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Why TCS employees will work from office before they return to WFH

TCS wants to return to normal first before shifting to the ‘new normal’ so that employees can connect and build social capital before returning to the remote working model.

October 12, 2021 / 12:27 PM IST
A man walks out of the office of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Mumbai. | File image (PC-Reuters)

A man walks out of the office of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Mumbai. | File image (PC-Reuters)

Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest software firm, wants to get a majority of its employees back to the office by December, after 18 months of working from home, as the company implements its hybrid work model.

The move appears contradictory to the company’s ‘25 by 25’ strategy announced at the height of the pandemic last year, envisioning only 25 percent of its employees working in the office by 2025. However, there is a rationale for this move.

According to a top TCS executive, bringing employees back to the office first will be key to implementing its hybrid strategy in a phased manner. It will help employees connect and build social capital before they start working virtually again.

TCS currently has over 528,000 employees, of which 70 percent are fully vaccinated and 95 percent have received their first dose.

The 25 by 25 WFH model

TCS announced the strategy early last year when IT companies were forced to enable work from home for their employees in the wake of the pandemic. With customers warming up to the idea and mindsets changing, TCS was the first to announce its permanent remote work strategy.

With this model, the company expects only 25 percent of its associates will need to work out of its facilities at any point of time by 2025. Also, employees won’t need to spend more than 25 percent of their time in the office. Going by the current headcount, only 132,000 people would work from office by 2025.

Return to office

However, Milind Lakkad, chief human resources officer at TCS, said that while the company stands by its 25 by 25 vision, it doesn’t mean all the work will be remote. From the current 95-98 percent working remotely, it first wants to get 80-85 percent of employees back to the office.

The company will encourage senior employees and those who are fully vaccinated to come to the campus. Some executives from the management and delivery sides have been working in the office over the past few weeks and this number will be stepped up slowly.

“We will come back to normal first before we go to the new normal,” Lakkad explained. “When I say come to normal first, we will get most of our workers to offices first. Most of our seniors have already started coming to work at least two to three times a week. Towards the end of this year, we will try to get the larger workforce gradually into our offices.”

Building social capital

However, the company doesn’t expect to reach the 80 percent target by December, considering that most employees are away in their hometowns and it would take time for them to return. Lakkad said the company aims to get 80 percent of the employees in 2022 before the proportion is narrowed.

“(It can be) 60 percent in 2023 and 40 percent in 2024. It would be 25 percent by 2025. So that is the path we will take, depending on individual aspects and customer situation. At the macro level, that is how we will realise this vision and we are committed to it. But to ensure that after these 18 months of working virtually, it is very important to just come back to work and build that social capital and then slowly move on to the 25 by 25 model,” he explained.

Pausing campus development

The impact of the 25 by 25 policy will mean the development of new campuses will be slow. Each building will have 50 percent occupancy because of the current Covid-19 protocols that need to be followed.

“Taking into consideration employee safety and all the other things, we will at best have 50 percent of the workforce at any point in time. So our offices currently can operate only at 50-60 percent capacity at any point in time in terms of people coming into offices,” chief operating officer NG Subramaniam said in an earlier interaction with Moneycontrol.

While certain employees, like those working on the infrastructure server, might be required to come to office frequently, project managers can take a call on how often they need to come to the office, based on customer needs.

“We left it to the units and the project managers whether you want to work two days a week, one week, a month, or let’s say one month, and then the next two months you go offline… That’s up to you to see how you want to manage this. Plus, there are always situations like separate client visits. So, there is a certain amount of plasticity and flexibility, but on average we believe that the 25 by 25 model will pan out,” he added.

Peers Infosys and Wipro are also looking at a hybrid model. While Wipro said its leaders have started coming to office twice a week, Infosys COO UB Pravin said it may see 20-30 percent of the workforce coming to office over the next six months if the impact of a third wave of Covid-19 is minimal.

Swathi Moorthy
Chandra R Srikanth is Editor- Tech, Startups, and New Economy
first published: Oct 12, 2021 12:27 pm