Mondeep Dutta is a full-time employee in a well-known IT company in Bangalore. It's a weekday, and he is sitting in the comfort of his beanbag and typing away on the laptop. No, it's not his day off. He's working from home (WFH) - an option increasingly being offered by companies to their employees to better manage their work-life balance.
Gone are the days when WFH meant you are excused on medical grounds or for some emergency, or, if you are a woman, on maternity leave. WFH is now an accepted norm in many companies, especially in the IT sector, which believe that this promotes a good work-life balance and actually enhances productivity.
Dutta, for instance, says that working from home helps him focus better on his projects to meet deadlines, minus the distraction of any other work that may come his way but is not as urgent. It also means saving precious hours commuting in the maddening traffic every day.
"The WFH option works when it is not necessary to be physically present for a job. Now, while I work on servers and need to be present at the work site, Wednesday I had to complete automating something; so I just needed the applications on my laptop. Hence I could stay at home and do it," Dutta told IANS.
A critical point taken into account by a number of companies is that most working people complain of not having enough time to spend with their families. The WFH option offers them the opportunity to gain that much-needed work-life balance, and motivates them to put in their best effort at work in return.
"I was working full time in Gurgaon for a software company before getting married and shifting base to Agra. It was a sticky situation because I did not want to let go of my job, but had to move. So my office offered me the work-from-home option," said Rupanshi Sharma, a software consultant.
"It's been eight months now, and I clock in eight hours of work every day, logging in at 9 a.m. just like a full time employee. I also coordinate with my team online, or over the phone. I couldn't have asked for a better work-life balance," she added.
While employees are obviously happy, employers feel that in these times of high attrition rates, such an option helps in retention. Along with a good pay package and growth opportunity, employees these days are increasingly looking at work culture of a place before deciding on a job.
According to an official at Microsoft India - which offers the WFH option - a better work-life balance is a cause for retention and also "an attractive aspect for potential employees".
Other IT giants, like IBM and Dell, also offer this option to their employees.
The WFH culture picked up momentum only five-six years back, although IBM began this trend in India about 10 years ago. It's difficult to put a number on how many people work from home, because it is a floating population.
"The work from home option is not feasible for all sectors. Only those in which there is minimum personal interaction required, like in some departments of the IT sector, or in copyediting and telemarketing, does it work. And in even those, you work closely with a supervisor, on a set of deliverables," said Rashi Bajaj of a Delhi-based consultant firm.
On the flipside, Yahoo has recently decided to pull back its work-from-home option, saying face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture. Industry experts in India however said that the lack of flexibility will create problems, especially for the women employees.