Work-at-home women going places

Last Updated 16 November 2012, 21:03 IST

More and more women are consciously opting out of regular jobs and cashing in on the work-from-home opportunities available on the Net, says Chetna Keer

A high-flying corporate professional was going places career-wise and was soon due for a promotion. But things turned 360 degrees when she realised that she was in the family way and had to go on a long leave when her baby was due. Once her leave was exhausted, the dilemma, which plagues every working woman graduating to her dream job of mothering, stood staring at her: To rejoin her job or not to rejoin.  In what was to be a life-altering experience, she quit her mainstream existence and opted to become a work-from-home mom.   

A mid-level publishing professional had everything going for her at the workplace. Everything, except her bitchy boss, who expected every Om, Deep and Hari to suck up to her and pander to her whims and fancies. The last straw came when a less competent colleague bypassed this woman professional in getting a plum posting simply because he constantly sucked up to the Bigg Boss. The female executive decided to leave her job and take up online work that would leave her free from office politics and wherein she could be her own Bigg Boss.

Such scenarios are driving more and more women to make a conscious choice of opting out of regular jobs to work from home. And this change comes riding on the new-age emblems of empowerment in this era of Net-enabled existence: laptops and computers.

Yes, laptops, computers and iPads are the vehicles facilitating women’s transition from high-stress and cut-throat corporate environments into the work-from-home space. Empowerment has virtually arrived at the doorstep, or the desktop, of women professionals in the form of Internet connections. Owing to this, opportunities for online work that can be done from the comfort and convenience of the home are multiplying manifold. A major beneficiary of the expanding online opportunities are naturally the Net-savvy working women, forever treading the tightrope of personal and professional responsibilities.

And it is working women from all walks of life who are jumping on to this bandwagon of home-based careers. The Net-empowered women professionals are as spoilt for choices when clicking on online careers as remote-enabled consumers picking customised menus on Tata Sky or Dish TV. From content editing, content writing, copywriting, paid SMS, data entry, data processing, medical transcription and ad placement to web promotion or search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing services, there are online work opportunities for all kinds of qualified women, be they techies, BPO executives, tutors, teachers or journalists, writers, advertising professionals and copywriters et al.

With the projection being that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of people all across the globe will be working from home, this certainly seems the right space to be in and how!

The biggest challenge most working women are constantly facing is striking a work-life balance. Be it corporate biggies like the Chanda Kochchars and Indra Nooyis or entry-level executives, balancing the home turf and professional responsibilities remains a constant challenge for the working women in these times of nuclear families, even where the traditional support systems of the joint family have been substituted by institutionalised care delivered through day care centres, crèches, home tutors etc. After the trend that saw an entire generation of Indian women breaking free from domestic shackles to go out to join the workforce in search of financial autonomy and proving its mettle by piercing the glass ceiling, there is a reverse trend happening now, with many women setting the ceiling on professional ambition and returning to the realm of home-based work.

After paying a price for multi-tasking, which becomes the badge of the working woman, in terms of high stress, family neglect and amplified guilt, the burnout that consumes the corporate professionals has been triggering a reverse tide that is seeing many jet-setting women in the fast lane switch into slow gear and return to the comfort of their homes while retaining their financial independence. For, home-based online work options enable women professionals to navigate the tightrope of work-life balance with much more ease, far less stress and with zero guilt!

Says Gauri Narula, an IT professional who quit her high-flying and well-paying corporate career to opt for online work from home, “I wasn’t able to give my six-year-old son the time he needed, what with my long working hours and high stress levels. Now, I do online web development for US clients from my home and I’m much more relaxed and am able to fully attend to my child’s studies and sports activities.”

There is plenty of scope for online work, particularly in the IT industry, since a lot of projects from foreign countries are outsourced to India. “There are loads of demand for developing online shopping carts and company profiles, in particular,” adds Gauri, who has recently developed portals for recipe sites, photo galleries, news sites etc.
Parenting and family are thus the primary concerns that push women to opt out of the rat race. Sulakshana, a jet-setting publishing professional, took a sabbatical from her high-pressure job to play full-time home-maker, particularly in view of her husband’s transferable job. “The cutthroat competition and office politics used to leave me so stressed out that I was hardly left with any energy to attend to my family. Now, I am working from home for MNCs that outsource work and am able to continue the same work from whichever city we are posted in.”

But how do work-from-home earnings compare with the security of a fixed pay package? “Certainly, nothing to match the security of an assured monthly package,” says Gauri. “But after an initial transition period when earnings from work-from-home online work were erratic and even less than the pay cheque I was used to, I’ve managed to reap the dividends of my gamble now and rake in more dollars than the rupees my corporate job was getting. “Starting with Rs 10,000-12,000 ($200-250) for a basic web development project, the earning can go up to Rs 30,000-35,000 ($600) for a customised module. Initial hiccups and uncertainty later, now I do end up earning in two months what I used to make in four months in a regular job,” she adds.

SEO and content writing are among the hot fields that offer plenty of opportunities to women to work from home.

There are a host of websites and service providers that are fuelling and facilitating this change. From portals like workathomeIndia.com, fleximoms.com, freelancer.com, craigslist.com etc, to various specialised job sites that list a wide array of work-from-opportunities in content writing, web designing etc, women can navigate the cyber space for an array of opportunities.

The flip side though of this option is the financial as well as the security quotient. Work-from-home opportunities certainly don’t offer the security of a regular pay cheque and the earnings may fluctuate from month to month. But then this is a risk that even entrepreneurs face when they launch a new business or start-up. Another pitfall to guard against is the large number of online scams, wherein racketeers masquerade as prospective employers to cheat clients of money.

The caution to be observed here is to channelise work through organised and institutionalised service providers with a well-established payment structure and schedule.

At the end of the day, it does pay to be a work-from-home mom and it is an opportunity worth cashing in on.

(Published 16 November 2012, 12:15 IST)

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