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For women in India, flexi-time translates into productive work

Jul 19, 2013

In a fast globalising world - where geographical barriers have shrunk and people are spending most of their time in the online space - the focus is now on the quality of work being done and not on the employee’s physical presence, writes Azera Parveen Rahman.

Gone are the days when only in the event of an emergency could an employee get the ‘privilege’ of working from home, and that, too, for a limited period of time. In an era of high attrition rates, improved pay packages and better growth prospects, companies are increasingly opening themselves up to the idea of implementing flexi HR policies, particularly the work-from-home option. This positive approach has truly enabled women to make their mark in a highly competitive work space, even as they maintain a healthy work-life balance.

In a fast globalising world - where geographical barriers have shrunk and people are spending most of their time in the online space - the emphasis is now on the quality of work being done and not on the employee’s physical presence. In fact, when and how long employees take to achieve their given targets has been left entirely to them — a move that is proving to be beneficial to both parties.

Roomani Bajaj, 27, convinced her employers to change their HR policy, and give her the option of work-from-home (WFH). While her office is in Gurgaon, Haryana, she is based in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, where her husband, who is in the defence forces, is posted.

Says Maneesh Madan, Director of Oodles Technology, where Bajaj is an employee, “When Roomani applied for a job with us, we were impressed with her profile. She had done some good work, and would have been a valuable resource person. However, because she was not living in Gurgaon, she said she would not be able to join. But we didn’t want to let her go and that’s why we offered her the WFH option.”

At the time of taking up the job, Bajaj was based in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, having just got married. It has been nearly three years now, and she has moved from down south to up north, but the move has not affected her work as a technical architect.

“Given the kind of life I lead, re-location happens every three to four years, and sometimes to remote areas. I don’t want to stay away from my husband and shift to a metro for a job, nor do I want to leave my work...the WFH option is, therefore, a boon,” remarks Bajaj.

Apart from the obvious work-life balance such an arrangement offers, Bajaj believes that it helps increase productivity as well. This factor has also come focus ever since Yahoo rolled back its WFH option recently. Adds Bajaj, “I clock in as many hours as a normal office-goer, with an hour’s break for lunch. When required, I work till 8-9 pm, which I probably couldn’t have done had I been a regular office-goer because of safety and commuting issues. In addition, I save all the time, otherwise spent on commuting, on work.”

The WFH option is open to both female and male employees at Oodles Technology, Madan informs, adding that he cannot even think of rolling the benefit back. “Today, technology has enabled us to work together without actually sitting next to each other. One can have a video conference with a client or manage teams through the phone and over emails,” he says.

At Oodles Technology, it is believed that “when you increase the comfort level of your team, they are more productive, and the efficiency increases”. Even the head of the human resource department in the company works out of home.

Of course, such flexi-options are feasible when the work requires minimum face-to-face interactions. Observes Rashmi Pillai, who is employed with a Delhi-based consultancy firm, “Only in those sectors where there is minimum personal interaction - like in some departments of the Information Technology (IT) sector, or in copyediting - does WFH work. And even then, one does work closely with a supervisor on a set of deliverables.”

Most IT giants, including Microsoft, Dell and IBM, offer the WFH option to their employees. According to an official at Microsoft India, a better work-life balance is a cause for retention, and is also “an attractive aspect for potential employees”.

Medha Gupta works for Dell today. She had to leave her last job because the project she was involved in required a lot of personal interaction with clients and, therefore, WFH was not feasible. Mother to a 10-month-old baby, her current work profile, however, gives her the flexibility to stay at home and raise her child without having to give up on her career.

Says she, “These days, it is a task-based work policy instead of a time-based one. I have to work towards a set of deliverables by the end of the week, or month. Whether I work in the morning or at night, work one full day and not as much the next is entirely dependent on me. That kind of flexibility has made life much easier and increased productivity.”

Gupta, who is based in Noida, adds that in her line of work, geographical location doesn’t matter much, “My manager is in the US, the data architect is in Ireland, while I am here! We make weekly calls, and coordinate our work through emails.”

For Hyderabad resident Suraiya Khan, the option to work out of home after she delivered her child and, later, childcare facilities at her workplace, were a big boon. Says Khan, “I come from a joint family, where raising a child was not just the parents’ prerogative but also the grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’. But it’s a different scenario these days. We [she and her husband] don’t stay with our parents, and leaving our child behind with the domestic help in order to go to work was out of the question. This is why the child care facilities at my office have been such a blessing.”

Khan brings her baby to work and leaves her at the in-house crèche with her baby-sitter/nanny while she attends to her official business. “I come in during intervals to feed her and spend some time with her. Had she been at home, I would have been constantly worried. Here I have peace of mind and can focus on my work. In fact, I am so indebted to my company that I don’t think I will ever leave it!” she laughs.

Bajaj agrees with Khan, “It’s true that flexible HR policies help in retention. I had got a couple of good offers, but I am indebted to my company for giving me so much flexibility, that I decided to junk them. Finally, it is work-life balance that everyone seeks.”


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