Work from home; collaborate in office: Indian IT industry marks change

Technology skill requirements are changing faster than the rate of reskilling across companies

TCS was among the first players to have called out in April of 2020 about the 25×25 model, this means that by 2025, only 25 per cent of TCS workforce will work out of TCS facilities

One of the biggest impact of the pandemic on the Indian information technology (IT) industry has been the acceptance of a hybrid workforce model offering the kind of radical flexibility required to build organisational resilience.

While industry body National Association of Software and Service (Nasscom) is working on a framework to address this workforce and the implications it will have on several aspects of the industry, many industry players have taken the first step towards embracing this paradigm shift.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) — with the largest employee base of 469,000 — had started to work on this shift with its open agile workspaces a few years ago, where many of its centres have morphed into collaborative places.

Rajashree R, chief marketing officer, TCS, said with employees being able to work from anywhere, these office spaces may well become collaborative centres. “If you walk into some of our centres, you will see more collaborative workspaces, hot seats, and the ability of teams to move around,” said Rajashree.

TCS was among the first players to have called out in April 2020 about a 25/25 model: By 2025, 25 per cent of TCS workforce would work out of its facilities, without spending more than 25 per cent of their time in a TCS office.

With an employee base of 4.47 million, close to 90 per cent of the Indian is working from home since the pandemic hit the global economy and countries went into lockdown mode.

“In a hybrid working model, we will look at the best practices for a hybrid offering: Which jobs can be done remotely and which cannot, build a framework that will illustrate the jobs related to potential for working in a hybrid offering. Key focus is the human resources (HR) teams. How will performance management get done in a hybrid offering, how culture building is happening, how employee engagement is taking place,” said Debjani Ghosh, president, Nasscom.

Even as the industry grapples with the new normal, Nasscom has created a workforce that is working closely with the government agency to look into issues like changes in labour law as people continue to and incorporating gig workers into IT/business process management (BPM) industry.

“We have seen in Silicon Valley several start-ups ready to make their employees work from any place they want to. With distributed workforce a reality, we will need to address this. We should also look at how gig workers can be incorporated into the industry. Some of the issues we need to look into are how do we make sure a gig worker working for us is not working with competitors, background checks that need to be put in place and so forth,” said Keshav Murugesh, chief executive officer (CEO) of New York Stock Exchange-listed BPM firm WNS.

Murugesh also pointed out that many will also have to relook at the infrastructure needs as they embrace this shift. “We have realised that some of the physical infrastructure is not good for social distancing,” said Murugesh, who was former Nasscom chairman.

Industry experts are of the opinion that Covid-19 has thrown down a challenge that may well see HR practices being revolutionised.

“It’s not like we can have three hours of townhall followed by high tea. Crisp, clear, and succinct is the way to go in terms of messaging. For example, it’s a struggle to get people to switch on their videos in the morning. Once it took us 15 minutes to get everyone to switch on their screens,” shared Anuranjita Jumar, founder and CEO, WiT-ACE — a company that focuses on increasing women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The virtual world also raises questions on collaborative tools. Rajashree pointed out that perhaps TCS has taken a lead when it conceptualised Secure Borderless Workspaces (SBWS) — an operating model framework that allows organisations to take full advantage of their talent ecosystem to maximise business opportunities.

“SBWS is not about working from home. It’s the future of the way we will work. Within that, the talent Cloud will create a fungible talent model where people are able to work anywhere. We are replicating ambient awareness in the virtual model. SBWS is a 360-degree model,” said Rajashree.

The biggest impact of this virtual workforce is the falling of barriers in terms of where you are born and live. “So many people miss out on opportunities because of these constraints. Once these constraints are removed, it will be revolutionary and beneficial for humanity in the long run,” said Rajashree.

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