While a fairly common concept in the West, hybrid and fully remote work were regarded with suspicion in India until recently. Most Indian firms needed employees to be in office to trust that they were working. But the change has come only on the back of proof of employee productivity in these two years.
"2021 has been a rockstar year whether you look at annual GDP growth or industry-wise growth. There is absolutely nothing that suggests that just because people are working from home, the industry growth has been impacted. Something is going right," says Mansee Singhal, Sr Principal, Mercer India.
Amitav Mukherji, Head, Corporate Human Resources, ITC, lists productivity gains made from focussed meetings and better time management.
"This whole process of meeting remotely has ensured a lot of rigour and discipline around planning work. There is a clear consciousness that there is a finite time limit to a conversation. People plan their day based on that. Work has become far more structured."
But TN Hari, HR Head, BigBasket, on the other hand, doesn't see a direct productivity boost. He says employees spend the time saved on commuting with their families and on their interests. This improves their work quality in intangible ways, he adds.
But one size doesn't fit all within the hybrid framework, employers are realising. The role, the project, the team and the individual's needs all have to be factored in now to arrive at a roster.
"We learn from multiple conversations with employees through their exit interviews or during calibrations that they want that flexibility," says Deval Singh, business head - telecom, IT& ITes, media and government, TeamLease Services.
Multinational IT and consulting firm Accenture, which has over 250,000 employees in India, had flexible working even pre-pandemic.
"What has probably changed is the increased level of flexibility where it's going to be very custom-built and personalised to the nature of the work, the nature of our clients' requirements and our people's needs," says Lakshmi C., Managing Director-Human Resources Lead, Accenture in India.
For instance, she says, people in technology roles have the option to choose their work location from any of the seven Indian cities where Accenture has a presence.
"We will have very specially tailored in-office schedules, depending on the team and type of work. Some teams will operate more remotely, some will require more in-person time." So, the firm is not setting anyone date for all employees to return to work
And yet, several organisations have veered more towards getting employees back to office every time the infection comes under control, proven by the heavy traffic on the roads during peak hours. TeamLease's Singh says we are only seeing haphazard approaches because organisations are brainstorming and observing what other firms are doing as well.
"HR heads are trying to work out a balance of how many days you want to come to office, how many days you can work from home. All of this will be drawn out in the next few months before going live in the next fiscal."
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