The stigma of being a remote worker

Freelancing, Work / Sunday, March 12th, 2017

If a word association survey was conducted among the Indian managers and HR people, “freelance” would be associated with “bullshit” and “remote working” will find place with “LOL”. Now, taking the solo journey of being a freelance anything (writer, developer, marketer . . .) is hard enough in itself, but in India it’s made worse by a narrow mindset and trust issues.

Here are some of the responses I get when I mention freelancing/remote working, and what I think about them:

  • Sorry but we need a full-time resource: What is a full-time resource? Someone you have the satisfaction of watching in front of your eyes the whole day? Someone who pretends to be busy and creates faux work because he’s scared to be scolded if he’s found taking a break? Someone who gets paid for 8 hours of office time and 2 hours of travel while he spends 3-4 hours working?
  • <No response>: This one is my favorite. Most companies and recruiters don’t even bother to respond back. As if freelance equals having a criminal record, and who wants to hire an ex-convict, right?
  • We’ve had rough experience with remote workers before: To this one I can sympathize. There’s no shortage of idiots who take businesses for a ride in the name of remote working, but if your response is to shut the door on freelancers, you’re acting like the guy who gave up his car after having a driving accident.
  • Our management won’t agree: Again my heart goes out to people who are willing to try but are hamstrung by top management who thinks they are the brightest minds on Earth. In such cases I respectfully withdraw, because it’s easier to teach a monkey to play chess than it is to . . . well, you get the idea!
  • We don’t think it will work: Since when did something other than time and money start mattering in business? If I’m able to give my time and deliver the work as per expectations, where’s the catch?

I think it’s only the “intelligent” businesses that are hurting because of this trend. And unfortunately, it’s a trend unique to India only, where we don’t trust anyone because deep down, we know we ourselves can’t be trusted. By contrast, a large percentage of Western workforce has flexible timings and work remotely, and some businesses have gone fully remote.

Our Indian businesses, however, think they are one up. What could be a greater folly than this: companies keep waiting for weeks, sometimes months, to have the “perfect” candidate magically appear in their locality and agree to their terms and conditions, especially when the average staying time in the industry is so low. Not to mention the extra expenses involved in maintaining a fleet of in-house employees.

I find this all ironic, very ironic in fact, that the very businessman who knows his business is built on risk-taking and uncertainty clings to a false sense of security when it comes to hiring. And no doubt, then, that most of these businesses are failing, waking up one day to the realization that they’re losing to companies that don’t play by the same rules.

Perhaps it’s a problem of education. Perhaps the word “employee” associates with “in-office” in people’s minds, and they just can’t accept that any other possibility.

Either way, a lot is being lost to foolishness.

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