Organizations’ return to office playbook for 2021: Part I
“You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.”
― John Mark Green
2020 was a tough year for people and businesses alike. Businesses and people all struggled, reinvented, and fought back to cope up with change in working circumstances. New business models came into place and HR leapt to the forefront to ensure people are safe, healthy, happy-and more important-even productive under such trying times.
As we slowly creep out of the shadows of 2020, organizations are slowly focussing on getting people back to office-if not all, at least some or at least those who want to. How are they planning this return? How are they determining who comes back and who stays put? And how will they ensure that work goes on as usual and people feel happy and productive even if not everything goes back to normal.
We spoke to leaders across industries to know how many of their workforces will return to office in 2021. Here’s what they had to say.
Srees PP, Group HR Head, Essilor South Asia
Post the initial Lockdown in March/April 2020 Essilor India started functioning from the 1st week of May 2020. This was done in a phased manner with very strict "back to office protocols".
There were defined rota systems for the office working, Sales, manufacturing, and operations and delivery.
The back-to-office initiative started with the option to work once a week from the designated locations and now over a period of 8 months, we have allowed our employees to come to offices four days a week.
Lynette D’silva, Head of Amdocs, India & APAC at Amdocs
Seeing the current situation, Amdocs' employees will continue to work from home till 31st March 2021. Subsequently, we will be implementing a gradual return to the office plan. We have defined clear processes and procedures and set protocols to deal with different scenarios.
In the coming weeks, we plan to share details of the return to office plan as per social distancing norms, new tools for managers to plan the office schedule for their teams, along with the required training and resources for a seamless experience.
When it is safe to do so we look forward to returning to our offices at AXA, which are central to our culture. Each entity has worked on a plan to return to the office in compliance with guidelines of local authorities and the sanitary environment. As we have a global presence, we have entities who have already organized the return either partial or total to some others that are still working fully remotely.
Before COVID we already were working on this Smart Working Strategy because empowering our employees is at the center of our culture. COVID has accelerated the situation and thus today we are announcing the deployment of our Smart Working strategy to all our entities worldwide. This strategy aims to implement a hybrid way of working, combining remote work and office presence by enabling employees on a voluntary basis to work remotely with two days as a general guide.
Shrikant Lonikar, Chief Human Resources Officer at Pernod Ricard India
At Pernod Ricard, health and safety of our employees and their families is paramount. Keeping that in mind, manufacturing and select market activities have been allowed after making the best possible safety arrangements.
Office based employees follow remote working even now. As we started employee movements and business activities, it was critical that we as a community imbibe safe working practice.
Shantanu Das, CHRO, Amway India
At Amway, we continue to prioritize the safety of our employees while ensuring business continuity to maintain operational readiness. While our warehouses, manufacturing plant and locational stores have been operational since the announcement of the relaxation guidelines in March 2020 with all staff following mandatory hygiene guidelines within the office as well as pre and post work, our offices are also now open for the rest of the employees and the new normal guidelines have been implemented.
In order to establish and maintain balance between working from office and remote working, our employees are now allowed to go to office if work demands, without having to take any prior approvals, while ensuring that the hygiene guidelines are maintained.
Pooja Behl Luthra, Board Member, Trident Group, Founder & CEO, Humane Insights shared:
One of the key takeaways of 2020 for Trident Group is that there may not be a back to “normal”: “normal” itself has undergone a paradigm shift and inertia associated with waiting for things to “settle” would probably prove erroneous.
Being a continuous manufacturing plant, 70% of our operations workforce is at the shop floor in staggered shifts; 30% of the workforce in support functions is working with flexible options.
Disruptions of digitalization, flexible working, contingent & gig workers, matrix organization structures coupled with reduced command and control will play an even bigger role in reshaping our vision 2025.
Meenakshi Rana, Corporate HR, Forever New India
In these unprecedented times, grappling with the altered dynamics, we have adopted a hybrid model of working for our corporate office since August’20 when we returned back to work after operating from home for almost 4 months.
We started with limited employees accessing offices on a rotational model based on the criticality of their role for business continuity, while other roles continued to operate from home. Beginning January, we have started our office with 50% strength working to offer flexibility to employees.
Amit Das, Director Human Resources and CHRO at Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd
At BCCL, we leveraged the new age collaboration tools and seamlessly transitioned to a hybrid work arrangement. Being a leading media conglomerate in the essential services category, we had our own COVID-19 warriors on the field every day, which compelled us to continuously focus on Employee Safety & Business Continuity.
We are operating in a hybrid work arrangement which entails an effective mix of 60-20-20, where 20% of our workforce are permanently working from office & 20% from home exclusively, while the rest 60% follow a revolving roster approach.
Sowmya Santhosh, Senior Vice President – Human Resources, CitiusTech
As we emerge from the business continuity mode and look forward to re-opening to a new and very different normal, CitiusTech has taken diligent steps in ensuring the safety and security of our employees.
We are currently working from home at a 100% capacity till the end of March. We will be reviewing the situation in April 2021 and will take necessary steps accordingly.
However, in order to augment our traditional focus on employees with equal attention to technology necessary to accelerate re-entry and enable long-term success, we have put together a Back-To-Office (BTO) Team last year which has planned the entire workaround in the different normal. Likewise, the delivery team is focused on creating roasters of who should be coming to office at what frequency and the process excellence team is focused on tweaking the practices and policies to ensure information security and quality standards are maintained.
K N Murali, Senior Director - Human Resources & Alliances, NTT Ltd. in India
Even though things have begun opening-up, we have continued to extend work from home for our employees. We have however begun permitting employees to come to work on a need basis, while following all the safety norms for this.
An important aspect of this is that only employees who have their own transport or are carpooling with a colleague are coming to the office. Social distancing norms are being followed and precautions are being taken to ensure that no more than 15% of employees are in the office at any time.
Hareesha Pattaje – Managing Director and Country Head India, Synechron
Employee physical and mental wellbeing has always remained a top priority at Synechron. While we ensured the best support across locations for all our employees through hospital tie-ups, insurance and virtual counselling sessions, I would like to proudly add that National Safety Council of India (NSCI) has certified our offices in India as compliant with all the safety norms for COVID-19.
Currently, we have extended our work from home facility till the end of March 2021. However, our offices are open if employees are comfortable working from an office location, but we are limiting employee presence to 5% of our workforce. Whenever we decide to return to office, it will be a gradual opening and we may follow a hybrid approach till the end of 2021.