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Many big firms don’t want to rush into opening offices and let all or majority of staff work from home

Many big firms don’t want to rush into opening offices and let all or majority of staff work from home

Despite signs of slowdown in virus spread and easing of state-imposed restrictions, India Inc is choosing to go slow on calling employees back to office.

Dalmia Bharat Group, RPG Group, Cognizant, ITC, Mindtree, Dabur, Panasonic,

Motilal Oswal Financial Services

and SAS India said they will either let the majority of their employees continue working from home or bring a fraction of the workforce back to office in a phased manner.

Several companies ET spoke with said they don’t want to rush into opening their offices, given the concerns around a possible third Covid-19 wave, coupled with the fact that most of them have an efficient remote working setup in place that employees are used to.

Dalmia Bharat has advised employees to operate from anywhere till next March. Panasonic said it is allowing only vaccinated employees in the office premises.

“With chances of a possible third wave later in the year, we have no plans to ask employees (in corporate offices) to return to office anytime soon,” said Ajit Menon, chief HR officer of Dalmia Bharat. “In fact, going ahead, if we find that work from home is more productive, we might even offer people the flexibility to come to office only when the need arises.”

RPG Group’s S Venkatesh, group-president-HR, said they have no plans to open up until the city or town is safe for employees to return to work.

Shantanu Jha, senior vice president, HR, Cognizant India, 99% of whose associates are working from home, said the company will use a phased approach to bring employees back. “It will be depending on the business requirements and based on our learnings, we will scale up operations as needed,” said Jha.

“In terms of transitioning our employees back to the office, we will continue to monitor the situation and work in accordance with the guidance provided by health and government authorities where we have operations and prioritise the safety of our workforce,” said Gaurav Ahluwalia, MD, human resources, India Corporate Centers, JPMorgan, which is supporting its employees and their immediate families to get vaccinated.

Dabur India executive director-HR Biplab Baksi said, “We are closely watching the situation as it develops and will take all steps necessary to ensure a safe working environment before deciding on reopening our offices.”

Meanwhile, companies are focusing on speeding up vaccinations for their employees. Most say the first dose for all will be completed this month. Vaccinations will be a big factor in return-to-office plans, along with government guidelines and Covid cases, they said.

ITC said that till the infection rates drop considerably, it plans to have a staggered presence in its offices.

“We plan to follow a calibrated approach while returning to office. Apart from vaccination status, we will evaluate the local infection rates and government guidelines,” said ITC’s corporate HR head Amitav Mukherji. The conglomerate aims to complete the first inoculation of its employees this month, and the second, depending on the choice of vaccine, by November.

Panasonic India CHRO Adarsh Mishra said that while it has restarted its corporate office, factory and a few branches (as per state guidelines) last week, currently, only vaccinated employees are allowed in office premises and as per weekly roster to maintain social distancing.

Sudhir Dhar, executive director HR at Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said, “We have created a safe office environment and are trying to get people back in a phased manner. Mostly people with their own vehicles and those that have taken at least one dose of the vaccine may start coming if they want to. The lead is taken by our top management – with director-level people starting to return.”

For some, a hybrid model will be the way forward. Paneesh Rao, chief people officer at Mindtree, said the company will take a call on employees’ return to office based on expert advice. “While we are still deliberating on our post-pandemic work model, a hybrid model is a strong possibility, where we might allow Mindtree Minds to choose to work either from home or office, or opt for a combination of the two,” he said.

SAS India will adopt a hybrid model till all employees get both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. “We will review pandemic situation in October and decide further action,” said director-HR Srinivas Rao Katkoor. The company has resumed operations from Monday with up to 50% capacity.

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