India Inc gets to work as it starts designing return to office toolkit

Topics India Inc | employees | IT companies

Many MNCs waiting for cues from global HQs
Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji on Sunday said the company’s “leaders” will start returning to office from Monday. “After 18 long months, our leaders @Wipro are coming back to office, starting Monday (twice a week). All fully vaccinated, all ready to go — safely and socially distanced,” Premji said in a tweet. 

A year and a half into the pandemic, India Inc is taking tentative steps to bring employees back to office. But it is being done slowly, and on a voluntary basis, with many saying they will take a call on the matter only at the end of the year.

Social media giant Facebook is preparing for a staggered opening up of its offices in India from next month. In the US, though, the company will decide whether or not to open offices only in January next year. “We are currently on a mandatory work-from-home. But starting October, we will allow 25 per cent of employees to return to the Gurugram office,” says a spokesperson for the company. 

Cab aggregator Uber India has planned a hybrid work strategy from January 10 next year. “We are asking those working in offices to spend at least 50 per cent of their time there every month. Our employees can work from their preferred location, choosing from a list of dedicated hubs,” says a spokesperson. 

Executives at South Korean electronics giant, Samsung, say they have increased the cap on employees in their large corporate offices from 10 per cent when the lockdown was lifted, to 33 per cent. To ensure safety, rosters of staff are made two weeks in advance, and they can come to office only after undergoing an antigen test each time.

Search engine Google has been in the public eye after it introduced a work location tool in the US that allows employees working from home to determine its impact on their pay package. Sources say the move could lead to a cut in salary of up to 25 per cent for many employees and some believe that the system may be implemented in India, too.

But a spokesperson for Google India says, “Outside the US, each country currently has a single compensation category, so there is no difference in pay, whether you are fully remote or an in-office employee.”   

E-commerce player Amazon India says its employees at supply chain and warehouses are already back. “We continue to monitor the situation closely. Right now, we are asking employees in roles which can be done effectively from home to continue to do so till January 3 next year,” says the spokesperson for the company. 

Indian information technology (IT) companies, which had been votaries of work-from-home during the lockdowns, are also putting in place strategies to bring their employees back to office.

Rajesh Gopinathan, chief executive officer and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), in a recent media interaction, said the company plans to get 75 per cent of its employees back to the workplace by the end of the year. TCS expects a majority of its employees to be double vaccinated by then. 

Tech Mahindra’s Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer and head of marketing, says over 80 per cent of its associates are already vaccinated. “Of that, only 20 per cent are working from offices. Till December, all associates have been advised to choose their work location, according to their convenience.”   

HCL Technologies is going for a staggered roll-out. Says its spokesperson, “We may start with one or two days a week, depending on their roles. While we want to encourage our employees to return to office, we do not want to mandate anything now.”  

Domestic companies, including those in manufacturing, are also ready to bring back vaccinated employees. In JSW Steel’s Mumbai headquarters (HQs), fully vaccinated employees were asked to return to office from September 1. 

Similarly, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India confirmed that a large majority of its employees are back at work on-premises, except those with pre-existing health conditions or those not required to be physically present in office.

In the Birla HQs in Mumbai, the top management is already attending office, while the rest of the fully vaccinated staff are coming to work in batches. Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, expects most organisations to revert to the pre-Covid workplace scenario once the pandemic is quelled. 

Fully vaccinated employees at ITC, too, are attending office in greater frequency. In many locations, the company has carried out random testing to ensure pre-emptive action. “We remain in a hybrid mode with regard to office presence and are ready to move back to full remote working, based on the evolving situation,” says Amitav Mukherji, head of corporate human resources (HR).

But many multinational IT companies are still waiting and watching for cues from their global HQs.

Apple Inc. was earlier planning to open offices in phases from September 1, but this has now been deferred to next year. Ericsson also announced it would continue with work from home till December and then decide on the matter.

As for PepsiCo, sources say the company will take a call on this only in December. “The hybrid work model is a win-win situation for employees and employers. The same shall be put into place once we resume work from office, depending on the external situation,” says Pavitra Singh, chief HR officer of Pepsico India.

Indian companies like Tata Steel have also rolled out an “agile working policy” for all managers, wherein they are offered the flexibility to work from home and advised to come to office if necessary. “The agile working policy has been conceptualised and implemented to adopt the new way of working, arising out of the pandemic situation. We aim to institutionalise it and make it part of our overall value proposition,” says a spokesperson.
India Inc’s back to office playbook
  • Fully vaccinated staff being asked to report to work in batches
  • Conducting regular antigen tests
  • Increasing cap on percentage of employees who can come to work gradually  
  • Arrange for vaccination drive for employees and families
  • Hire transport to avoid public conveyance
  • Mandatory attendance for top management
  • Allow some staff to come, but only after permission from departmental head
  • Many MNCs waiting for cues from global HQs


/> With inputs from Ishita Ayan Dutt in Kolkata and Shine Jacob in Chennai

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