Life after covid-19 in IT sector

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On May 27, 2020, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), one of India’s premier IT service companies, announced that by 2025, they plan to have only 25% of their total workforce work from their offices and others will work from home (25/25 model). TCS’s actions have far-reaching consequences in the Indian IT industry, as they are the most valuable company in India after Reliance Industries and the biggest software company in the country. What does this decision mean for the rest of the Indian IT industry? Will others follow suit?
COVID-19 has turned everything on its head, and the IT industry wasn’t spared either. It forced the industry to do something unimaginable–the entire workforce working from home for a year now. There is a high certainty that this will continue at least till the end of 2021. Even though we are hearing positive news on vaccines, it will take at least a couple of years to vaccinate the entire country. Only then companies will think about bringing their employees back to offices if at all they want to.
The proliferation of cloud technologies and broadband internet helped in the smooth transition of moving work from the office to home. This wouldn’t have been possible 5 years back when the cloud was in its nascent stage and the total broadband users were 302 million (2015). By the end of 2020, broadband users will reach 696 million, which is a 130% increase in 5 years. By 2025, this will reach a billion–over 70% percentage of the Indian population.
Broadband penetration helped people to work from their natives. This helped to reunite with their loved ones, which happened only occasionally before. Indians on average spend more than an hour and a half on daily commute before covid. This figure is significantly higher in metros like Mumbai and Bangalore. Working from home helped employees to save commute time. However, the real question is—Were the employees able to leverage that additional time?
Work from home wasn’t a boon for all the employees, as we expected it to be. Employees with children struggled a lot to manage their time. Especially where both the couples are working and have children. Earlier, after a hectic workday, people had options like eating out, going to movies, etc. But now work and life happens at the same place, and this has put some people in a state of depression as well. Most companies have even started counselling sessions for employees to ease the pressure related to the work-life balance. Another issue that is prevailing in the work from home culture is related to infrastructure. Even though fast internet is available throughout India, power cuts are still prevalent in the country. People who live in apartments face little of an issue, as there will be enough backup for a day or two. However, people who live in independent houses will have to build power backup on their own. If they don’t have that option, then the working day will get extended into the evening and night to compensate for the lost time, or have to take the entire day off. If there are no paid leaves, then it will be a loss of pay as well. Another issue is having a proper space dedicated to work. Some companies provide allowances for setting up a home office, but still, space will be an issue, especially when both of the couples are working.
From an employer’s perspective, the biggest gain has been savings in the operational costs. Some even pulled out of building leases, foreseeing covid to continue for a while and a model where all the employees are not coming to work from the office. However, working from home has created a dent in creating and nurturing company culture. This is crucial for startups and small companies.
The word gig economy has gained more popularity in the second half of 2020 than ever. In simple terms, the gig economy is a free-market system where companies hire workers contractually for short-term assignments. Once the assignment is over, the worker can take on another assignment or can work simultaneously on multiple-assignments. As more companies aim to hire contractors rather than full-time employees, the Indian industry is also on its way towards the gig economy. However, the biggest concern here would be the employment laws. There isn’t much protection for employees in a contractual position unless they specify it in the contract. There won’t be any benefits like PF, Gratuity, HRA, etc. either. Another interesting to note is that companies usually hire contractors through vendors and the cost incurred on contractors are comparatively higher than the cost of hiring and keeping employees on the rolls. The only advantage is that if the contractor is not performing well, the vendor will have to replace them, even though the learning curve of the replaced worker can hurt the project.

Even though TCS plans to complete the 75% work-from-model in the next 5 years, it won’t be a simple transition to make. Productivity and innovation happen when employees work together in a focused way. Working from the home model cannot replace the work done at offices fully, as the employees can get distracted at work for a variety of reasons. Most of the employees don’t like to work in isolation for long. Group video calls cannot replace team lunches, happy hours, team trips for a long time. Considering these, even though the work will be different in the post-covid era, it cannot eliminate the need to work from offices fully.

Name : Kiran Narendran

Company Name: H&R Block

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