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Half of India Inc bats for full office return

The Times of India logo The Times of India 21-11-2022 Namrata Singh
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More organisations are pushing employees to attend office — at 46% — as compared to those offering hybrid (32%) or work-from-home (16%) options.

Among these, manufacturing companies are entirely mandating a return to office, followed by BFSI (banking, financial services & insurance) firms at 68% and retail at 57%. Meanwhile, a significant share of IT (53%) and BPO (45%) firms operate in the hybrid way, while 24% of BPOs and 18% of IT firms are offering a WFH mandate, according to a study conducted exclusively for TOI by recruitment firm Randstad India.

Considering that this study was concluded in the second week of September, it is likely that more IT employees would also have moved to a hybrid work mode recently. Even as most organisations have reiterated they have imbibed several learnings from the last two years of working, the study reveals that companies that offer employees the choice to pick a working style option stands at a meagre 6%.

There are disagreements in viewpoints between employers and employees. The report shows that remote work preferences are high among the BPO/IT/tech employees, especially women BPO workers (86%) compared to the male staff (71%). Only 32% BPO women employees said they “will continue working, even if WFH is not an option anymore”.

Among IT and BPO employees, 41% prefer fully remote work. Only 51% said they are open to hybrid and just 3% said they don’t want to work from home.

Randstad India MD & CEO Viswanath P S said organisations that do not embrace flexibility in workplaces, are likely to fall behind. “The nature of the new-gen workforce has compelled organisations across sectors to be employee-centric at their core. That has gradually become a key aspect of building and sustaining a successful business. Organisations are focusing on offering a flexible workplace culture to employees, not only in terms of hybrid-, remote-working and flexible work hours, but also in terms of enabling career growth through learning opportunities, re-skilling, up-skilling, experimentation with new job roles, etc. They have come to realise the importance of employees as their strongest asset and how that can accelerate their growth manifolds,” said Viswanath.

Looking at the demographic split, the young, many of whom may have not stepped into an office or are experienced co-workers, are the ones who prefer remote or flexible work. The study showed 56% employees up to the age of 23 years said they may or may not continue working if WFH is not an option and another 8% were sure of changing their jobs. About 82% of employees up to the age 23 years and 50% in the 24-30 age group said they prefer flexible timing.

Natwest Group head (HR - international hubs) Maneesh Menda said, “Work from home is an integral part of our new ways of working. Depending on the nature of the role, we’ve given colleagues flexibility to continue working from home and also work from the office whenever required by the function. Every organisation is taking a position on this that suits them. We are aware that a few organisations are expecting people to work in office every day as was the practice pre-pandemic and even mandated five days working from office in certain jobs. But we would want to keep providing the flexibility and leverage through a hybrid model. This flexibility has been well received by our colleagues and we believe will help us in retaining our talent and also support them and their wellness ”

While employers are keen to get employees back to the office, there is reluctance even for hybrid work. One in every three employers spoke about this reluctance and the primary reasons include employees now being used to the remote work model. The inclination for remote work is strongest in Mumbai (85%) and Bengaluru (76%) and least in Kolkata (65%), said Randstad.

The proportion of employees currently working from office on any given day is only 15-16% in BPO and IT sectors. Wednesday is now the new Monday, with highest occupancies in the offices. Monday and Fridays are said to be the least occupied, many times falling into single-digit percentages. “We see the highest footfalls on Wednesdays. Imagine out of 2,200 seats, 200 get filled on a Wednesday. And that’s the peak. Mondays and Fridays are like hardly 50 people in the office,” said the CHRO of an internet services company. However, while the nudge for return-to-office continues, it is admittedly a soft push as employers are making room to mitigate risk of attrition. “Employees with the right skill sets, today, have the power to negotiate. They will happily reject offers that do not meet their demands and join organisations where they feel comfortable working in. One must understand that attracting the right talent is becoming gradually expensive, and in that context, offering an employee-friendly workplace will only help retain the best candidates,” said Viswanath.

While flexibility is largely a phenomenon popular with the young, the mid-level workers are more inclined towards the hybrid model so they can stay focused on their career growth as well as use the remote work days to attend to their personal and family demands. The senior-level workers, meanwhile, prefer to stick to office and focus on the organisational goals and purpose.

With 55% of employees saying they would prefer experimenting with various roles within the organisation, Randstad said ‘true flex’ is expected to assimilate the multiple-geographies, multiple-levels, multiple-roles, and the multitude of expectations coming from these.

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