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Six months on, work from home is still a raging debate for IT sector

The sector employs about 50 lakh employees. But companies are in no hurry to bring them back to office amid the pandemic.

September 27, 2020 / 01:38 PM IST
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After over six months of working from home -- To make WFH permanent or not – is a debate that is raging in the IT sector that employs close to 50 lakh people in the country.

Clearly, the jury is divided.

Back in April, India’s largest IT services provider TCS said that the company is making WFH permanent for its employees. The IT major said that by 2025, it is looking at 75 percent of its employees working from home. So it means that only 25 percent of its workforce will have to come to office by 2025.

That took the entire industry by surprise as companies and their clients were getting used to the model.

In July, companies such as Infosys, HCL Tech and Tech Mahindra said that they are looking at hybrid model where some employees will be working from home and others from office.

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Now in September, views are still changing with more executives sharing the opinion that WFH cannot be permanent for its employees and they want them back in their office.

This includes banking major JP Morgan & Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings. In India, Bengaluru-based IT firm Wipro's chairman Rishad Premji said in a recent event that he wants employees to come back to office as well.

There are reasons why there are takers for both WFH and return to office.

An industry watcher pointed out that clients are now quite comfortable with the WFH model and would like the IT vendors to continue to do the same. Productivity has increased as well for employees, who are working longer than they would in offices.

But for vast majority of those who want employees back, they say it has to do with nurturing company culture and innovation.

As people worked from home, informal conversations with colleagues became a casualty at the back of COVID-19. According to Premji, these conversations are indeed important to build and nurture employees and organisations.

Premji in a recent event said that it is important that employees return to work at least 3-4 days a week where people can connect face to face. Watercooler chats and gossips are in a way important for them and also the organisation to grow.

For, these informal conversations, according to him, are necessary for innovation.

“I think it's powerful for people to come together. Oftentimes, innovation happens in the downtime when you don't expect something to come about and something comes about. So for those two reasons, I think it's important that people come back," a TimesNow article quoted Premji.

This is precisely why JP Morgan wants its employees back in office too, at least of them. A Bloomberg report on the company's move said that, “WFH lifestyle seems to have impacted younger employees, and overall productivity and ‘creative combustion’ has taken a hit.”

There is another impact of prolonged WFH and not widely discussed – stickiness factor.

A staffing executive pointed out that longer the employees WFH, shorter the stickiness factor. “If you look at it, employees who joined new firms in the middle of a pandemic never met their colleagues,” he said. In the event that they hardly meet them at all, there is neither a bond with the team nor the company. “This stickiness factor is important for retaining talents and employees,” he added.

Swathi Moorthy
first published: Sep 27, 2020 01:38 pm