Remote workers resisting return-to-office mandates just got a stark warning. While it comes from an Indian investor eyeing opportunities in Australia, employees everywhere should pay attention.
As in the U.S., Australian managers are contending with remote employees ignoring mandates to resume working in the office. Meanwhile, companies Down Under also face the challenges posed by increasing inflation, high interest rates, and a slowing economy.
One upshot: concerns that jobs done remotely in Australia are at risk of being sent to India.
“Absolutely they can be outsourced,” Iqbal Singh, founder of financial advisory firm Innovative Consultants, told News.com.au this week. “Support staff, IT, finance, mortgages—all of those can be supported because of a lower cost and at the same time English-speaking workforce.”
Singh calls the Indian workforce “one of the largest opportunities” for Australian companies. He estimates that roles filled by Indian workers would cost 10% to 15% of an Australian employee’s salary—and deliver “more efficiency” to boot.
“Ultimately the biggest problem across the world [countries are] grappling with is inflation,” said Singh. “It becomes of paramount importance in these kinds of environments to become more efficient, to make the supply chain more efficient, and at the same time relying on those jobs which can be completely outsourced in a very cost-effective manner.”
He foresees “a lot of alliances and collaboration” between the two countries amid an uptick in both immigration and investment from India into Australia, with investors eyeing opportunities across finance, education, minerals, and health care.
More troubling news for remote workers came this week from a “Future of Work 2023” survey of large companies across the globe released by international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. In it, 70% of companies said more work will be done in-person in the next two years, 45% of companies said they plan to differentiate pay between remote and in-office staff, and 47% expect remote work to become a privilege earned through trust and seniority. What’s more, 71% said employees who work in-office will have more opportunities.
Of course, there are notable exceptions amid the return-to-office push. Nvidia, the maker of AI chips that recently joined the ranks of trillion-dollar market caps, is sticking to its remote work policy, even as it offers employees luxurious offices should they choose to use them.
Software maker Atlassian, which makes collaboration tools, is similarly keeping its “Team Anywhere” policy and has adopted new ways of evaluating the value of its office space.
And Zapier, whose software makes it easier for companies to work across apps in an integrated way, has a valuation of $5 billion despite having no office and being fully remote. It brings employees together in off-site events, which cost far less than office space would.
To be sure, outsourcing jobs to India or another country is no simple task. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2007, well before the pandemic turbo-charged remote work, few companies have much success with their early attempts at it. Challenges, among them miscommunications and time zone differences, abound later as well, and horror stories in India have included fraud, data breaches, and intellectual property theft.
Still, at many companies today, being a remote worker could prove perilous—as some warnings even during the pandemic suggested. “If you can do your job from home, be scared. Be very scared,” said Richard Baldwin, who teaches economics at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland, in late 2021. “Because somebody in India or wherever is willing to do it for much less.”