It wasn’t easy for Pulkit Sharma, co-founder and chief executive officer of Khabri, to give up the office space his 26-member team had moved into just seven months ago. The Hindi audio content platform had taken up a private space at a Gurugram-based co-working setup and customized it. A month into the nationwide lockdown, Sharma had to take the painful decision of moving out to cut expenses and avoid pay cuts.
“It had an amazing location. Fridays, the place would have a great vibe. We had such great times there. But it didn’t make sense to keep it," said Sharma. Most of Khabri’s team members had returned to their hometowns by mid-March to work remotely. A month later, when the employees were asked whether they would like to continue working from home, most said yes. “They thought it was a great idea, so we gave up the space."
Over the past few weeks, some companies have decided to shift a number of roles to permanently work from home, citing safety concerns, better efficiency and lower operational costs. Twitter, for instance, has provided staff the option of working remotely forever, while Tata Consultancy Services is looking at 75% of its global workforce working from home by 2025. And, some startups are considering giving up their office spaces altogether.
Bizztor, for instance, didn’t renew its lease with a co-working space in Gurugram’s Cyber City. The saved rent will help ensure the digital marketing firm doesn’t have to cut jobs or salaries. “We had initially taken the office at a premium location to attract top talent. Plus, it would leave a good impression on Indian clients. Now, with people being happy working from home, we don’t need the added expense," said Bizztor co-founder Vijay Rathee, 35. He, however, is looking for a small space because a registered company needs an official address.
In Mumbai, Raja Ganapathy, 48, co-founder of marketing capital firm Spring Marketing Capital, too, cancelled the office lease last month. With the saved rental cost, he intends to hire three more people.
While Ganapathy is glad he gave up the office space, he’s concerned about the absence of team bonding. “I don’t miss the office, but I do miss the people. I don’t know how we can compensate for the social interactions with team members but we need to try. I think all of us have to seriously evaluate the role of the ‘office’."
If an employee does want a formal office environment, some companies are considering co-working seats. When an employee told Rathee that she needed an office because her child doesn’t let her work at home, he asked her to get a seat at a co-working space near her house. It’s cost-effective and gives the employee some flexibility, said Rathee.