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100% work from office may soon well be history

With the possibility of a fourth wave of Covid-19 looming large, employees and employers are grappling with the same set of questions yet again: should they work from office, work from home, or adopt a hybrid model?

By Biswajiban Sharma

With the possibility of a fourth wave of Covid-19 looming large, employees and employers are grappling with the same set of questions yet again: should they work from office, work from home, or adopt a hybrid model?

But there is a clear fissure among sectors—between those that want 100% of their employees to work from office and those, mostly IT firms and start-ups, that are opting for a hybrid workplace model. Many companies, such as Infosys, Oracle, PhonePe and Meesho, have trashed the age-old norm of calling everyone to the office and allowed their staff to work from their living rooms.

Apart from letting employees work from anywhere up to 365 days a year, Infosys’ approach to returning to work has been balanced. Richard Lobo, executive vice-president, head HR, Infosys, said: “This has helped us in meeting challenges caused by spikes in infections over the past two years. Our view is that the future will be hybrid with a mix of employees coming in daily, some working fully remote and the rest using a mix of both modes.”

But at the same time adopt- ing a cautious approach, Lobo said, “Subject to future Covid scenarios, we expect a hybrid model in which approximately 40-50% of employees are likely to work from office on any given day. Of course, these will not be the same people as we expect people will choose the days they want to work in person. This model will outperform the previous model. We will all have to adapt and increase our skills to work both in the office and virtually.”

Similarly, IT firm TCS also said that since things are getting back to normal, the company would be getting its employees back to office. “Still, no more than 25% of its employees would work from an office at the same time,” a senior HR manager at TCS said.

Meesho said the company had studied multiple future work models to arrive at the “boundary-less” approach. Ashish Kumar Singh, chief HR officer, Meesho, said: “Technol- ogy emerged as the tipping point and work from home reached its full potential [during the pandemic]. The future of work, therefore, will be defined on the pillars of employee flexi- bility and empowerment,where constant reimagination of work processes and company policies will be a prerequisite to ensure its implementation. Meesho adopted a boundary-less work- place model, which means by decentralising the workplace, we are giving our employees the power to choose to work from home, office or any location of their choice.”

Manmeet Sandhu, HR head of PhonePe, said her company supports a flexible work culture. “Our current return-to-office arrangement is hybrid, where employees are expected to come to the office three-four times a week depending on team needs. While the last two years have made it clear that bare-bones work can continue to happen from anywhere, people crave the person-to-person connection.”

She added, “Our intent is to structure the workspace as a place for engagement, connection, and interaction. A place where you have the choice to engage and build the work experience that most suits you.”

Although some companies, especially start-ups, embraced the work-from-home model almost permanently, many others still find it an uphill task in ensuring their productivity and employees’ connection to the organisation, a senior official at Monster.com said. Now that many leaders and HoDs split time, energy and resources managing a hybrid team, it’s natural to manage three systems simultaneously, he added.

Several companies seem to be tweaking their polices to make them more flexible to suit their employees. Anarock chairman Anuj Puri, said: “While many employees are keen, there are few who still prefer to work from home, thereby prompting corporates to create policies that offers flexibility to the employees. In the wake of this gradual shift to work-from-office, residential rentals, and demand in most of the prominent areas of top cities are also back to pre- Covid levels.”

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