SynopsisEmployees see flexibility as a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have, benefit — and companies of all sizes are adjusting their workspace expectations to accommodate them.
A senior executive at a startup relocated to Goa in 2020 after the first wave, and never moved back. Life is good, he says, he gets to pursue his love for music, hang out on the beach and spend more time with friends.. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to adjust to the same old hectic Bengaluru life when my company decides to call us back,” he says. He’s seriously considering quitting his job and taking up freelancing if his firm doesn’t give him the option of continuing with remote work.
It’s probably with people like him in mind that companies such as Zensar Technologies have hired over 600 employees on a work-from anywhere basis over the last 20-odd months. Mumbai-headquartered RPG Group, of which Zensar is a part, says such measures, along with the hybrid model followed in its group companies, has given it access to talent from places they didn’t tap earlier, and a better work-life balance for employees.
“The pandemic has forced companies to reimagine the future of work. An efficient workplace is no longer one where employees need to operate with a high degree of efficiency by leveraging technology,” says S Venkatesh, group president — HR, RPG Enterprises. The future of the workplace is hybrid, and employers who think otherwise will likely have little choice. Employees across sectors, particularly tech, IT services and startups, are demanding remote and hybrid work — so are fresh grads from India’s leading colleges. Companies will have to take this into consideration if they don’t want to lose out on talent. Industry, at large, was preparing to call back more employees in 2022 — many had even started doing so.
Now, Omicron has pushed back dates for some. But along with the acceptance that Covid will never quite go away, the elephant in the room remains: the occasional disconnect between how employers and employees view the future.
EMPLOYERS VS EMPLOYEES: WHAT THEY WANT
More than three-quarters of C-suite executives recently surveyed in a McKinsey report said they expected the ‘core’ employee to be in office three or more days a week. Most acknowledged that the work-from-home (WFH) experiment was effective, but they also believed that it hurt organisational culture and belonging. In sharp contrast, says the report, nearly three-fourths of around 5,000 employees globally said they would like to WFH for two or more days a week, and more than half want at least three days of remote work. So, how does the future of work look, keeping in mind such conflicting wants?
“Having employees work from office is the most desired situation for management as it reduces a lot of other concerns such as attrition, engagement, culture, etc,” says Sameer Bendre, chief people officer, Persistent Systems. Hybrid working models created during Covid-19 will prevail for years to come, says Bendre, and help counter sudden outbreaks like Omicron. “As a long-term approach, organisations will explore clusters of offices to cover geographical spread and allow employees more flexibility,” he says.
“Employers will continue to press ahead for flexible working. It is no more a ‘nice benefit’ to offer but an important business lever,” says Arvind Usretay, commercial leader, India & South Asia, at global consulting firm Mercer India. Depending on the nature of work and industry, some jobs will end up being categorised as permanent WFH; others as permanent WFO (work from office) and yet others as hybrid.
“Through the pandemic, both employers and employees enjoyed the advantages of flexible arrangements — ease of managing work and home and saving costs. We anticipate this model is here to stay,” adds Usretay. At Tata Consultancy Services, where less than 10% of employees are working from offices, return to work will be a calibrated move, taking employee safety, health and wellbeing into consideration. While it says it’s committed to a 25×25 model, where no more than 25% employees will need to work from the office at any given point, and an employee will not need to spend more than 25% of their time in office by 2025, it has encouraged employees to plan to get back to their base branch.
“In the new ‘Future Of Work’, both the physical office and remote working will play an integral part. Eventually, everybody will have to come to office for a period and at the same time, they will have the flexibility to WFH,” said a TCS spokesperson. Ashish Kumar Singh, CHRO, Meesho, says the hybrid work model provides a flexible work environment for employees. However, if left unchecked, it can potentially lead to burnout. Employees too accept that a new working order is here, which while giving the comfort of a certain degree of WFH, will also require them to step out.
As Usretay says, these are ‘new models’, and everything is still not known about them. “It is very likely that no one employer will get it all right at one go. Therefore, employers will be required to remain agile in their approach and continuously listen to their employees, analyse their own data and take decisions, rather than blindly following a so-called ‘best practice’,” he cautions.
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