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29th March 2017

Flexibility at Work is not Just About Freelancing & Part Time Jobs Any More

The need for flexibility at work is not just about freelancing, work from home and part time jobs. It extends to full time employees too. It’s about changing from the industrial age offices to modern office places where coming to work on a full or part time basis would be fun. Many employees would now need to come to office less often than they did earlier due to flexi days, flexi time, work from home and 3 days week at office and so on. This is saving a lot of time spent in traffic jams and releases a lot of time for work as well as for maintaining a work life balance. Offices too are increasingly become friendly places to work at. This trend is limited to certain sectors of the corporate world but it certainly is catching up fast as the corporate world is struggling hard to attract and retain the best talent.

The Facebook office, opened earlier this year, gives a good glimpse into the future. Natural light comes in from the top and huge windows give a sense of openness. With 1.5 billion monthly active users world wide, facebook needed to have an office that would look like a busy work place with minimum frills. Even Zuckerberg sits in an open space breaking the barriers of the feudal age symbols of power demonstrated through the corner room. Google’s headquarter has a massage room, aquarium and a slide for a smooth passage to the canteen.

Deloitte’s office in Amsterdam has one empty room on each floor where the employees can put in anything they want to. LinkedIn HQ has a music room with musical instruments. Some companies even allow pets to be brought to the office. In India, one can notice several sports companies allowing their employees to come in casual attire. My last visit to Infosys office in Bangalore surprised me with so many peaceful and serene natural spots within the office. When I went to meet Bharat Dabholkar, popularly known as the Amul Guy due to his humour based ads, few years back, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pet monkey, piranhas in an aquarium and parrots right inside the office. Ernst & Young in India allows 4 hours of office work schedule with the rest to be done from home. Many offices in India have open spaces where any employee can come and work from anywhere he or she likes. Concepts of shared work spaces are increasingly becoming common in India too.

Flexi offices, flexi timing, freedom to work from remote locations is what the employees are looking for and the board rooms across the country need to respond quickly to attract and retain the best talent. Technological advances of our times have created these possibilities like never before. Some 50% of the companies in US will have a mobile working policy and 70% of people will be working from remote locations by 2020, according to a forecast by Citrix, a renowned US software company.

India with 400 million users with internet access has the largest internet user base in the world after China so it’s not going to be laggard in this trend. With a population of over 356 million of 10-24 year-olds, India also has the world’s largest youth population mostof whom will find it difficult to imagine a time when there were no mobile phones and internet. These factors need to be acknowledged by the board rooms across the country before they lose a huge competitive advantage by not responding to something which is bound to change the way we work sooner than we may think. This will actually reduce the cost of acquisition of talent and help a lot in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Another factor forcing the board rooms to reconsider their policies is the cost of office infrastructure. By building flexibility in the job designs a significant portion of this cost can be reduced along with the advantages of a higher rate of retention and better productivity. Various research studies among the flexi work companies have already established this. The future offices will increasingly become places of collaboration, meetings and face to face interactions through get together for social touch. By having open office spaces and flexi use of the table spaces; there will be health advantages too. The offices with open spaces can have more daylight, open sky views and more space to walk around.

Businesses have to respond to changes in the life of their clients and from an HR perspective employees too have to be treated like customers. Their needs, wants and values are changing and the challenge is to manage these expectations in our cultural context. India is so vast that the flexi policies may need regional and local adaption depending on the culture of the place. The good part is that the work places in India have a large work force which is technology savvy so learning the technology based processes and systems for flexi work based collaboration and response in real time is not going to be a major challenge. The resistance can be more due to old habits which take time to change but then the benefits are so huge that the leadership can no longer ignore the need for building flexibility in the job descriptions as well as the work places.

LEADER'S VIEW

Dr Manan Chaturvedi

Founder of Fortune Architect

Vijay Rai

Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC

Ajay Bhatia

Respected HR Leader

Shampi Venkatesh

Founder, P-Quotient

Deepak Bharara

CHRO, LANCO INFRATECH LIMITED

Sugato Palit

Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers

Amarjit (Amar) Singh Dhull

Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International & CharityWorld.com

Rishi Srivastava

Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi

Mr. D.P. Singh

Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant

Runa Maitra

Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International

Mr. Dhyan Chauhan

Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies

Ashish Bajaj

COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon

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