Remote Work in India: A New Normal?

Until recently, India lagged behind many other countries in supporting a remote work culture. But if recent studies are any indicator, it appears those times are changing.

More than half of Indian workers (53%) polled in a recent study said they prefer telecommuting. The same study found that the vast majority of workers (61%) are seeking a better work-life balance with less stress – stress that comes in part from a long and crowded commute and time away from family.

Another recent study by global research company IPSOS found that 57 percent of Indian employees telecommute on a frequent basis and nearly one-third work remotely every day.

For Indian businesses, escalating costs of space are causing them to more readily consider those remote work arrangements. Even so, employing remote workers is still a relatively new concept not fully embraced by mainstream Indian society or employers. “However, the trend is slowly and surely changing with young professionals choosing to work from home, especially in crowded and dense cities like Mumbai,” according to the All Things Talent blog.

Fueling that mind shift in part is competition among talent mobility professionals to recruit the best of India’s burgeoning young workforce. “India is one of the very few countries which has the younger workforce with every month a million kids getting added to India’s workforce and potentially to the world’s workforce,” said Indian Staffing Federation president Rituparna Chakraborty.

Related: India’s Dispersed Workers Mean Large Talent Pool for Mobility Hires

Creating a More Mobile & Remote Workforce

India’s businesses are recognizing millennials’ desire for flexible work arrangements, and increasingly are adopting them as a carrot to attract the best talent. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in India’s red-hot co-working space growth. Co-working space in prime Indian markets has notched a three-fold growth over 2017, with co-working firms leasing 19 lakh sq.ft. in the first six months of 2018 versus 6.4 lakh sq.ft in the same period last year.

In addition, India has made great strides in improving its connectivity beyond the major cities. Until recently, remote workers could expect wide variations in connectivity quality across the country. Per Shivani Baghel, the editor at myHQSpace:

“India is a vast, multidimensional and diverse country. This diversity is found not only in the culture and language, but also in terms of living standards. What you might get in a city like New Delhi or Mumbai can be a huge contrast to what you’ll get in Dharamshala or towns of Kerala.”

For hard-crunching work that requires fast WiFi, the urban cores still offer the best options with 5G and easily accessible hot spots at hotels, coffee shops and co-working spaces.

Related: Inclusiveness & Protectionism: A Time to Pause & Rethink for India's IT Sector

But, Baghel notes, “if you plan to take a spiritual retreat in Dharamkot or Tosh and expect to schedule a Skype call with your client later in the evening, I’m sorry, but that will not be possible.”  

That too is changing. In just the past year or so, an affordable 4G network has been extended far beyond the cosmopolitan cities, “so that everyone, even in remote rural areas, has access to the internet and thereby to a wealth of information.”

As the remote work culture grows in India, so has the online community supporting it. Numerous social networks serve as a great source of information on everything from places to live and favorite work cafes to the best ways to get around the country. Indian bloggers like BruisedPassport’s Savi and Vid offer personal insights. And increasingly, co-working spaces and groups, like Remote Explorers, are cropping up in India to help connect remote workers and support the remote work lifestyle.

With India’s rapidly growing economy, young and tech-savvy population, infrastructure expansion and pool of innovative businesses, the country is indeed ripe to be one of the world’s next great hubs for remote work.

Want to learn more about mobility's impact and India's remote working capabilities? Join us for India Global Mobility Summit 2018, complete with a full day of programming that will focus on global mobility, HR, expatriate support, immigration, international taxation and compliance, equipping you with new knowledge and business connections. Don't miss out – register today!

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