Give me liberty, give me tech!

US President Franklin D Roosevelt's list of Fundamental Freedoms may be in need of a 21st century makeover in light of a new Cisco survey, which claims that young professionals prioritise social media freedom and the right to choose their gadgets at work, sometimes even over salaries

It's a small, simply decorated room, with bull-fighting posters dominating one wall, a large map of Central and South America on another and a whiteboard hung up front. The little area is almost completely occupied by desks. Of course it's a classroom, but peep inside and you may have your doubts. Students pull out their mobiles and send text messages every now and again, Spanish songs boom out intermittently and most of the time everyone seems engaged in a merry chat.

Tarana Puri encourages the use of the Internet and cellphones
in class, as she considers them vital tools that aid education.
Pic/ Rane Ashish

That's how 31-year-old Andheri-resident Tarana Puri teaches Spanish -- in an atmosphere which encourages students to talk about what's going on at home, to discuss popular culture and to share their hobbies and experiences. There's only one condition -- they must converse in Spanish. 

Give me my freedom
It's a system that works and more importantly, a system that ensures you graduate armed with practical vocabulary. With nine years of teaching experience here, Puri, who lived in Panama, Central America through her teen years, clearly knows that comfort boosts productivity. It's a belief she lives by.

Though knowing Spanish opens up numerous job opportunities at consular offices and IB schools, with high salaries on offer, too, Puri has never even considered them, because those positions are often too restrictive. "Certain consular offices restrict the use of mobile phones and the Internet. Often, it's the same at schools.

While this is necessary for those organisations, I enjoy the freedom available here," she says. Puri keeps up with ex-students (and friends) on Facebook, and while at work, readily encourages the use of social networking sites, including Youtube and other websites to work on Spanish skills.

"Our students have found jobs at consulates with a starting salary of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000," she says, telling us that for her, this place is home. "One of the main reasons we all work here is the job satisfaction. The director makes us feel like family and I genuinely appreciate that there are really no restrictions. Money isn't everything, after all," she says.

No Gmail? I'm out of here
Twenty seven year-old Rati Shroff knows exactly what Puri's talking about. Shroff once worked with a retail brand that denied employees access to several websites. "We couldn't even access Gmail," she says, telling us that it was particularly frustrating because she worked in the Public Relations department, "in a line of work that requires one to access the net and participate in discussions on blogs and social networking sites."

Currently employed with The Art Loft, an art studio in Bandra, which allows her the freedom to use gadgets of her choice at will, Shroff concedes that the salary, although more, isn't the best part. "I'm actually working on developing the studio's website and we even have our very own Facebook page." Shroff is thrilled to have found a position that broadened her role, but for her, job satisfaction is a crucial element in one's choice of career. "The whole world is on the World Wide Web, so if you can't access it, it's like being in prison. One can't close the world off today."

Money still counts
Puri and Shroff are not alone. Their priorities are shared by the new breed of young professionals, according to a new international Cisco report. The Cisco Connected World Technology Report surveyed more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries.

It reads, "The desire of young professionals and college students to use social media, mobile devices, and the Internet more freely in the workplace is strong enough to influence their future job choice, sometimes more than salary does."

But Mahendra Bharadwaj, manager Disha HR services, Andheri (E) pokes holes into the hypothesis. While he agrees that youngsters do look for positions that widen their roles and responsibilities, in his experience, salaries are still a priority. "Job satisfaction is very important, but in this economy, the monetary aspect cannot be ignored." But he does admit, "Often, despite large salaries, people leave their jobs within six months or a year."

As far as freedom to use websites and mobile phones is concerned, Bharadwaj says, "The need for data protection is well understood by those seeking opportunities in sectors such as Finance and IT," confident that tech restrictions don't come as a surprise to professionals in these fields. "These professionals are willing to make the trade-off."

Not without Facebook
Jay Adiani is a 28 year-old, who runs a financial planning services company. He encourages his employees to use tools like Facebook, Twitter and assorted websites. "They're a great marketing tool," he says. While he's not rigid about such matters and even the work hours are fairly liberal at his nine-month-old firm,, he hastens to add, "Client data is guarded ferociously."

"My employees are at liberty to work on the articles they contribute to, while they're at home, so they don't have to report to work at a fixed time. But client data and information never leaves the office," says Adiani, explaining that all the actual planning for clients gets done within the four walls of his Sion office. "A balance must be struck," he believes.

For 45-year-old PR and marketing professional, Alpua Turakhiaa too, the criteria that contribute to job satisfaction is different. "My place of work should provide a creative outlet and I should be comfortable at the office, which means being able to enjoy little freedom in the use of electronics and handsets. Then, of course there should be scope for promotion and finally the salary should be good," she believes.

Privacy is another factor that Turakhiaa values. "We have our own laptops, our own passwords and my laptop doesn't even have to be accessible to the boss. It's exactly the sort of environment in which creativity is nurtured." 

Block access, lose workers
Anubhab Goel, co-founder of People Strong HR Services, located in Andheri (W), is of the opinion that Turakhiaa's boss is on the right track. "It's not just freedom to access social media, but the need to enjoy freedom at work that is essential for employees these days."

He explains, "For some companies, it's a genuine business requirement. For example certain IT companies that deal with large foreign banks may not even allow a camera phone into the office owing to the promise of confidentiality that they've extended to clients."

They may however, then offer flexible work hours as a compromise, Goel says, adding that the second type of company that imposes restrictions is the sort that's paranoid. "They believe that allowing social networking will translate into a waste of time and that employees will become less productive."

Goel says such companies now find it hard to retain employees. "Employers should bear in mind that the younger generation is more entrepreneur-minded than employee-minded. That's why they're looking for freedom. This is a good thing in the long run because when your employee starts acting and thinking like an entrepreneur, you'll get maximum productivity from them."

Key findings in the second chapter of the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report
> The second annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report, which surveyed more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries, was commissioned to assess the challenges that companies face as they strive to balance employee and business needs amid increasing network demands, mobility capabilities and security risks.

> The study revealed that one in three college students and young employees under the age of 30 (33%) said that they would prioritise social media freedom, device flexibility, and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer

> More than two of five college students (40%) and young employees (45%) said they would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility. In India, 57% of employees surveyed confirmed they would accept the job option that paid less but offered device flexibility and remote accessibility.

> More than half of college students globally (56%) said that if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they would either not accept a job offer or would join and find a way to circumvent corporate policy.

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