As vaccination gathers pace across the country, many companies have said they are preparing to bring their employees back to office in a phased manner. IT companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro have given tentative timelines on when they will open up, after shutting campuses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But what are the best practices for employers and employees as they return to workplace after a prolonged lockdown? How can organisations provide models that satisfy all workers? Does a hybrid work model foster better work relationships?
These are some of the questions that top business leaders answered on the 11th episode of Moneycontrol Masterclass. The panel included InfoEdge's Hitesh Oberoi, WeWork India's Karan Virwani, Accenture India's Piyush Singh, Intel India's Prakash Mallya and Myntra CEO Amar Nagaram.
Missed being in office
Hitesh Oberoi: This is party time for InfoEdge and Zomato, but we are stuck at home. We can't party, we can't celebrate the way we would have wanted to. You miss being together. Zoom is not the same in the end. You can call and congratulate people and appreciate their work, but it is not the same. You miss the camaraderie and teamwork.
Last year this time a lot of people kept asking when we would go back to work. I don't see that today. A lot of people were hit by the second wave. People want to get vaccinated and play it a little safe.
War for talent
Hitesh Oberoi: There is a war for talent. There are no people to hire. In my view companies can't decide whether people will work from home or the office. Talent will decide where they want to work from.
Piyush Singh: We are in a very hot market. It’s a dynamic reality and it’s a learning process we will have to go through taking into account several factors like gender.
Prakash Mallya: Companies have to look at what employees are feeling, talk and listen to them and let the policy evolve. Health and social connections need to be considered.
Work from home vs Work from office
Prakash Mallya: Work from home was a giant and inclusion experiment that was forced upon us. Whether you are a CEO or new employee, you are on the same frame in the zoom call.
Many Indian homes are half the size of those of the West, 2X members. Firms will have to look at whether she/he has a productive environment.
Amar Nagaram: We were not ready for the pandemic. We had to work remotely by force. Our only priority at the company was the safety of our employees. But we were able to do the transition well because our employees were very happy working from home. We realised we were swinging it to the other extreme.
Safety has taken over everyone's mind. People are now worried about stepping out and so we are not in a rush to come back to work.
Karan Virwani: Many companies are offering flexible solutions for a large section of employees. There's a need for flexibility, safe spaces, space on demand.
Most people have started to realise that they have different sorts of employees who can provide difficult kinds of work spaces.
Hitesh Oberoi: A lot of the workforce in India are not from the cities we have offices in. In many cases they are happy to work from home and according to them they are just as productive.
And remote work for international companies is picking up as well.
On the other hand, there are people who don't want to live with their parents because they can't party in Allahabad. He wants to come back to Noida and come to the office. Companies will have to make workplaces a lot more attractive.
Piyush Singh: In a world that we are in, a lot of capabilities you need to deploy to cater to client preferences are not there in the same place. So no reason why we can’t go to where people are.
Women in work
Prakash Mallya: In India women had been the hardest hit during the pandemic. A survey says that 26 percent of them would like to take a break from work, which is a downside. Inclusion with flexibility is the way forward.
Leaders need to be cognizant of inclusion of all kinds, including gender. They need to create more flexibility for women, and lead by example.
Amar Nagaram: Women were going through a lot of stress. We made some institutional change to our policy. The top leadership has to walk the walk.
We made sure there were no meetings before 10 and after 6. We also have no meetings on Wednesdays and we also have an infinite leave policy.
Return to office approach
Karan Virwani: Have launched a Zomato like model called WeWork on demand. People can book by day or book by situation.Hitesh Oberoi: Technology has fundamentally changed how we are going to work. A salesperson at Naukri can sit at home and do 10 meetings a day. We did a QIP of $250 million sitting at home. We had 50 meetings with global investors at home.