Work From Home to Stay: Months back, many companies across India, especially in the IT sector, had expressed their intent to call back employees to their respective offices — ending the work from home regime. However, the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is now seemingly going to hinder the implementation of that plan. According to reports, top software experts are now taking cautious approach to their back to office plans that they announced previously, amid the Omicron challenge. This comes as the new variant has posed a fresh challenge, with India recording at least 213 Omicron cases since it first came to the country.
According to a report by the Economic Times, senior executives have said that they are now being cautious about their back to office plans amid virus threat. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT major in terms of workforce, has said that less than 10 per cent of the company’s employees are working from their offices currently. Any plans for a full fledged return to office will be a calibrated move, the company was quoted as saying by Economic Times.
Infosys, the Bengaluru-based IT major, has said that it has “taken a cautious approach” keeping in mind the “changing health situation”, as per the report. The N.R. Narayana Murthy-owned company had previously said it would bring back its employees to office.
HCL Technologies, which had also planned a similar move, seemed to be cautious now. The company said it “will continue to monitor the emergence and impact of Covid-19 variants which could limit the movement of employees”, according to the report by ET. The company added that it intends to follow the current hybrid model that has been in motion now, where a tenth of its workforce is working from office.
The statements by the companies mentioned in the ET report comes in sharp contrast to what they had announced previously, when the second wave of Covid-19 was on its way to subside — that is during the announcement during the second quarter results in October. At the time, several IT companies had expressed their intention to gradually call back employees to their designated worksites by December 2021 or January 2022, and also wanted to follow the hybrid model.
According to a report by Nasscom that was filed during the time, the companies were intending to bring back employees above the age of 25 by November. Those above the age of 40 were to return to offices after that. “The industry is now prepared to gradually reopen and is looking at perfecting a hybrid operating model which brings in the best of both onsite and remote operating models,” Nasscom president Debjani Ghosh had said at the time. It estimated that around 4.5 million employees across the country will return to their workplaces soon.
However, the situation quickly changed in November with the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa and its subsequent travel to India within a matter of days.
This made employers change their outlook once again. “Right now, physical attendance is on a voluntary basis and we have encouraged managers to take the lead. We haven’t forced anybody to attend daily or to relocate,” Richard Lobo, executive vice president and HR head at Infosys, was quoted as saying by ET.
TCS had in November said it would call back its employees by November. “In view of the new Covid-19 variant, we continue to monitor the external environment carefully,” the company however said in a revised statement, as per the report by ET.
Experts, including those at the World Health Organisation, had warned people about the risk of the Omicron variant which apparently spreads faster than the Delta variant that caused a deadly second wave in India. At this time, work from home seems to be the way to go, with office returns still staying far from reality.