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As lockdown lifts, employees hesitate to get back to offices

As lockdown lifts, employees hesitate to get back to offices

Asha Sharma, who works as a brand head in a Delhi-based automobile major, is at a crossroads. With her company announcing opening up of offices post lockdown, she and many others are finding it extremely difficult to re-adjust themselves for getting back to work in the traditional manner.

Her plight is felt by a number of white collared executives across the spectrum of industry. As companies are requesting their workforces to get into office, executives are feeling the pinch to re-align back to schedules of 15 months prior. What with most of them having got used to a Work From Home (WFH) culture, providing a perfect work life balance, say experts..

Most CHROs ET spoke to are expecting some kind of resistance from employees. But that’s natural, and they are watching the situation. Employees clearly are pided on this, say experts.

“We are watching this very closely. Right now we have kept it voluntary and basing our decision on average infection positivity rate in a city”, says Amit Prakash, CHRO, Marico adding that last time they were surprised that most people came back to office without any resistance.

“In my view, employees would require a very calibrated return to office with so many re-adjustments to be made.”

Life is still not normal with schools and public transportation yet to take off. We shall be keeping a close watch on the situation and then take a decision on the exact details including ways to retain some advantages of remote working, says Rajeshwar Tripathi, CHRO at Mahindra.

Companies are opening up with 20-25% staff each day making it voluntary with senior management coming into office more regularly. The middle level employees seem to be most affected what with some of them working out of remote locations like Goa, Gujarat or Kerala while being with families.

While companies such as Mahindra and Marico amongst others have taken a cautious approach in opening up over a phased manner, it seems most of their employees prefer the currently prevailing working conditions.

“People having privacy at home/enough space are now comfortable creating a workspace at home and will want to continue in that direction as they can achieve much more by saving commute time. There will be another lot who will want to go to their workplace. Organisations will work on hybrid models to be seen as progressive in giving employees flexibility and keeping them happy”, says Raj Nayak, Founder, .

Physical offices will continue to play an important role even as companies across the world move to a hybrid workplaces in the aftermath of the pandemic, according to Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran. “To my mind, it will signify two important things going forward. A place where collaboration really happens and it will become a place where there’ll be a lot of social engagements,” Chandrasekaran said at a recent Qatar Economic Forum.

Employees on their part do not seem too enthused about the hybrid model which some companies seem to offer. “How do you expect me to work three days from home and two days from office? It completely throws schedules out of gear”, says a marketing head of a FMCG major. What is also giving executives a lot of heart ache is the fact that schools are yet to reopen. For a working couple, this means their kids would be at home attending online classes, mostly without any supervision. In normal times, corporates could have arranged online classes within office premises, which is a near impossibility currently.

HR heads do seem to have a tough task on hands, getting people into work immediately. What is interesting is that once they get in, maintaining motivation for employees would be another interesting task, say experts.

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