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September 16, 2019
TOI examines what makes millennials opt for flexible working pattern. Reasons include freedom of choice, work-life balance and constant challenges across multiple projects to name a few.
The Indian workspace is witnessing a paradigm shift as more and more youths are adapting to the flexible work culture as opposed to the typical 9-5 jobs. This shift is largely because working on flexible terms and/contract basis gives millennials a better work-life balance and a diverse work portfolio.
"As a stepping stone to a permanent job role, flexible working," says Rituparna Chakraborty, president, Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), "has seen maximum adoption by fresh graduates, first-time job seekers and early stage career professionals for whom it provides an avenue to work for large businesses and corporate houses on short-term projects and gain work experience."
Multiple factors impact flexi working as a concept. "Higher levels of flexible working will save businesses money, reduce operating costs and boost productivity - ultimately benefitting core businesses and the entire supply chains," says Priti Singh, vice president, HR, South Asia, Mastercard.
"From the recruiter's point of view, the need to build better efficiencies and get more specialised objectives achieved has led to the growth of engaging experts on a freelance (flexi) basis," says Anju Kanodia, business head, Wakency, an online platform for flexible work opportunities.
"Today's youth are increasingly turning to shorter projects and assignments that are time-bound with clearly defined objectives and outcomes, which require specific expertise. Technology is aiding this trend with digital platforms that foster independent and flexible working by providing efficient marketplaces where employers and gig workers can start working together," adds Kanodia.
Temporary versus permanent jobs
"People choose flexi work options for a variety of reasons - right from gaining skills and experiences to getting a foot in the door with top companies. Temporary jobs can provide a steady income stream, while the permanent job search continues, says Chakraborty.
The flexi work, according to Kanodia, could also foster an entrepreneurial outlook, provide greater financial freedom while working on multiple projects and cut the commute which often comes with the flexibility to work remotely or to choose work timings and locations to avoid peak traffic. It could also be an ideal way to experiment with a new field of work.
"The problem with flexi work, however, arises from its 'temporary' nature, where flexi workers are paid lesser than their permanent counterparts for more or less the same amount of time and effort which can be demotivating," Chakraborty says.
Why gig economy works
"With approximately one-third of the workforce shifting towards becoming independent workers, the gig economy (where short-term engagements, temporary/independent contracts are more the norm) is gaining popularity in India and across the world as a mainstream profession. However, the gig economy does not only mean short term projects; it also gives jobs with independence and work flexibility, pays well, and also offers future opportunities. Even if someone is looking for only short term options with only a few hours of working, in the gig economy, such professionals might get good remuneration," Singh says.
Varied job roles
The most in-demand jobs are in the creative and IT industries that have been conditioned with freelance services across roles such as content writing, graphic designing, software development, etc. Similar trends are visible in the logistics industry when it comes to delivery professionals, warehouse staff, etc. And across the retail industry for roles including counter sales, cashiers, store managers, etc. The hospitality industry is also increasingly tapping into the gig economy trend for roles such as stewards, chefs, service staff etc. to cater effectively to customers during peak times.
Students too have been quick to capitalise on this trend, viewing flexi jobs as a means to fund their higher education. "They are turning to such opportunities without taking a break, given the flexibility to work alongside their course schedules. The changing work environment across industries with an increasing need for new-age skills makes students perfect additions to the workforce. Typically, students get beginner and fresher level roles and can choose their options that are best suited to their education fields," says Kanodia. While providing them real world exposure, flexi work will boost their chances of building successful careers, she says.
Fair balance in flexi work
The flexi work culture has also been benefitting a wide range of career aspirants, most notably women returning to work post maternity break, homemakers who are looking out for additional financial gain by working part-time, professionals with niche skill sets as they can opt to work for multiple clients and charge a premium for their services, retired professionals, millennials for whom it is a preferred mode of employment to ensure better productivity and personal wellbeing. "Flexible options offer a good work-life balance and career opportunities that recognise working women's multiple responsibilities," Chakraborty says.
Flexi work is the new normal
With millennials expected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, more and more of them are willing to forego a fat pay package and promotions to opt for limited-period contracts that allow them a room to experiment. "Companies operating in India need to keep up with innovative global practices to provide greater flexibility in the workplace, in order to stay relevant in the fiercely competitive global fight for talent," Chakraborty adds.
India's 56% employment is being generated by the gig economy. It is expected to grow 25-30% per annum and pegged to be valued at around USD 30 billion by 2025. This, coupled with organisations expecting to have over 30-40% of their jobs assigned to gig workers in the next few years shows the promise for flexible working.
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