May 2, 2014

Remote work - make it possible

This is a topic I'm so closely associated with and deeply passionate about.

To give you some context, I worked full time for 9 years before I took my maternity break for 2 years. I decided to come back to the industry early last year but I was sure that I would only opt for an opportunity that gives me the flexibility to work-from-home. I initially reached out to a few of my trusted contacts in product MNCs. Most of them replied that they want me to come on board full time. One of my acquaintances who runs a startup reached out to me around that time. After hearing about the kind of work option I was looking for, he said he will get back to me. I haven't heard from him after the first phone call.

I used to wonder - Why is remote working not a viable option in India? Why do hiring managers stop the process as soon as they get to know that the candidate is looking for a remote working model?

After a month or so, I stumbled upon an interesting startup focused in the health and wellness space. When I reached out to the founders of HealthifyMe, they were open about remote work. It was a memorable experience for around 10 months after which I decided to take up independent consulting.

Why did I choose to work-from-home?
I want to be there for my daughter when she needs me the most. At the same time, I also want to invest some time in areas of work that I'm passionate about, make a difference to myself and the organizations I work for.

I believe a new mother would feel comfortable to return to full time work if one of these 3 options are satisfied:
  1. She has a reliable support system at home, in the form of her mother or her mother-in-law
  2. She has hired a trustworthy nanny
  3. She has found a daycare she is happy with
In my situation, either these options didn't work out or I don't trust them completely.

Many mothers who decided to take a break would love to have flexible opportunities. They may not be able to return to a full time work-from-office kind of a role. But they would definitely have atleast 2-6 hours in a day which they would want to invest in shaping their careers.

Couple of my interactions with such mothers which I want to highlight to share more perspective:
Mom 1 - 10 years of experience in Quality and testing
"My times are unpredictable but I know I can easily get 3-4 hours of work done when my kids are in school"

Mom 2 - 9 years of experience in software development
"Which software job gets over by 6 PM? Even if I opt for day care, I need to pick up my daughter at around 6, after which I would like to spend the rest of the evening with her"

My sincere request to startups - please be more open and flexible. Think beyond the conventional hiring and working models. Don't be under the assumption that ONLY full time employees who are willing to spend 6 days a week in person can contribute to your success.

It's heartening to see initiatives like Sheroes which provides mentoring and facilitates a marketplace for flexible work options for women. Hoping to see more opportunities that are time and location independent.

Remote work options are not only relevant for mothers but for anyone in the industry who wants to allocate their time for other interests/hobbies and also to those who want to avoid long commute. It pains me so much to see productive time getting wasted in traffic every single day. If only remote work becomes a norm and not an exception, it would lead to less traffic on roads, less pollution, low stress levels and more time in the hands of people. 

What do we need to do to make this a reality? I will discuss some of my strategies in the next post.

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