After almost two years of following the work from home (WFH) model, just when Indian tech companies were busy making their back-to-office plans, rising Covid cases across the country and the highly transmissible Omicron variant forced them to rethink their hybrid model in order to play it safe.
Companies with employees working mainly from home such as Google, Microsoft, Flipkart, Cognizant, and Amazon, among others, and who were mulling return to office policies said that they have asked employees to readopt WFH – at least till the time the crisis continues.
Cognizant said it aims to return to office in April, given the uncertain path of the Omicron variant and global outbreaks. “Until then, travel and office-based work will remain restricted. The health and safety of our employees and contractors, their families, our clients and our communities remain our top priority,” a company spokesperson said.
“Flipkart has been flexible in its approach and created a hybrid model for all our corporate employees that combine campus and remote work options starting December 2021. In view of the rising cases, we’ve advised our employees to not come into the office for the next two weeks,” a Flipkart spokesperson said.
An Amazon India spokesperson said that the majority of the company’s employees are working from home at the moment. The company added that they are monitoring the situation closely and will consider the health and safety of employees in making any decision.
Most global captive centres (GCCs) had devised global plans to welcome teams in India back to office this month. But they have now told employees that such plans stand cancelled until further notice and WFH will continue, industry sources said.
Meanwhile, Indian IT giants Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and HCL said that they are taking a “cautious approach” on calling employees back to office amid concerns of the spread of the infection. Most companies had earlier announced they would reopen their offices from January 2022.
Richard Lobo, Executive Vice-President and HR Head at Infosys, told The Economic Times, “We expect to operate in the hybrid mode for most of the coming year. We haven’t forced anybody to attend daily or to relocate.”
He also said that the company is likely to see a larger percentage of its workforce returning if the health situation stays stable, infection rates are low and vaccination rates are higher.
Tech major TCS said that its plans for a 100% return to office will be a “calibrated move.” At present, less than 10% of the company’s associates are working from the office.
HCL Technologies on the other hand said the impact of the COVID-19 variant could “limit the movement of employees.” The company expects to continue with the hybrid model of work for now, it said. About a tenth of HCL employees are currently working from its office.
Across the world, companies are delaying plans to return to office amidst uncertainties over the severity of the Omicron variant and its resistance to vaccines. In the US, companies like Google, Ford Motors, Twitter and Uber Technologies, that were preparing to call back their employees after the holidays, have modified their return to office plans, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Harsh Lambah, Country Manager India, Vice President Sales – South Asia, IWG, a global flexible workspace provider said, “We are closely monitoring developments with regards to the Omicron variant of the pandemic across key markets. We believe that unlike in the case of previous outbreaks, governments and enterprises are much better prepared today to prevent another full-blown outbreak.”
Nevertheless, he said, it is important that enterprises and the professional workforce continue to adhere to all of the required safety precautions to ensure workplace safety, as health experts have warned that the pandemic could remain active for the long term.
Meanwhile, a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that both employees and managers found working from home as positive for performance and well-being. The survey of workers in 25 countries said the proportion of staff teleworking at least one day a week is likely to be much higher than that before the pandemic, Bloomberg reported.
Reports also suggest that job aspirants are increasingly looking at indefinite work-from-home options and opportunities that offer flexible schedules, as the third wave of covid and its variants sweep the country, clearly indicating that the WFH is here to stay relevant in 2022.