The scare and concerns around the new Covid variant Omicron has pushed back plans for several companies planning to reopen offices. At many others, the number of people going to offices have come down significantly, as stricter Covid protocols have kicked in again.
According to HR professionals that FE spoke to, most companies were aiming at restarting work from office from January or February and had requested their employees to return to base locations for an easy transition to the offline model. However, the new variant is keeping them on a wait-and-watch mode.
Roopank Chaudhary, partner and chief commercial officer (human capital solutions), India and South Asia at Aon said that while most companies are in a wait and watch mode to ascertain the impact of the new variant, some have slowed down their plans to get people back to offices.
“In the last couple of weeks, the number of employees going to office has shrunk, given the recent fears of the variant. Most companies are looking to wait till mid-January to renew the efforts to return to office. Some companies have reduced work travel and are going slow on in-person team meetings and conferences, which had started in full flow a month back,” Chaudhary said.
According to P S Viswanath, managing director and CEO, Randstad India, companies with shop floor operations and employees on client-facing roles are on high alert to avoid risking the health of their employees and other stakeholders. “Several companies in Tier 1 cities have advised against long-distance travel and in-person meetings in the coming weeks owing to the restrictions imposed at the state level. Some of the large conglomerates and tech giants have mandated strict masking and social distancing norms at their premises while others are expected to roll back to the ‘work from home’ model until further notice,” he said.
At JSW Group for instance, Covid protocols have been reinforced. Only those who are vaccinated with both the doses are allowed to work from office, and the rest are working remotely. Social distancing, wearing of masks and thermal screening for all employees, associates and visitors has been brought back. “Even with 100% of the workforce at JSW fully vaccinated, the necessary Covid protocols have been reinforced as precautionary measures. Regular RT-PCR screening is conducted in all our plants and even in offices for those who are using public transport for commute, along with strict sanitation and hygiene standards being followed,” said a JSW executive.
Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) is continuing with the policy of having 50% staff work out of offices. The decision to work from office has been left on the employees. However, they have to be fully vaccinated.
Peer-to-Peer lending platform faircent.com’s founder and chief executive officer, Rajat Gandhi said, “Considering the news of the new coronavirus variant, we have a comprehensive Covid policy still in place. All our employees are fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, we are monitoring the situation and will take the required action if needed”.
At PE Front Office, a software solutions company for alternate assets investment, the situation with regards to Omicron is being monitored. Ankur Agarwal, co-founder & CTO, PE Front Office said the company will take necessary steps to ensure the wellbeing of the employees.
However, at some companies the momentum continues to be as it was at the beginning of the pandemic and no change in work policy so far. Spokesperson for Transport Corporation of India said, “With most employees being fully-vaccinated, the relief factor is prevalent. At TCI, our offices have been operational since May 2020, continuing to follow measures like masking at all times, sanitisation, remote attendance and social distancing”.