Spread of Omicron variant puts spanner in back-to-office work

The spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has made Indian companies persist with their policy of banning overseas trips and allowing only essential travel within India. The IT services firms, which had planned to ask their employees to return to the workplace, are also waiting and watching the Covid-19 situation before fully opening up their offices.   Large conglomerates like the Tatas, Birla, JSW and Reliance are continuing with the mandatory social distancing and masking policies within their office premises. While the work-from-home option remains open to most em.....
The spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has made Indian companies persist with their policy of banning overseas trips and allowing only essential travel within India. The IT services firms, which had planned to ask their employees to return to the workplace, are also waiting and watching the Covid-19 situation before fully opening up their offices.  

Large conglomerates like the Tatas, Birla, JSW and Reliance are continuing with the mandatory social distancing and masking policies within their office premises. While the work-from-home option remains open to most employees, companies are also making sure that operational staff is available on the ground. 

India’s largest IT services player, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which had asked its employees to start returning to their deputed cities, said it is not forcing them to come back, but have merely asked them to initiate their move to their designated cities. 

“Our priority is employee security and well-being. Though the company has asked employees to return to their cities from November 15, there is still no definite date for them to come back to office,” said a TCS spokesperson.

The TCS management had earlier stated that employees would start attending office by the end of calendar year 2021. 

“We continue to monitor the situation and follow all government guidelines. At present, based on requirements for certain roles, employees continue to come back to office in a staggered manner. The company is making all efforts to ensure that all the employees are fully vaccinated, offices are maintained at the highest standards of sanitisation, and all employees are screened from time-to-time,” said Apparao VV, chief human resources officer, HCL Technologies.

At Tech Mahindra, employees have been advised to choose their work location as per their convenience. The company will evaluate its return-to-office plan based on the Covid-19 situation in the country.

Harshvendra Soin, global chief people officer and head-marketing, at Tech Mahindra, said, “We have put in place defined measures in line with the directives issued by respective state governments, to ensure a safe work environment for our associates. Our associates have the flexibility to work from anywhere and we expect the trend of hybrid working to continue. The approach we’ve taken is largely voluntary for people — the only thing we’re insisting is full vaccination. Over 98 per cent of our associates are vaccinated (at least one dose) and of that, only 20 per cent are working from offices. Most of our senior leaders are also working from the office.”

E-commerce giant Amazon too stated, "We continue to monitor the situation closely. Our guidance on return to work remains the same as shared earlier. We anticipate directors sharing more with teams in January."

Amazon will plan for a safe and organised way to help employees return to office, a spokesperson said. "We are working closely with world-class epidemiologists and medical healthcare professionals, gathering their advice and recommendations as we go forward and plan for teams to be back in the office regularly to ensure our workspaces are adjusted for the safety of our teams.”

However, some companies say that a permanent work-from-home policy is not feasible in India. “Office space expansion plans are very aggressive now and demand has increased in this segment. For example, a city like Bengaluru has more than 80 per cent of people who are not from the city. Hence, work from home in India is not going to be a feasible proposition,” said M Murali, chairman and managing director, Shriram Properties.

The CEO of a finance company said that employees are now coming to work at its Mumbai headquarters only twice a week, a system that will continue until there is more clarity on the state of the pandemic. “While the top management like CEO, CFO and the heads of departments work daily from the office, the rest of the employees come to office only twice a week. We plan to continue this for some time,” said the CEO, who did not wish to be quoted.


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