Has Omicron disrupted India Inc’s workspace again?

HR heads of various companies share their ‘return-to-office’ plans with HRKatha

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Looks like the COVID-19 virus and its n number of mutations will ruin our transition into the New Year yet again. The Omicron variant of the virus, even though clinically ascertained to be not as lethal, has the the potential to cause another wave of the pandemic, and a subsequent lockdown, expected around February of 2022.

What is worse is, this variant has struck just when companies across industries had managed to get back some semblance of normalcy or were gearing to reopen their office spaces for their employees.

“We are already back to fully working from the office. However, employee safety is key for us and we might take a call on the future of our workspace with time”

C Jayakumar, CHRO, L&T

Even though professionals embraced ‘work-from-home’ during the past two years, and even managed to attain a considerable degree of efficiency, they were able to revert to full time work-from-office too, after a long gap.

However, certain aspects integral to operations, such as collaboration and synchronisation within the workforce, were somewhat lacking.

With the threat of the new variant, several international business leaders including Google and Apple, which had gone public with a date for reopening, have had to push back their dates or reconsider their decision.

For India, however, the spread of the new variant is still at a very nascent stage. As Delhi and Maharashtra, among many other states have introduced a lighter set of restrictions, the companies that would have aimed to log out of their Zoom apparatus have other things to discuss.

“Currently, the Delhi government has mandated offices to operate at a 50 per cent capacity, which is what we were anyway doing”

Amit Chincholikar, CHRO, Tata Consumer Products

Reworking plans

Shailesh Saumya Singh, head of talent acquisition, Max Life Insurance, tells HRkatha, that the new variant has made them implement changes in their reopening plans. “Earlier, we were moving forth with a reopening plan under which our offices had started opening in October, in a phased manner. However, now, we will be letting our employees take a call on whether they wish to rejoin office. They have the option to work from the office if they want to,” he says.

Being watchful

Singh asserts that the management at Max is currently watchful of the situation, which doesn’t seem to be playing out positively when it comes to returning to offices. “If the situation improves, we will look at going back to our previous plans. If it doesn’t, then a decision to implement a complete shutdown is also on the cards,” he further informs.

Paramjit Nayyar, CHRO, Hero Housing Finance, reveals to HRKatha that till a week ago, the company was operating on a hybrid model, but has now switched completely to remote operations.

“We have mandated that employees take the once-a week RT-PCR test. The company has also started procuring oxygen concentrators, just so that we are prepared in case the worst hits”

Paramjit Nayyar, CHRO, Hero Housing Finance

Changing priorities

Over the last couple of years, the very definition of success has changed for an organisation, according to Nayyar. “Ensuring employee health is now the biggest success for an organisation, while earlier people success was only derived from their profitability to the organisation,” he explains.

Preparing

In tune with this, the leadership team at Hero Housing Finance has been deliberating on ensuring the health and safety of its employees for the past three weeks, Nayyar informs. “We have mandated that employees take the once-a week RT-PCR test. The company has also started procuring oxygen concentrators, just so that we are prepared in case the worst hits,” Nayyar informs.

Moving with caution

Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore, tells us that the Company’s current plan is to move forth with extreme caution. Uniphore had earlier planned to throw office doors open in mid-January, since its people were keen to rejoin offices.

“We are constantly deliberating whether to move the reopening time”

Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore

“Our prior re-opening plans were purely voluntary and we were planning to increase office occupancy in a gradual manner. However, the situation doesn’t seem really encouraging now. We are constantly deliberating whether to move the reopening time,” says Verma.

Reiterating how safety is paramount for Uniphore and how it doesn’t want to compromise on that, he elaborates, “Employees need to be safe even though it is challenging for many to work remotely”

C Jayakumar, CHRO, L & T, tells us that there won’t be any changes in the Company’s plans as such. Larse &Toubro had transitioned back to working from office some time back and Jayakumar doesn’t see the Company taking a step back at this point of time.

“We are already back to fully working from the office. However, employee safety is key for us and we might take a call on the future of our workspace with time,” he asserts.

Jayakumar says that L&T will be “extra cautious in ensuring that the workplace is safe and secure” and will naturally “want to prevent any unwanted spread”. Jayakumar also reveals that they are currently endeavouring to refresh the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines with their people.

“There is not much of a change in our approach to our workspace, as we never deviated from the hybrid and WFH model”

Kartik Rao, CPO, The Good Glamm Group

Amit Chincholikar, CHRO, Tata Consumer Products, also echoes Jayakumar’s statement about the Company sticking to its plans as of now. “Currently, the Delhi government has mandated offices to operate at a 50 per cent capacity, which is what we were anyway doing. Therefore, nothing has quite changed for us at the moment. We are being vigilant and are monitoring the situation as it unfolds,” Chincholikar says.

Remaining flexible

Further, Tata Consumer Products is only allowing vaccinated employees to return to office and is extra cautious of regularly sanitising the workspace. “We will continue with this regimen. Everything is status quo at the moment. We will keep monitoring the situation and remain flexible,” he adds.

“Earlier, we were moving forth with a reopening plan under which our offices had started opening in October, in a phased manner. However, now, we will be letting our employees take a call on whether they wish to rejoin office”

Shailesh Saumya Singh, head of talent acquisition, Max Life Insurance

Adhering to hybrid model

Kartik Rao, CPO, The Good Glamm Group, believes that the hybrid work model, is here to stay. “There is not much of a change in our approach to our workspace, as we never deviated from the hybrid and WFH model even when the pandemic loosened,” he says.

“While offices will continue to welcome back their employees, we will remain cautious and prefer to take it slow,” Rao tells HRKatha. However, “we do understand that collaboration in the workforce is critical and hence are designing a framework for that accordingly,” he adds.

Rao reveals that the Good Glamm Group is not committing to getting its workforce back to100 per cent work-from-office just yet. It will act as per the requirement.

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