Last month, the Haryana government allowed private corporate offices in Gurgaon to operate with 100% capacity. One would assume that this would mean the hundreds of offices in the Millennium City would be abuzz with workers again. However, many offices in Gurgaon are opting to prolong their work from home (WFH) models indefinitely (or at least till later this year in several cases). As the WFH model has continued to look more permanent than ad hoc, many corporate employees, who had come to Gurgaon for work and made the city their home, have now returned to their hometowns.
‘We’re saving a huge amount on food and rent by moving home’
“I returned home during the second lockdown last April,” says IT executive Zeeshan, who has moved back to Muzaffarnagar, adding, “Work from home means all you need is a stable internet connection and roof over your head. At first, I thought I’d stay for a month or so and return but gradually, I realised it made sense to move back permanently.” Many, like Zeeshan, have made this move, citing reasons like living with family during the pandemic and saving money on rent. Neeti Sharma, who has been staying in her ancestral house in Roorkee for over a year, tells us, “I do miss my freedom at times and the social life I had but that would have been tough in Gurgaon too given the pandemic. The amount I am saving on rent and food every month makes me never want to go back.”
‘Don’t want to deal with Gurgaon’s RWAs and traffic’
Many say that this has also allowed them to not experience the restrictions many RWAs in Gurgaon have imposed during the lockdown. Adil Nargolwala, an HR executive with a BPO, shifted to his farmhouse in Delhi last year and has no plans of returning to Gurgaon. “Apart from all the other benefits of staying close to nature and not being dependent on others, staying here has meant I don’t have to deal with the RWAs and their rules. During the pandemic, the RWAs rules have been stricter than the government. And the way things are, such restrictions are likely to continue for some time. So even though the move is not 500km but just 5km for me, I am happy away from Gurgaon,” says Adil. Software developer Aditi Garg, who moved back home to a small town in Himachal Pradesh, tells us, “People talk about staycations and my life has been one big staycation for the last eight months. I am sitting in the hills, with my family and working, without having to worry about the commute or getting stuck in Gurgaon traffic.”
There are hardly any takers for PGs anymore: Gurgaon landlords
This reverse migration, however, has made life difficult for PG owners and landlords in the Millennium City. They have realised that suddenly, there are no takers for their flats and rooms, which used to be quite in demand pre-pandemic. RK Sharma, who has rented out his Gurgaon flat to corporate employees for a decade, says, “Ever since I got possession of my flat 12 years ago, I have had a succession of tenants- all techies or corporate employees working in the city. But the last 10 months are the only time when I haven’t had anyone living there. Since the last tenant moved out in August, I haven’t had any luck finding a replacement. With work from home, nobody wants to spend Rs 25,000 in rent. Lowering the rent hasn’t helped either.” After suffering losses for months, many PGs in Gurgaon have even shut shop during the pandemic. “When the MCG had said they would issue guidelines for PGs in the city, we were happy that things would get regularised. But the pandemic ruined all that. Many people I know have had to close down their PGs because they didn’t have enough guests to cover operating costs. I am fortunate that most of my guests have jobs that require them to go to the office but even then, I only have half as many guests as earlier. It’s been a massive loss,” says Manoj. (name changed), who runs a PG in Sector 54.