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IT companies: In rough year, IT companies ask employees to work from office more often


Top Indian software exporters and mid-tier firms are asking employees to work from the office on more days of the week. This comes as companies are focusing on higher productivity and employee retention as the $245 billion sector struggles with the slowest technology demand in many years that has led to a slump in hiring.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), LTIMindtree, Wipro, Persistent Systems and others told ET about half their staff have been punching in at least twice a week. The Indian IT sector was early to adopt work from home (WFH) during the pandemic and this continued through the demand upsurge immediately thereafter. WFH is progressively being scaled back. Associates at TCS began reporting to the office in September last year in a move aimed at boosting social capital and innovation. That’s being stepped up.

“Our return to office initiative is picking up pace with 55% of the workforce already in office thrice a week,” said Milind Lakkad, chief human resources officer at TCS.

HCLTech, too, is expecting close to 70-75% of its workforce to be back to office by the end of this year, CEO C Vijayakumar said.

Wipro said all employees are being encouraged to work from the office on any three days of their choice in a week, since May.

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Some Make Return to Office Mandatory

“Approximately 55% of our employees are coming to the office three days a week,” said a spokesperson at the country’s fourth-largest software services company.

Wipro chairman Rishad Premji has been vocal about getting employees back to the office to promote “connectedness” with employers. Despite the hybrid setup, Indian IT workers should be coming back to physical offices “in some shape or form,” he said at a Nasscom event earlier this year.

Many employees had started operating from their hometowns and tier 2 locations during the pandemic. Some have been reluctant to return to their former bases due to the high cost of living in metros.

TCS said in its FY23 annual report that it has seen an increase in attrition among women since the company asked employees to return to office.

The company did not disclose the exact attrition numbers for women employees. CHRO Lakkad had, in the annual report, attributed the shift to changes in domestic arrangements for women during the pandemic, calling the increased attrition “unusual”.

The company ended the year with 20.1% overall attrition compared with 17.4% in the year earlier. It reported that 35.7% of its 614,795 employees were women, the same as last year.

LTIMindtree CEO Debashis Chatterjee said 30-40% of staff comes to the office during the week, although the number varies across campuses. LTI merged with Mindtree last year to create the $3.5 billion combined entity.

“We have launched the return to office programme,” Chatterjee told ET. “We have also been very flexible at this point of time. We know people do come back to the office two-three days in a week. The programme is also well aligned with the individual clients as well because every client will have a different view about the office programme.”

Some mid-tier firms have made the return-to-office policy compulsory. Persistent Systems said it mandated office attendance twice a week earlier this month in India.

“And so we have seen more than 11,000 people on a weekly basis coming into the office on an India headcount of roughly 20,000,” said Sandeep Kalra, chief executive at the Pune-based IT firm. “There are some people who have gone to the extent that they are adamant they don’t want to come back… Some people do not want to be out of their comfort zones but we will do what is required to ensure optimisation where needed.”

During and just after the pandemic, clients accelerated digital transformation to attune their businesses to a virtual world. The government also supported this move by allowing 100% WFH for employees located in IT and ITeS special economic zones.

This move, despite resulting in benefits such as low overhead and travel costs for companies, may have also become disruptive for the industry in terms of driving attrition and promoting practices such as moonlighting, experts said.

“We remain focused on developing, retaining and rewarding the best talent in the industry, and enhancing their effectiveness by bringing them back to office to foster our culture,” said Lakkad of TCS.

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