With the world seemingly getting back to normal after the severe disruptions caused by the pandemic, most businesses are now asking their employees to get back to office, albeit with some offering flexibility of a hybrid working model.
According to a recent survey by people supply chain company TeamLease, a little over 58% of responding organisations from industries ranging from technology to manufacturing to BFSI to FMCG to retail to health to automobile, believe that 2022 is the year offices will become completely in-office. Only about 5% of respondents said that they intend to stay a virtual-only organisation for the foreseeable future.
“For most companies, the journey to move from being 100% in office to 100% virtual had been reasonably smooth. The fact that this lasted for a long time and many believed work forever could be in this model. However, most underestimated that coming to work is not just about doing work,” Nitin Sethi, Chief Executive Officer, Human Capital Solutions at global professional services firm Aon (India & South Asia), told The Hindu.
Mr. Sethi added that humans need a social infrastructure, and given that a large part of time is spent at work, the office fulfils that need. The best companies are ensuring they keep some advantages of working virtual (flexibility to employees, saving travel time, increased talent catchment etc) and at the same time build and keep the advantage of having people at work (engagement, productivity, culture, teamwork etc), he said.
“As companies make this transition, some employees, some roles, some teams will definitely move more hybrid than others and some may completely. At the same time, some employees – both current and prospective may feel that they are better off choosing one model over the other…Talent catchment areas have increases and this changed will lead to better and more diverse (not just gender) talent pool and we know that better diversity of talent delivers superior business results,” he added.
The TeamLease survey found that although 43.46% of HR leaders conceded that their employees want to return to work, 76.78% of organisations want to give their employees the preference to choose their work model.
Additionally, 36.61% of respondents claimed they had office space on lease pre-pandemic but moved to co-working spaces afterward.
“The flexible workspaces segment was already on a strong growth curve before the pandemic; Covid-19 further disrupted the office market and expedited this migration. Consequently, businesses small to big are proactively looking to change their work environment and make it more flexible and resilient,” Harsh Lambah, Country Manager India, Vice President Sales – South Asia at IWG (International Workspace Group) said.
IWG, he said, has signed more than 1,000 enterprise deals in the first quarter of 2022 and has witnessed a month-on-month increase of around 35% in footfall across its centres in the last three months.
“What we are seeing is a rise in demand within the smaller, regional markets, with the highest demand growth of all being within tertiary markets. Since the pandemic, suburban office spaces started winning out at the expense of flashy city centres. That’s partly down to the growing adoption of the hub-and-spoke model, whereby companies have a smaller corporate office and multiple satellite offices that are geographically distributed,” he said.
Mr. Lambah added that large corporates and enterprises continue looking for flexible options for their workforce and this trend is visible across the industry and getting stronger as companies are calling their employees back to the offices. “The pandemic has given employees a bigger voice than ever before – they are seeking greater flexibility and the ability to work from closer home. Companies are taking note, realising that this can help them save costs while also helping meet their ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) commitments.
“As all organisations are evaluating what would be their version of future of work, we at Ericsson are exploring our future workplace from a physical, virtual and cultural perspective to cater for greater flexibility and new ways of working. We believe the future of our work will be ‘hybrid’ on the back of technology which will be the game changer as well as the enabler,” Priyanka Anand, VP and Head – HR, Southeast Asia Oceania and India at Ericsson said.
Ms Anand added that Ericsson is looking at work as an activity that is location agnostic, in short ‘work from anywhere’. Through a hybrid work model, its line managers are empowered to approve when their teams can work-from-home and working remotely is voluntary as it believes that our offices play a key role in building a strong culture and belonging in Ericsson. “We envision our employees will work at least 50% of their time in the office basis business and individuals needs to ensure a fair balance.”
Likewise, Tech Mahindra said its employees continue to have the flexibility to work from anywhere and expects this trend of hybrid working to ramp up. “Having said that, we see that many associates at Tech Mahindra are recharting their routes back-to-office and are looking forward to meeting their teams in person,” Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer & Head – Marketing, Tech Mahindra.
Anil Chawla, Managing Director, Customer Engagement Solutions at Verint India, said that the pandemic has given options to contact centres as well as enterprises to continue with the model that is best suited for them to grow, along with retaining employees. This in near to mid- term will continue to remain with Hybrid model and Digital First and cloud-based Solutions will play a very important role in making this model efficient and compliant for business needs, he said. As per Chawla, Nasdaq-listed Verint provides customer engagement solutions provider to almost 80% of India’s top tier contact centers.
“There are many companies that have moved from the stated position of 100% virtual to a mix of office and virtual. In days to come as full normalcy is restored more and probably most will move in this direction. This phenomenon is not just Indian but something being experienced around the world,” Mr. Sethi added.