With the coronavirus pandemic not showing any signs of slowing down in India, the central government employees could soon get an option to work from home for 15 days in a year. The Ministry of Personnel has circulated a draft proposal to give India's 48.34 lakh central employees a work-from-home option for at least 15 days in a year. The decision has been taken considering the new future scenario where employees could be asked to join the office in a staggered manner to maintain social distancing. All government departments have been asked to send their comments on these proposals by May 21.
"It is quite likely that for the near future, the central secretariat will continue to go for staggered attendance and variable working hours to maintain social distancing at the workplace," a draft circulated on Wednesday said.
The circular says since many ministries/departments have successfully managed and rendered exemplary results in the wake of coronavirus pandemic-infused lockdown for over 50 days now, a board framework on the work from home model was essential for India.
"Many of the ministries/departments in Government of India have successfully managed and rendered exemplary results in combat against the ongoing pandemic outbreak during the lockdown period by leveraging e-office and video conferencing facilities of National Informatics Centre (NIC). This was the first-of-its-kind experience in the Government of India," it said.
A big challenge before the government, however, is to ensure the safety and security of important files and information while allowing employees ease of working.
The DoPT has finalised a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the employees to ensure smooth and seamless functioning, as part of which they could be given laptops or desktops or the inventory could be given on rotational basis to those working from home. Other proposals include reimbursement of internet bills. "Department of Expenditure may consider reimbursement for data uses to the officers working from home and if required may issue separate guidelines in this regards," the draft said.
In case of high priority or Parliament matters, all senior officials could receive SMSs as they process through various stages. Those offices who have not adopted the e-office module - digitisation of office working - as yet will have to expedite the work, the draft circular says. Senior officials working from home could also be asked to do only official work to avoid security threat.
About 75 ministries or departments are using the government's e-office platform, of which 57 have achieved more than 80 per cent of their work.