When 45-year-old Dipali Chopra was caught between the dreary life of the corporate world, earning money to support the family and taking care of family members, she turned to the internet to find opportunities to work-from-home. She stumbled upon a job at MakeMyTrip’s holiday expert program on a job search portal. After an interview and a brief stint of training; she was working on designing holiday itineraries. Having previously worked for a corporate training company, she did not want to return to office life. “The idea of going to the office and sitting the whole day is not something I enjoy,” she says. On the flipside, she wanted to stay busy and earn money. Like Dipali, there are about 700 other employees (mostly women) across India who work-from-home for MakeMyTrip’s holiday expert program. There has been a tremendous interest among Indian employees to work remotely; a survey by Randstad India puts the number at 1 out of every two individuals.
63% of employees believed that the 8-hour workday will be obsolete and 68% said that work will be done remotely, instead of the traditional office space - PwC Study
According to a recent PwC Study on the future of work and workplace, 63 percent of employees believed that the 8-hour workday will be obsolete and 68 percent said that work will be done remotely, instead of the traditional office space. And of late, there has been a trend that has been observed among the Indian employees that signal their preference towards working remotely. To understand how employers are tackling this change, we spoke to representatives of three companies - Sheroes, MakeMyTrip, and Bajaj Capital, each of whom is at different stages of enabling remote work.
Over the years, with the growth of a variety of technology and social media tools, there has been a qualitative shift in technology-enabled integration. This has led organizations to tap into talent pools outside their city. It has also enabled companies to save costs related to infrastructure, travel, and allied expenditure.
The fundamental challenge is to unlearn what we have learned – Sairee Chahal, Sheroes
One of the top reasons why companies we spoke to explored remote work is to retain their top talent. It made business sense since all of them had to deal with a significant loss each time a top performer left the company. For Sheroes, a company that runs a job portal for women and has almost 50 percent of its work done by remote employees, the need was a philosophical one too. “If we wanted to connect every woman with her career then remote work was a key differentiator” states Sairee Chahal, the Founder and CEO of Sheroes said.
“Freshers, right out of college are difficult to work with since most of them haven’t seen a workplace,” said Sairee, “So they require a lot of training” she adds. For Bajaj Capital, it is this gap that has led them to start a remote ‘pre-work experience’ program called “Webpreneurs” which aims to get college students in the final year to engage in activities related to business development. The company has also successfully implemented a pilot program to enable its top performers to continue working with them. It plans to institutionalize and expand the program in the upcoming months.
There are a few similarities in the talent profiles that companies have access to. Most employees working remotely are women, middle-aged and have had the opportunity to work in a conventional office set-up. The key reason that this is the largest pool is related to the fact that women are more prone to leaving their jobs due to household responsibilities, marriage, child care or attaining better work-life balance. Binaifer Khanna, Senior Vice President – Human Resources, Eureka Forbes Limited points out that the growing opportunities in remote work are empowering women and also making them economically independent. Most jobs relate to Sales, Business Development, HR and Administration, Design and Content Writing. Apart from the above cohort, companies also have access to differently-abled talent along with talent that is niche and high skilled.
While at Sheroes, employees who work remotely contribute to at least 50 percent of the company’s work and they play an instrumental role in different functions of the company, at Bajaj Capital, opportunities are centered on the company’s tele investment services. “The business model was such that the women would be entrepreneurs for the company, and they could earn anywhere between 40 -50 percent of the revenue that they generate for the company,” says Sunaina Khanna, Chief Human Resource Officer at Bajaj Capital. At MakeMyTrip, jobs are focused on a seasonal demand for holiday experts, and the company manages anywhere between 700 to 1000 employees at any given time.
Most employees come through referrals, job boards, and company websites. “We don’t expect anyone to deliver anything in the first fifteen days,” says Sairee “We just want them to know us better, know the people, their job and get comfortable”. At MakeMyTrip, there is an offline week-long induction program, which is followed by mock calling sessions and on-the-job training, before the employees take live calls.
Motivation is a concern for most employers. But for their remote working employees, it assumes top priority. “Remote work is manager-less, it is result oriented and it’s not institutionalized, so it is the opposite of a traditional approach to work,” says Sairee. Sunaina believes that employees need to be “entrepreneurial” in their drive to manage work. Sushil Verma, the Vice-President, Alternate Channels at MakeMyTrip notes that the long-term success of remote work requires the “discipline and passion on the employee’s part”. And so the company engages employees in a variety of ways, right from encouraging hobbies such as chocolate making, celebrating career milestones and birthdays and providing special benefits or discounts.
Role of culture
From an employer’s standpoint, apart from re-thinking management behavior and business design, companies must pay attention to the cultural shift to make ‘remote work’ work. Apart from doing away with hierarchies, there is a need to create an environment where people communicate and collaborate with ease. “The fundamental challenge is to unlearn what we have learned,” Sairee said
Providing adequate support is another necessity. When employees are unaware of the goals and aspirations of the company, they are unlikely to make a successful impact. MakeMyTrip employs a team of 60-70 full-time employees who manage and support the work of remote working employees. The company classifies its support into training and development, relationship management and technical spocs - who tackle all issues – right from client engagement to communications. Apart from work related support, another crucial support factor is the individual’s partner and family. Even as the number of organizations exploring remote work increases, there is a need for an ecosystem of support both from the individual’s end and the organizations.
Read about the experiences of the three companies below: