Reva (name changed on request), a marketing professional working for an online lending start-up put in her papers immediately after the firm’s co-founder instructed all employees to report to office in April this year. Reva, the sole earning member of her family, lives in Pune, but her office is headquartered in Mumbai.
While working from home, Reva was able to save 30% more a month and invest in mutual funds and other tax-saving instruments, compared to pre-pandemic times.
Reva is not the only one to have decided to call it quits when asked to report back to office with declining Covid-19 cases and return to normalcy. Scores like her are resisting such moves, so much so that getting employees back to office has become a challenge for new-tech or start-up firms.
According to data from job portal Indeed, only 18% of start-ups prefer hybrid work roles that offer flexible work-from-home and work-from-office options. Among MNCs, around 30% prefer hybrid work.
A survey by Indeed found that with the successful rollout of vaccines and reduction in Covid-19 cases, most employers (77%) plan on having their employees working from the office. In contrast, only 48% of employees and job seekers preferred working from the office while 31% favoured remote or hybrid work. A majority of employers in e-commerce (95%) preferred to have their staff working from the office, while 37% of employers in the information technology sector planned on having their employees work remotely.
“More than five employees, including myself and few senior-level employees and VPs, immediately handed in their resignations in backlash to the CEO’s mandate to work-from-office policy. No employee was given room to even negotiate a few days of WFH (work from home), and many employees protested this move, but the CEO kept his foot down,” Reva said.
On May 12, an estimated 750 full-time employees at coding start-up WhiteHat Jr, acquired and operated by Byju’s, resigned after the company asked them to relocate and return to their respective offices within a month’s time. The employees were working in the sales, coding and maths teams.
Employees revolting against companies for return-to-work policies is a global phenomenon, including at large consumer tech firms like Apple. Recent news reports indicated that several Apple employees, including machine learning head Ian Goodfellow, quit due to the return-to-work policy. “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow told online publication TheVerge in a May 9 report.
Sushant Dwivedy, managing director (India) for SHL, a staffing and HR management firm, told FE employees have been recalibrating their definitions of work and most are no longer shifting jobs just for career advancement and salary increments, but for better work and life balance.
“Our own internal data after the pandemic shows that employees are demotivated due to excessive work hours or excessive workload. More employees are seen leaving companies for hybrid and WFH options, even if it means compromising on salary, or compromising on own career growth in the short term for a better quality of life,” Dwivedy said.
Sashi Kumar, head of sales, Indeed India, said there has been an overall uptick in employees searching for jobs with remote and hybrid work options on the Indeed portal in 2021 and 2022. Data from the platform found an increase of 7.2% in job seekers who prefer remote work policies in April 2022 as compared to January 2020.
Permanent remote work and hybrid work options are popular among job seekers, especially women. About 22% of all male candidates seem to strongly prefer remote work, while over 60% of all female jobseekers prefer the WFH option, Kumar said.
HR departments of start-ups and large IT firms have developed new strategies to quell the number of employees working from home by offering differentially rated remuneration. Reva, for instance, said an insuretech start-up quoted her a higher salary for a permanent work-from-office role. But the same firm offered a 10% lower CTC for a permanent WFH option.
Dwivedy said such remuneration policies have been enacted in several countries, especially in the US market, and still remain a topic of discussion among HR leaders.
“The future of worker’s compensation is particularly getting decided basis the work location and there is no uniform bracket a company would maintain across all employee levels for the same job,” he added.
Going forward flexibility of work will be the key negotiation factor for compensation, especially for employees looking to work for high growth start-ups. With a rise in demand for remote jobs, and with geographical boundaries blurring, employers will be faced with tough hiring choices as their companies go into expansion mode.