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Many major tech companies have extended the work from home option till 2021 allowing young professionals to reconsider their living arrangements.

Women shopping in the pavementImage for representation/PTI
Coronavirus Migration Monday, August 03, 2020 - 18:47

For 33-year-old Aman*, the decision to move back to his hometown Lucknow amid the COVID-19 pandemic was a no brainer. Aman’s family of four shifted from Bengaluru to his hometown in the second week of July since he wanted to be closer to his parents. With many Information Technology (IT) and IT Enabled Services (ITeS) companies across the country having extended the ‘Work from Home’ option for its employees till 2021, several young professionals have chosen to pack up their belongings and return home.   

Aman had moved to Bengaluru around two years ago, when he got a job with his current company. Things were going smoothly for the family of four, which includes his wife and two kids, until the lockdown was imposed in late March.

‘Feels safer to be back home’

“We are all introverts and we thought it won’t affect us, but then as the lockdown kept getting extended, one fine day, we realised that all of us are going to get the infection at some point. We decided suddenly to pack everything up and move back to our parents in Lucknow,” he explains. Aman notes that he’s lucky to have been able to make the move as he didn’t have many other factors to consider while making his decision - His wife is a homemaker and his children are below five, eliminating the problem of changing schools.

Aman’s elderly parents, sister and extended family live in Lucknow. While his wife, kids and another close relative flew to Lucknow in the second week of July, he and his cousin vacated his Bengaluru house and drove around 2,000 kilometres in his car to his hometown.

“It felt right to move back because it is not easy for my parents to manage. The online supply chain is not as good as we have in Bengaluru. Also if any of us got COVID-19 in the process, I felt it would be better if I was in a place I am familiar with,” he points out.

While Aman’s motivation to relocate was to be closer to his parents, for many others it’s monetary.

The burden of rent

Sharmila, a 31-year-old employee working for an IT giant, had relocated to Bengaluru from Chennai in early 2019. In the second week of March, she visited her husband and in-laws in Chennai and stayed put due to other commitments.While she welcomed the opportunity to live with her family due to lockdown, what she was not prepared for was to keep paying rent for her place in Bengaluru.

“Initially I thought this lockdown may go on maximum for a month and hence I was okay with paying the rent. Gradually the lockdown got extended and our office also extended our work from home option. This is why I am staying back in Chennai,” she says. She pays close to Rs 15,000 as her share of rent for an apartment in Bengaluru. Sharmila had tried to negotiate with the landlord to reduce the rent since she is stuck in a different city, however, he refused to budge.

“Since May we have been requesting the owner to reduce the rent by half so that our burden will reduce too, but he wasn't willing to reduce even a paisa and asked us to vacate stating that there is a huge demand for the apartment from families,” Sharmila says, adding that she then decided to vacate the place altogether and return to Chennai.

However, getting an e-pass to enter Tamil Nadu from Karnataka has been challenging for her. After getting rejected multiple times, she has now taken the help of a friend in Bengaluru to pack up and store her belongings in his house till some semblance of normalcy is restored in terms of travel.

While companies like Amazon and Google have extended their WFH options till 2021, many other big and medium-sized IT companies have adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy. As a consequence, those like Jai have had no option but to continue to pay for their rented accommodations, despite returning to his hometown.

“When the lockdown initially started, I had a hunch that this might not be normal and hence sent my wife and child to our hometown in Namakkal. I lived alone in Thoraipakkam for a while, before I also shifted to Namakkal when cases started increasing in Chennai,” says Jai, a 28-year-old IT professional, working in a tech company in Chennai.

He couldn’t vacate his house immediately since he couldn’t get an e-pass from Namakkal to Chennai. Jai continued to pay the rent of Rs 12,000 every month despite not living in the house.

“I then requested the owner to consider reducing the rent and he obliged by decreasing it by Rs 2,000. I am now paying Rs 10,000 till the situation stabilizes,” he explains, adding that his company has not officially given any extension to WFH for employees as yet. When asked if he would return to Chennai once the situation returns to normal, Jai replies in the affirmative and adds that once public transport opens up, he will move back. 

(*Names changed on request)

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