Soundhariya Viswanathan / Reading Time: 6 mins
Welcome to Founders Unbound, a podcast where we get the inside scoop from entrepreneurs! Today, we're in conversation with Bhagyashree, India's very first remote work consultant!
As someone who entered the remote work lifestyle early on, Bhagyashree has an in-depth idea of what makes remote working unique. Talking about remote work and how 2020 pushed everyone off the deep end, she shares that 'The method wasn't great. Everyone was suddenly thrown in, making physical and mental stress a part of it, along with being cramped up at home.'
Reflecting on her journey, she shares that early on, there were numerous questions regarding her new work approach and often dealt with people making assumptions such as working from home equalled spending time on Facebook and Twitter.
"The reality is that remote working is a strategic and sustainable approach that occurs after assessing employees in the workspace, monitoring them and changing operations and planning strategic moves' she shares."
While 2020 has accelerated the idea of working remotely, it has not been the ideal transition or a transition that shows us the reality of what working remotely could mean!
Bhagyashree started All Remotely, a consultancy that helps companies transition to remote working. When asked about how she came up with her entrepreneurial idea, she explains that the story goes back to when she was in maternity leave. A quick survey found that Indian companies did not offer opportunities to work remotely, something she had hoped to do as the mother of a baby girl.
She muses 'It began as a Facebook group. Many thought IT opportunities were limited to IT and programming, yet it grew in leaps and bounds, gaining 500-600 people a month. Everyone wanted to know how to find remote working jobs.'
While the start was small, Bhagyashree was soon approached by companies looking for advice and assistance to go remote. With a background in operations, the opportunity was perfect for her! And hence, All Remotely was born!
All Remotely was recently acquired and is working to aid more companies transition to remote working by providing assessments. They recently built the worlds only psychometric test to assess remote working abilities and are presently waiting on a utility patent. When asked what the most common finding was, she shares….
"In my 9yrs, I've found that many people lack the equipment, environment or mindset to make this transition."
While remote working has existed for over a decade, it is not as predominant in India as compared to the rest developed world. When asked to shed light on the remote working culture in India, Bhagyashree explains that there is no data on the number of remote workers in India, but at least 7 full-time remote companies exist, and GoFloaters is one of them.
She explains that some companies made the transition, but many others were started with this model in mind. AirMeet is one of the fastest-growing organizations with remote teams from around the globe! Purple Rain, Accelerant, Spring works, and IBC media are some organizations that made the transition to remote work just before Covid-19, alongside many others.
A crucial part of employment is the laws that govern them. When asked how laws affect remote working, Bhagyashree – who is also a lawyer by profession – shares that…
"India has never formally recognized the power of remote work"
While many Indian states have begun to embrace the concept to attract workers, there are no laws created specifically for remote working.
India is a signatory of the ILO, which has guidelines on remote working and returning to work in the post-covid era. But, none of this has been listed in the Indian penal code yet.
The most crucial thing that many people are unaware of is that employers are often misclassified as employees, which leaves one liable to penalties for tax evasion. Another missing link is that most employees don't know that it is illegal for employers to mandate employee monitoring software, as it is an invasion of their privacy. Further, there's little to no information on where our data is being stored and used. Numerous cases of phishing and cyberattacks have led to personal information and private images being leaked to unfavourable websites.
"most employees don't know that it is illegal for employers to mandate employee monitoring software."
When asked to shed some light on 3 major issues concerning remote employment in India, Bhagyashree explains that _ employee tracking _ presents the largest hurdle. In India, most employee work tracking methods don't meet GDPR and HEBA standards of compliance.
"Our privacy is of the utmost importance and data is next to gold!"
**Misclassification ** presents the next issue. Bhagyashree shares that it is very peculiar how employees who worked on global teams were unbothered about employment misclassification. Many claimed that their compensation was enough to cover pension and insurance as they earned in US$.
Finally, she shares that there still exists a misconception as to which fields can adapt to this new form of employment.
"Remote work is beyond programming."
Management plays a large role in companies, so we asked Bhagyashree to shed light on her thoughts of managers in India and how the roles were carried out. She pointed out quickly that micromanagement of productivity was the biggest hurdle.
She shares that,
"There are no set processes so everyone has their way of working. Please have trust in your team. Skip daily stand-up calls. Set KPI's and OKR's. Speak to employees and opt for performance-based feedback, alongside metrics and outcomes rather than the hours spent."
To help with working from home, we also got two insider tips to improve our productivity while working from home.
Don't forget to take our commute, even while working at home!
Bhagyashree explains that the commute time is an opportunity to disconnect from home life and switch focus in the mornings, and vice versa at the end of a workday!
She also suggests people follow the 20-10 rule where you spend 20 minutes before a screen and then take 10 minutes to do non-screen activities like taking a walk, checking up on your children etc. The key is to stop looking at screens and blue light.
What can we expect in years to come? Well, Bhagyashree explains that she has always been focused on emerging countries, and wants to help tackle the unique issues we face when compared to developing nations that have adapted to the remote working lifestyle much earlier.
She notes that 'For emerging countries, our homes are challenging both culturally and infrastructure wise. We have unstable internet and face summer power cuts across the subcontinent. There are always lots of people around and many of us might not even have our own rooms let alone an office space to work from.'
While the belief remains that remote work may empower rural regions, the reality is that most people want to move to cities to improve their quality of life. Based on a survey she recently conducted, we learnt that 46% of interviewees said they would still move to a city despite the option to work remotely.
"Looking to the future, a hybrid work model seems to be the most likely route."
3 Challenges of remote work
3 Unaddressed issues in India
3 Advantages of remote work
3 Remote jobs in demand
The biggest change needed in work-life