After WFH, companies make ‘back to office’ plans

KV Kurmanath/K Giriprakash Hyderabad/Bengaluru | Updated on June 09, 2020

Industry caught between safety concerns and client requirements, expects upto 30% staff in offices by mid-July

After almost three months of work-from-home operations, IT and BPO firms are in the process of planning for resumption of work at offices partially. Back-office personnel is getting the offices ready, while conforming to physical distancing norms, for a section of employees.

The process, however, has been very slow, with companies relocating only about 5-10 per cent of their staff to offices, as the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases has triggered safety concerns.

The IT industry had allowed over 95 per cent of its staff to work from home as the lockdown came into force in the third week of March.

Gradual increase

“The rising cases is a cause of concern. We don’t see a sharp increase in the number of employees in the offices yet. Companies are concerned about the safety of their employees. We expect about 30 per cent of the employees returning to work spaces by mid-July,” Bharani Kumar Aroll, President of the Hyderabad Software Exporters’ Association (HYSEA), told BusinessLine.

ValueMomentum, one of the first IT firms to allow almost all of its employees to work from home, is doing a recce in the office and making a seating plan, conforming to the physical distancing norms.

“We are assessing the situation. There’s certainly a risk involved. We are expecting about 5 per cent of our employees to come to offices by the end of next month,” Ravi S Rao, Managing Director and Location Head of the IT services firm, said.

While some companies are doing this for operational convenience, others are redeploying at workplaces to meet the stringent requirements by the clients.

Client concerns

Infosys in its annual report said that a portion of revenue could not be recognised as it did not receive consent from some of its clients for the work completed by employees remotely.

It also said the financial stability of its clients may get affected, and they may even file for bankruptcy, jeopardising its ability to collect its account receivables and unbilled revenue.

“Clients may invoke contractual clauses and/or levy penalties if we are unable to meet project quality, productivity and schedule service-level agreements due to our employees working remotely,” it said.

Analysts tracking the company said the WFH option is no longer seen as an advantage for IT services company, with some clients insisting that employees return to office as early as possible to carry out their projects.

“There is a huge security concern voiced by some clients, who fear security might be compromised if employees work on their projects from home,” an analyst said.

However, in its annual report, Infosys has also pointed out that the company could be subject to lawsuits from its employees, alleging they are exposed to health risks while transitioning back to working from the client company.

Infosys’ case is not an isolated one. Several mid-sized and big IT firms, too, are facing this dilemma. They feel that productivity of employees may be negatively impacted due to isolation, quarantine requirements, negative social sentiment and personal anxiety.

Published on June 09, 2020

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