Peter Gautam, a data scientist working at the Bengaluru office of a multinational tech corporation, had gone back to his native place in Kerala for a friend’s engagement a few days before the nationwide lockdown imposed to combat the novel coronavirus cases in March.
Little did he know that the country was bracing for something unprecedented that would change the lifestyle and work culture of millions like him.
“The main challenge was moving out of the apartment in Bengaluru while I was at my native (Thiruvananthapuram), especially with the stringent travel restrictions that were in effect back then. Another challenge was taking a call on whether I should do it, considering there was not a lot of clarity on how the pandemic would pan out, but I went ahead with the decision,” Gautam says.
Like Gautam, several others have moved out of the city to work remotely from their hometowns. Personal economics, health, and proximity to family members figure among the primary reasons behind the move.
For instance, Nitin M, a corporate communications professional, chose to vacate his rented apartment in Koramangala to minimise his expenditure, especially after his company chose to slash down his salary by 15% every month since July. “Most employees who hailed from other states like me had pressed for a work from home option due to the pay cut. However, I could fly to Coimbatore by the end of August after the company decided to continue work from home until March 2021,” he says.
While Nitin was shelling out Rs 15,000 per month for his 1 BHK, Akhil G, a consultant at KPMG was paying Rs 20,000 a month for a 2BHK in Banaswadi. “We had more confidence in the public health facilities provided in Kerala over the same in Bengaluru and thought of spending time with our families during these times of uncertainty to keep us emotionally happy and to lend some support to our parents,” he said, explaining what made his wife and him decide to move out from the city. The techie couple has now decided to continue working from their home facility till mid-2021, as intimated by their firms.
At the same time, the advent of online classes for her three-year-old son helped Dikshita Murali, a senior software engineer at Tesco, continue working from home for an extended period of time.
“We had decided to go home (at Ooty in Tamil Nadu) for a week’s break initially but it has been over seven months since I left Bengaluru now. While not having to get ready and rush to work every morning braving traffic snarls is a positive, daily working hours have extended beyond the normal eight-hour shifts. At the same time, I’m also keeping my son engaged in more outdoor activities at home, storytime with grandparents, and practical learning which we would lack once we return to the city,” she says, adding that she misses office.
However, Navaneeth, a software engineer working at a multinational company in Marathahalli expects that a major chunk of the workforce will continue to work remotely for some more months. “Even though work-life balance was a myth initially, things are gradually getting streamlined now. While work from home has always been a challenge, good internet connectivity continues to be one of the pain points,” the techie who is now in his native Kozhikode in Kerala said. Nonetheless, he is happy that he has saved up a considerable amount by not paying rent for half a year now, courtesy of his decision to shift out from his apartment at C V Raman Nagar.
However, the trend of the non-native population moving out of the city has had a direct impact on those in the realty sector in Bengaluru. “While we were forced to decrease monthly rents, finding a replacement for someone vacating an apartment or house has become challenging these days,” Gopal Murthy, a person who has rented out apartments in Koramangala, Whitefield, HSR Layout, Domlur, and Jakkasandra told Indianexpress.com. He added, “While we have been cooperative with our tenants paying the rent later than usual, around 60 per cent of my buildings are now left empty and people have left to their hometowns after obtaining work from home.”
Meanwhile, new ideas seem to be cropping up in the city to keep the sector in survival mode. “Most apartments are now being converted to paying guest facilities as we expect college students to return earlier than the techie population,” Gopal Sundar, a broker who operates in and around Shantinagar said.