With home having the same digital environment as office, many find it a convenient option

When did “I work from home” become a trendy boast? When laptops, desktops, Blackberry hand-helds and a broadband connection became tools of the trade, when employees got hired for a “distance team” on a project, when corporate faith in technology made company geography irrelevant. “It's a virtual business model,” said Deepa Soman, Lumiere Solutions, “with a strong tech backbone of hardware, software and web-enabledware. It holds together the web, business design, work teams and client-prospect interfaces.”

Simply, it's seamless communication using webex and doorsabha technology for remote-working, pooled analysis and real time ppt preparation, she said. Online web streaming of group discussions makes virtual work smarter. “Today, our team members work out of home from all major Indian cities and New York.” Anantara Solutions, in SGO (Second Generation Outsourcing), runs on a model that “advocates not just working from home, but working from anywhere,” informs its Founder-CEO GB Prabhat". “A substantial amount of work (20-30%) is done outside of office, including from home,” he said.

A question on the web, “Hi, I am a software developer. I married, quit job. Need home-based work in IT/ITES, what are my chances?” returns a downpour of website URLs screaming “We are hiring!” Data entry tops “Jobs on offer” followed by transcription, medical billing/coding, database building, online survey, ad clicking, writing, teaching, content-developing, reviewing/proof-reading, translating, website designing and marketing. From his/her home desk an employee can start project-related data mining, analyse data, prepare research documents, handle field operations, and end with the final presentation. If you want to go the Amit Agarwal (labnol.org) way, you can blog in bed all day on tech issues and make a super living, with kids playing around you.

It's advantage industry, say bosses. “The Indian IT outsourcing industry spends 4-7% on infrastructure. By “rotating” employees through a given workspace, we bring down the overall cost per hour of work delivered,” said Prabhat. At Lumiere, “Work is allocated according to a person's daily availability schedule. The process allows seamless 24x7 working. A virtual organization gets profitable when it moves from people-dependency to process-efficiency. That is achieved by robust technology support.”

It's advantage employee, for a lot of women. “No traffic jams, no rushing off. You could make pulao while editing at your system, with face pack on,” said Mohana Narayanan, ex-ITES employee.

“You don't have to raise latch-key children.” Women on sabbatical needn't find themselves left behind in the technology leap. Age is no bar for women wishing to join the workforce. Online teaching portals advertise for “senior” teachers. And here's the bonus: you can moonlight and/or run a business of your own.

“Home has the same digital work environment the office seat has,” said Prabhat. “If the work involved is employee’s individual contribution, there is no reason why he/she should waste time commuting. Individual productivity dramatically improves in the distance-working mode – bringing down company costs.” A lot of Anantara’s work is done at client/ecosystem partner sites, he said. “Employees need (time and travel) flexibility to work.”

Conference calls, curry on the stove, cat on the lap – is this the future workplace? “Businesses will aggressively mop up talent with more flexible, tech-enabled partnerships with employees,” said Deepa's team. Connectivity is all. Pad around in nightclothes with no one checking your desk-top/cellphone activities. “Home office is the inevitable future of the workplace,” said Prabhat. “Considering this work practice does not have an entrenched tradition anywhere in the world, Indians are as prepared for it as anybody else.”

Grab the best of both the worlds. Be a working-from-home company employee, meet colleagues when you can. “But people like me are isolated, socially and tech-wise,” said Visalam Seshadri, a transcriber reporting to a US employer. There are no perks like PF, she said, and increments are rare. Tech upgrade expenses are her own. Paid strictly for the daily output, she works consistently, takes no holidays. Job security depends on goodwill. “I'm in this because it's convenient and the compensation is attractive,” she said. Also, some job providers may insist on home-employees keeping office hours and data entry work may need constant online transfer of entries. Finally, it's a motivated, disciplined employee who doesn't slack when there's no supervision. Are you game?

How to go about it

* PC, broadband connection and language skills form the investment.

* Do it part-time or full-time, as staff or freelancer.

* Students have a bonanza of opportunities.

* Check thoroughly before accepting assignments, especially if there's a training fee or a security deposit. So many online employers have disappeared into virtual clouds.

Keywords: home office

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