Will allowing employees to work from small towns ensure retention?

Companies may find it easier to hold onto their employees if they let them work from their homes in small towns, rather than force them to return to office


While everyone was affected by the worldwide lockdown imposed during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, some suffered more than the others. Employees living in rented accommodations in the cities and were forced to relocate or move back to their hometowns, as a result of their companies shutting down, felt the maximum brunt.

Not all of those who had to shift to the work-from-home mode, welcomed the transition or found it convenient. After all, home could not really measure up to the comfort and smoothness offered by offices equipped with the best of technology and gadgets.

Slowly and steadily, however, people adapted to the changed circumstances, and got comfortable communicating with their seniors through video conferences and other means.

“The hybrid mode seems to be ideal right now, because it offers the best of both worlds”

P Dwarakanath, former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare

As time passed, it emerged that most people actually seemed to prefer working from home, rather than travel all the way to their offices beating traffic and pollution.

With monumental changes in the workplace environment, and people’s changed priorities about how they’d like to work, some companies have become more lenient toward their employees. They’re now allowing employees to operate remotely, or in a hybrid mode.

It’s also true that people have become increasingly disenchanted by the chaos of metropolitan cities. Yes, big cities promise more work and opportunities for success, but they are now also brimming with stressors such as overpopulation, gentrification, air and noise pollution, and general apathy towards the wellbeing of citizens. Small towns, on the other hand, while not immune to certain problems, still provide an escape from the noise and chaos prevalent in the cities.

Ashish Pinto, CHRO, Associated Broadcasting Co. (TV9 Network Group), says that since there is not much credible data available that proves the advantages of remote working and its effects on employee retention, it depends on the kind of work the employee is required to do.

“In some jobs, it’s imperative to work from office because of the technical demands of the job.” Says Pinto.

“Working from small towns helps maintain the cost of living for employees ” 

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal

“For instance, anchors or video editors or those associated with satellite TV will have to be present at the office because they cannot access such technology anywhere else. There is no way of providing flexibility in such jobs,” Pinto explains.

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, says, “In the IT industry, there is currently a scarcity of talent, and companies cannot afford to lose employees. With the hiring process also becoming more complicated now, employees should be allowed to work from small towns and remotely if that suits them better.”

“Working from small towns also helps maintain the cost of living for the employees, who are more comfortable in their own homes. Their productivity isn’t affected by the stress and mad rush associated with the big city,” Raina points out.

While remote working certainly is advantageous for employees, it is also a mode of operation that cannot be successful if there aren’t enough resources available to help with the work.

P Dwarakanath, former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare, believes that remote working should continue as long as it’s possible for the companies to sustain that mode.

There are pros and cons involved in WFH and letting people operate from small towns. For instance, the availability of technology and internet connectivity may be inconsistent. This may hinder the progress of work. “The hybrid mode seems to be ideal right now, because it offers the best of both worlds,” explains Dwarakanath. However, in some time, companies will have to decide how to carry on their operations in the longer term, and whether the presence of employees is needed in the office at all.

“Since there is no data on how remote working helps in retention, this flexibility should depend on what kind of work the employee is doing and if one is required to come to office”

Ashish Pinto, CHRO, Associated Broadcasting Co. (TV9 Network Group)

Companies aren’t ready to let go of talent because of the fear that they may be unable to hire people with similar abilities. They have to hold onto the employees who can ensure work continuation, even if it happens from a distance.

If people feel their professional advancement or progress is being stagnated due to work-from- home, they will have to travel to big cities and take up more responsibilities on their own. What remains to be seen is whether people will spring back into their official roles once the pandemic is over.

It may be easier to maintain steady communication with their colleagues and seniors on the outside so that there isn’t any problem with the flow of work. In the end, the movement of employees will remain in flux until stability and normalcy are restored, and the threat to employee health vanishes for good.

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