had to go to the States to be with family.

Many feel that this is the future. While it may take longer for Indian companies to reach there, the journey towards a flexible way of working has definitely begun. The acceptance of WFH as a way of work means that companies will also be more open to gig workers. Surveys have shown that millennials and Gen Z prefer gig work though the lack of stability and uncertain pay holds them back. With companies becoming more open to contractual assignments, these challenges could be overcome.

For millennials and GenZ this really is what work is going to look like as technology further advances and most things become accessible online. Here’s why we’re (kind of) rooting for it:

Hiring globally

Tapping into global talent is a considerable plus point, especially for younger companies for whom talent and skill are a top priority. Plus, the additional layer of diversity is always welcomed. The boom of SaaS companies makes such collaborations easier than ever before, with automated calendars (Calendly), workspaces that are built to make team communication effective (Slack), collaborative design boards (Figma). There even exists an online whiteboard for distributed teams (Miro) that allows you to use post-its, albeit virtually.

Lesser costs

Since March 2020, I have personally saved about 10 per cent of my income by not travelling to and fro from work. More importantly, I have saved a lot of time, and many road-rage filled mornings that aren’t good for anyone. On the company’s side, it reduces real estate costs, upkeep of the office space, meals and other perks. That same money has been used by several companies as bonuses, upskilling rewards, holiday budgets — all things that make employees a lot happier, and are still not as expensive as having an office.

Flexibility

For millennials and GenZ, this point is probably the most inviting and exciting. The freedom that comes with scheduling your day as you like is rewarding in its own way. Of course, it takes more effort to build a routine in the first place, but once you reach the sweet spot it can really change your day-to-day experience of work and life. Knowing that you have the option to go out for a run, or watch a TV show in between meetings, or play with your dog, or cook up a meal, can make your work hours a lot more focused and enjoyable. And of course, you could be in Chiang Mai, Thailand, sitting by a waterfall, getting all your tasks done, and no one would say a word.

Research across the board suggests that we are moving to a place where remote work is a lot more common, almost the front runner. While the shift in going all-out seems far for most Indian companies, newly emerging start-ups and SaaS companies are beginning to see its benefits and making subtle changes in their company structures. As GenZ and millennials, it may be time to train ourselves in living and working in a remote world.