Future of Offices In Post-Pandemic India: WFH or WFO?

The nationwide lockdown announced in March last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic marked the start of changes in the way India worked. The effects are still being felt today as companies, each affected differently by the shutdown, grapple with getting back to business as usual – or the new normal.

The lockdown forced many businesses to close and even after it was lifted in phases, restrictions on activities and curbs on people’s movements continued in hotspots, local areas where the coronavirus raged on.

Saving the economy and the people became the top priorities for the government. This gave rise to the work-from-home culture, a largely discouraged concept that existed only sporadically before the pandemic struck. Companies had to take up the challenge and allow their employees to work remotely. However, the scenarios that emerged were not quite what was expected.

While laptops and computers were ferried to employees’ residences and some lucky ones got new gadgets, there were also job cuts of temporary/non-payroll staff, salary deductions and cost-cutting measures. Companies had to take such steps after sales were hit.

WFH worked smoothly for sectors like information technology and services. It wasn’t as easy for housing, manufacturing, education, FMCG, aviation, railways, transport, shipping, leisure and travel, which had to close entirely or required some staffers to be on site. In many cases, people unaccustomed to using technology faced a steep learning curve when handling computers and taking part in online meetings.

One and a half years later, with the second wave of infections said to be receding and a vaccination drive under way, there is a dilemma: Will employees be willing to come back to the office? Are companies prepared to get back to full working strength? If so, what will the future of working the office in the post-pandemic era? Here’s a look at the concerns that may arise as companies prepare to welcome employees back to the office.

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