For Many Employees In India, It Looks Like The Beginning Of The End Of WFH

Procter & Gamble, Wipro, HDFC, Axis Bank, Yes Bank and Deloitte are among the top corporates getting ready to re-open their offices as the steel-and-glass symbols of shining India are scrubbed clean to play host to the first set of staff in about a year and a half.

As the number of viral infections plummets and companies complete vaccination drives, India Inc. is actively working on returning to the formal workplace – albeit with a staggered roster.

While some of the corporates have started operations at pre-Covid levels, others are seeking to get more employees to office.

The financial pack—banks, NBFCs and fintech companies—are at the vanguard of the move.

“As on date, all our offices are working at 100% manpower in line with the directives issued by the respective state governments. We have allowed expectant mothers, female employees with children below 1 year of age, employees above 65 years of age, employees with co-morbidities and employees coming from any containment zones as defined by the authorities to continue to work from home,” said Renu Sud Karnad, managing director, HDFC Ltd.

Kotak Mahindra Bank expects that 90% of the employees, who are fully vaccinated, will be back to office by November/December.

“In branches and other customer-facing roles, we are close to reaching 100% levels,” said Sukhjit Pasricha, President & Group Chief Human Resource Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

Some corporations have even created sub-groups, sought online applications and roped in external professionals to assess risks and encourage more employees to start coming to offices.

Take, for instance, the case of P&G.

The multinational has introduced a hybrid model customised for each working group.

“Every workgroup is piloting a hybrid model suited for it. It’s up to them how they manage their well-being, work and personal priorities and how they continue to improve their productivity to maximise their impact on their growth and work,” said P M Srinivas, Head–Human Resources, P&G, Indian sub-continent.

Most companies are experimenting with the return-to-workplace policies as the danger of a third wave still lurks and many employees are still not completely convinced about safety.

“The popular pulse certainly favours hybrid working so that people can benefit from both, the flexibility and comfort of working from home and the human connect of coming to the office – this is something that is being deeply examined to allow for flexibility, client deliverables and social connect as that engenders collaboration and innovation,” said S V. Nathan, Partner and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India.

Many companies have asked their top management and regional leaders to start attending office regularly to encourage other employees to return to office.

“Beginning September 13, fully vaccinated employees in leadership roles have returned to work from offices in India, twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays). We have extended work from home for all other employees until October 31. Currently, 97% of our employees continue to work from home,” a Wipro spokesperson said.

Anurag Adlakha, chief human resource officer, human capital management at Yes Bank, said: “As of today, around 40% of employees at our corporate office and other large offices continue to work in these hybrid models. The Bank has a ‘Work from Anywhere policy’ in place to enable identified employees to work from alternative locations, in addition to working from their designated workplace.”

But most companies will continue with work from home policies.

In some companies, when the idea of returning was discussed with employees, it led to an extreme reaction. As per an HR head in an Indian company, the suggestion to start coming to office had almost led to rebellion in his organisation.

“Some of the employees were up in arms. Surprisingly, most men don’t want to come to office while many women voted in favour of the hybrid office model and coming to office,” he said.

Rajeshwar Tripathi, chief human resource officer, automotive and farm sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd said, ” In keeping with our constant effort towards the safety and wellbeing of our employees during the pandemic, at Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., we are extending our support to help them to benefit from the nation-wide vaccination program. M&M Ltd. will bear the cost of inoculation for our employees and their spouse, eligible as per the government guidelines. To further facilitate this on priority, we have partnered with hospitals at various locations.”

Rajkamal Vempati, president and head, HR, Axis Bank, said, “At our large offices, the employees have already begun coming in 2 days a week. As a precaution, ?we are also ensuring that all employees coming into the offices are fully vaccinated. It is our expectation that all employees will attend office in the hybrid mode.”

Easwaran Krishnan, head, human resources, Shriram Housing Finance said, “The percentage of employees who continue to WFH stands at ~40% at Shriram Housing Finance. We won’t be changing the number of people working from home until Dec’21, which is when we expect all employees to be fully vaccinated. The Hybrid work model we anticipate will be the norm from hereon.”

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