Second wave of COVID postpones plans to reopen businesses; the transition plan to the office should be slow and phased: experts

The second wave of COVID-19 has postponed plans to reopen Indian businesses for now, and workforce allocation or hybrid work will be the new normal as companies seek to reduce risk and leverage remote working, experts said.

Corporate India’s plan to return to power is likely to be phased as the pandemic will continue to pose challenges. In order to ensure continuity and productive production, companies will need to provide convenient locations, the latest technology and allow flexibility in tandem with changing circumstances, they said.

“Our plan to return to the office will be a phased approach, not everyone will be coming back at the same time,” said Priyanka Anand, vice president and director of human resources, Southeast Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson.

Anand further noted that “in my opinion, we will see our offices evolve into a more hybrid way of working where we will see the establishment of an effective infrastructure for home offices as well as policies that relax and balance the work environment. workforce”.

Previously, offices were all expected to reopen, but with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, those plans are subject to change.

“There is no official communication yet on this, but homework is likely to continue. The new wave has postponed plans to reopen Indian businesses for the time being,” said Krishna Prasad, head of human resources. – APAC region, Skillsoft.

Experts believe that a flexible working model is likely to be the new normal, which would mean alternating home working days or downsizing of offices for the next 2-3 months.

“There have been re-openings everywhere, however, depending on the nature of the work, companies may have adopted a greater or lesser percentage of the workforce from the office or from the WFH. It appears that the working arrangements hybrids could continue until at least June 2021, “said Lohit Bhatia, president of the Indian Federation of Personnel.

Bhatia added: “We are asking that among the active staff, the government allow all people over 25 to be vaccinated rather than just those over 45.”

This time around, businesses and employers are better prepared than 2020, when it came to a sudden event. Companies are now ready with SOPs, guidelines, testing protocols, time off for positive tests or support, medical assistance, and more for employees.

“As the second wave arrives, we are also seeing organizations that are better prepared to respond to the situation for both their clients and their workforce,” said Nitin Sethi, CEO, India and South Asia – Performance, Awards and Effectiveness. organization, Aon.

In the new future of work, the hybrid is a new reality that’s now firmly entrenched and here to stay, Sethi noted.

“In addition to improving collaboration in the workplace while working remotely, personal safety has become a priority and every organization is ready to remain flexible as it regularly monitors changes in government guidelines and vaccine deployment. Said Vishal Agrawal, MD, India and SAARC, Avaya.

According to the latest Avaya Study of Life and Work Beyond 2020, 77% of Indian employees have accepted the hybrid work model because they believe it will be better for their mental well-being and 74% of employees have mentioned that they would support the government. policies to embrace hybrid work, such as working from anywhere, in the office, at home or elsewhere.

“The transition to the office will be slow and not exactly as we left it. The increase in the number of cases has caused us to rethink return to work plans,” said Harsh Lambah, Country Director India, Vice President of sales – South Asia, IWG plc.

Many companies are investing in COVID-19 safety training for employees to bring out needed behavior changes related to health and safety.

“These COVID-19 safety training programs include practices regarding workplace cleanliness, waste management, hand hygiene and instructions on the use of PPE, among others,” said Hemant Sethi , National Officer of the British Safety Council India.