Work from home dynamics: How WFH will change the Indian IT workplace

Updated: May 15, 2020 10:02:50 AM

Tech majors are keen on making work from home seamless, engaging and developing trust between their employees in a remote working environment.

These tech majors hint at what roles could come into remote working routine.These tech majors hint at what roles could come into remote working routine.

By Srinath Srinivasan

The expectation from IT companies to make the process of remote working seamless is more than ever today. In a recent interview, IT industry veteran and former CFO of Infosys, Mohandas Pai commended the IT industry for enabling 90% of its workforce to work from home (WFH) in a short span of time. He went on to say that around 30% of IT employees may work from home in rotation even after the lockdown is lifted.

Similarly, Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO of TCS, during the company’s recent quarterly earnings call put forth a bold plan of having a secure borderless workspaces model, wherein 75% of the workforce can work remotely and the remaining at office spaces.

As lockdown restrictions are relaxed in some geographies, Richard Lobo, executive vice-president, Head HR, Infosys, says, “We have started enabling about 5% of our employees to return to work, where the local conditions are suitable. We will probably scale this to 10-15% for the next month or so and then decide based on the situation.”

Tech Mahindra’s chief people officer, Harshvendra Soin, says that there is a high likelihood that 25-30% of the company’s workforce may continue to work from home till the end of the ongoing fiscal year and expects that the future will be a mix of ‘physical’ and ‘remote’ working.

These tech majors hint at what roles could come into remote working routine. Lobo says that for now all the roles except the ones that require high level of network bandwidth access or are in environments that need extra security protocols will continue to work from home. He is confident that this will lead to the creation and maintenance of thousands of hi-tech home offices in future.

The case is similar with IT majors that are not homegrown. “Those employees who are working on critical projects or who are unable to work from home due to certain client security guidelines will be part of the first phase to return to office and all other roles will continue to work from home,” says Pallavi Tyagi, CHRO, India, Capgemini. Currently, less than 10% of its workforce across India is in office. Tyagi believes that this will go up to 25-30% in the coming weeks depending on government guidelines.

Ajay Shah, head of recruitment services, TeamLease Services – a HR consultancy and recruitment firm, points out some specific roles that will continue to work from home. “Software development, implementation and design teams may be retained fully or partially from home for future and only departments that include support functions and client facing roles will be operating largely from office.”

IT parks house millions of IT employees and form one of India’s largest infrastructures. The idea that these spaces will start to empty out when people continue to work from home is challenged by property developers. “From a short term perspective, there will be an increase in the percentage of employees working from home but this will be compensated by the increased per person space requirement, which is bound to go upwards of 20-30% per employee. Most of our tenants are operating on 1-person / 100 sq.ft or up to 150 sq.ft, design standards, which effectively takes care of physical distancing amongst employees. Offices, therefore, are going to look the same except that the employees would be sporting a mask while working at their stations,” says Nandakumar, Associate Director – Sales and Leasing, Prestige Group, a South Indian property development giant. He believes that in the long term, work from home could cause huge challenges like data security, lack of collaboration, socialising and bonding, productivity and health issues for corporates and expects the demand to get renewed.

As Prestige’s IT parks prepare to welcome the returning workforce, which also includes asking the tenants and their employees to get registered under Aarogya Setu app, Nandakumar foresees some significant trends. “In the short term, the flexible space sector is likely to see significant consolidation. Several contact free features in our future Tech park designs, including RFID car access to voice activated lifts will be added. Work from home will be a short term trend. Many companies will adopt a hub and spoke model rather than consolidating them into one park. They may expect the landlord to invest in interior capex. Expansion plans may be reviewed from a short term perspective,” he explains.

As of now, all the employers are keen on making work from home seamless, engaging and developing trust between their employees in a remote working environment. Apart from providing them with popular collaborative and productivity tools like Mircosoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, etc., the companies have put their proprietary platforms and products to use.

For instance, Lobo says, “we have two useful platforms—an employee collaboration and services platform, InfyMe, and learning and communication platform, Lex. These are modular and mobile first in design and rapidly scalable as well as accessible anytime, anywhere. We have enabled remote joining for all new hires through our onboarding portal Launchpad.”

Similarly, Mindtree makes use of its digital learning platform, Yorbit, to enable its employees to upskill and Tech Mahindra uses Daily Work Management tracker to monitor employee productivity while Capgemini uses its AI learning platform Next to push structured learning to its employees which will help them in their projects.

Work from home is not a new concept to the companies, but Covid-19 has certainly hastened the process.

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