Soundhariya Viswanathan / Reading Time: 4 mins
Mayur Sontakke, CEO of NomadGao is redefining the way professionals work. Digital nomads do not need to be cooped up in a pigeonhole but are free to work from destinations of their choice.
In 2014 Mayur resigned and decided to work remotely for an American start-up. "It aligned well with my personal goals. I never believed in doing a regular job in a crowded and polluted city," said Mayur. This was perfect for him since he could be in his hometown, and yet have a career of his choice.
Working from home did not work well for him for too long because of the many distractions. In 2015 he started the journey of a digital nomad. He traveled and worked from several places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. His productivity had improved, leading to a happy boss. In June 2016, he traveled and worked while exploring different countries in south-east Asia. Now, he was happier and led a fuller life.
Mayur decided to popularize remote working. He began organizing retreats for global digital nomads. People would get together and work from the retreat. Though it was working there were logistic problems. He decided to have a permanent place for the community. In 2019 he moved to Goa and set up NomadGao. Most of the people in the retreat were of foreign origin with only a handful of Indians.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. International flights got canceled, and newer visa restrictions were imposed. The community changed from being entirely foreigners to only Indians. Both freelancers, as well as teams, started coming to visit the retreats. Many had given up their older offices and used the retreat to drive team engagement.
Now, NomadGao hosts many different teams. Adjusting to the fact that one is not in a city or a glass building but close to nature requires recalibration. You wake up in the morning with the sounds of birds chirping, not an alarm.
Most people complete their work in lesser time without making any compromises. They offer a coworking space where teams can also live together. The setup offers a life away from the city.
We work 40 hours a week that is 25% of the 168 hours in a week. This 25% takes up a lot of time and makes you feel that nothing else is important. We also sleep 56 hours every week, but no one talks about it. The office has become the place to socialize, make friends, and also work. Mayur says, "It need not be this way. One can also socialize with someone who is doing something different. One can be friends with someone from another corner of the world."
Our phones and the clock drive us. NomadGao hopes to stop the office and work dictating lives. Now, rather than spending time endlessly in office, many are opting to go back home and be with their families.
The mindset shift is creating a different type of workforce. The incentives for remote workers are different. Some may be doing it to take care of sick parents or have a child to take care of. Others do it because they want to explore.
Today's leaders must train their managers to become good remote managers. People work from a remote location because they want flexibility. If this is taken away, people might leave. There are plenty of global opportunities and a shortage of talent. Mayur advises, "Do not micromanage remote teams. Know the motivation of the remote worker.
He says, "Companies worry about team engagement for remote workers. If there is alignment with the company's culture, metrics, goals, and reward systems, you don't have to worry. It is unnecessary."
India has in the past few years has seen a massive positive development in the infrastructure, much needed for remote work. 5G communication networks and faster internet have reached remote areas. However, India is lagging behind from a mindset perspective. Things are changing, and covid only added fuel to the fire. Mayur predicts that there will be millions of digital nomads in India in the next five years. It is also his mission to inspire young professionals to become digital nomads.
Mayur says, "We are conceptualizing an initiative called Program Panchayat. The program enables remote workers to pass on their skills to the local community, leading to social development."
Rather than work-life balance or work-life integration, the new theme should be, "balanced living". Companies that encourage people to live a balanced life are the ones that will stand out in the future, and be preferred employers.