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You may not get freedom to work from anywhere

The hybrid workplace model is here to stay, but for employees at most corporates, it is likely to come with a caveat: you need to be back in the location you were hired for. According to findings from a Deloitte survey, shared exclusively with ET, only 12% companies are planning to give the choice to employees to work from any city on a permanent basis.

Except for the IT/ITeS sector, where one out of four companies plan to give employees the option to work from any city permanently, most other industries are not keen on allowing location flexibility (remote working), the survey covering 450-plus organisations revealed.

Companies across sectors told ET that promoting collaboration among teams is one of the main reasons why they want employees to return to base locations. Issues such as hardware infra, data privacy, better productivity and employee bonding are among the others.

Last week, in a communication sent out by its global HR head Milind Lakkad, Tata Consultancy Services asked its workforce to return to their base branches by November 15.

Harshil Mathur, chief executive at fintech unicorn Razorpay, said while they would be recruiting some new hires purely for remote work roles, current employees would be working out of the locations they were hired for.

SBI’s new mantra work-from-anywhere

NEW DELHI: The country’s leading lender SBI is upgrading its existing work-from-home policy to work-from-anywhere, as it gears up to adjust to the new challenges posed by COVID-19. On the business side, the focus of the bank in the days ahead would be on revisiting risk assessment and business procedures in addition to rapid adoption of digital technology, said

State Bank of India

‘s annual report.

This fiscal will be challenging as the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak will be felt in this financial year.

However, from the bank’s point of view, the true impact COVID pandemic must also consider the behavioral impact on Bank’s customers, and composition of portfolio, the report said.

“For instance, likely job cuts and salary reductions will have relatively low level of stress on account of higher proportion of Govt/ Quasi Govt sector customers,” the report quoted SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar as saying.

As of now, only 21.8 per cent of the customers have availed the benefit of moratorium, it said and added that the bank was able to achieve 98 per cent branch operability as well as 91 per cent alternate channel operability during the period of lockdown.

Nevertheless, an elaborate Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is in place to manage disruptions, said SBI.

Business continuity hub branches have been identified to cater to customers in case of emergency and BCP sites identified to support essential backend services, it said.

“With global acceptability of Work-from-Home (WFH) arrangements, the Bank is in process of upgrading its existing WFH policy to Work from Anywhere (WFA).

“Productivity tools and technology are in already place to perform administrative work remotely,” Kumar said in the report.

Furthermore, WFA reduces commute time that can be utilised for providing better services to customers as well as ensuring better work life balance.

“WFA facility has already been rolled out across 19 foreign offices and soon domestic operations will also be covered. This is expected to drive down the operational cost for the Bank, besides ensuring better motivation and productivity for staff members,” the lender said.

It further said the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on economy and financial markets has been dramatic and severe.

However, COVID-19 pandemic has also opened opportunities for the banks.

Reordering of global supply chains presents unique opportunity to India to position itself as manufacturing hub to meet global demand.

To the extent state governments are able to secure such relocation of businesses from China; banks will see opportunities to expand business, it said.

The report emphasised that rapid adoption of digital technology in response to the COVID-19 also augurs well from point of view of the banks as it may accelerate the adoption of digital offerings by the lenders.

“In a nutshell, the outlook on Bank’s business and the economy will be conditional on time frame by which the virus is completely eliminated, and normalcy restored,” SBI said.

The recently released fiscal stimulus package, its priorities and funding strategy will decide how banks will respond in the post-COVID scenario.

“Bank will also have to revisit its risk management framework, its internal models of risk assessment and capital planning and business procedures to better adapt to new operating environment,” the report said.

SBI had posted a net profit of Rs 14,488.11 crore for 2019-20, as compared to Rs 862.23 crore in FY2019.

( Originally published on Jun 20, 2020 )

Work from home technology will focus on individual needs: Andrew Kun

Technology plays a complex role in our contemporary work lives. Even before the pandemic began, we saw concerns growing about the crumbling of walls between the private sphere and the work sphere — people were bringing work home, they kept working on handheld devices and so on. That’s really exacerbated now with the pandemic causing your office to literally be in your home. I think technology will help us re-establish some of these boundaries eventually.

The other place where technology can really help workers is with the management of interruptions — at home, often you simply cannot separate work and family life. If my children need their meals, that’s a non-negotiable interruption. Interestingly, we conducted a study recently where we found people’s time is more cut up now — the time they spend on inpidual tasks is shorter than pre-Covid. That might just be because of such interruptions. If technology can help us diagnose such interruptions and navigate these breakpoints smoothly, it can help us recover our attention spot and return to a high efficiency level.

In terms of technological design, there will be changes in both mechanistic things (including simple factors, like a distracting light on a computer, for instance) and more social issues, like how to schedule downtime or family time. For some people, interruptions might even be beneficial — I find it very rewarding that my children interrupt me thrice a day, much more so than when I’m in the office and don’t see my kids for hours. I feel good to be more connected to my family now. Perhaps that shows somewhere in my work. I think technological evolution will understand what works for inpiduals. Technological design will explore both the resources we bring to the table as people, and also, how we would like to live our lives.

In the world of remote work technology, what we will increasingly see is a realisation that we need to think about the human being who is at the centre of all this. There is very interesting research on the data that helps you design a technological product. I’ve been reading about data where women are simply ‘missing’ — we do not have data about women on a whole host of issues. This shows in technological details like the size of mobile phones being more in line with the size of a man’s hand than a woman’s, simply because women did not figure adequately in the data that went into building this product. This will certainly change now.

(Andrew Kun, University of New Hampshire)

There are differences between how perse employees use technology and time as well. We are finding, for instance, that managers at large firms are now spending much more time simply communicating and organising.

Before the pandemic, we were studying automated vehicles which can drive themselves for some time. We ran a study asking people how they’d spend the commute time they would have in such a vehicle — knowledge workers said they’d catch up on emails. But CEOs said they would like to spend this time reflecting and strategically thinking. Technological evolution will now look a lot more closely at who’s using the technology, what their preferences are and how to make their particular tasks simpler for them.

I am personally excited about the development of augmented reality — you will see the world around you, but there will also be additional digitally created content in that world which you can observe. Hologram glasses will help do this, adding greater efficiency to our work. You could also have meetings with people projected into a common area, sitting around a table for discussions, for instance, involving large groups that aren’t actually co-present but will give a feeling of being so. Quite soon, you could literally walk into the digital world and have such interactions.

Of course many of us miss the physical experience of being in the office and feeling that level of engagement. In Zoom calls, for instance, you have only one person speaking, in contrast to a physical conference where people can jump in with ideas throughout. But very positive things are happening via technology too — disparate teams coming together on Zoom are on the same footing now, as opposed to meetings earlier, where you often had an ‘in-group’. Now, everybody is remote and there aren’t just the privileged few. Technology has enabled a more level playing field. In the near future, I foresee technological design focusing closely on communications aspects missing in our work from anywhere world, and creating innovative solutions to make these a thing of the past.

How Tech Will Work

  • For those missing the sounds of the office, technology designers have already created ambient ‘office sound’ effects using animated sliders — users can hear clicking keyboards, the whirr of a fax machine, distant strains of conversation — and even a coffee machine. If you miss office banter, software helps you ‘meet’ colleagues on chats. Panels show you who’s around to talk and their conversational interests, while also suggesting other colleagues to catch up with

  • Tech designers are working on ‘deformable’ or shape-changing devices which offer users new interaction techniques and data inputs — these include glasses with sensors, bendable devices where a series of bends become a password and speakers that can be embroidered onto apparel or accessories, giving quiet reminders to take a break, etc. These innovations aim at empowering differently-abled employees and providing ‘subtle’ tech for well-being

  • Researchers are studying how automated vehicles (AV) can offer opportunities for more work-related efforts — alongside surveying how different users would spend time in an AV, scientists are creating in-vehicle environments with voice, tangible and augmented reality user interfaces, to support greater productivity

Research: MIT Technology Review, ScienceDirect, Forbes

( Originally published on Feb 20, 2021 )