The verdict is out. The ongoing lockdown in India has been further extended until 17 May 2020 to curb the Coronavirus outbreak in the country. What’s upstanding in the Lockdown 3.0, amidst all the restrictions, is that considerable relaxations have been provided for IT and ITes companies even in the Red Zones. The commercial and private establishments that have been allowed in the Red Zones include print and electronic media, IT and IT-enabled services, data and call centres, and so on as long as they strictly follow the required Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of social distancing.
This development has been lauded by industry leaders as it is the much-needed stimulus for the nose-diving economy. “Thank you MHA. For Indian IT this is the opening of the Lockdown. Even in Red Zones: IT-ITes, we are allowed to operate with 33% strength. Most of us will collaborate with the Government and the Clients, would rather Work-from-Home and help fight the pandemic,” tweeted CP Gurnani, managing director and CEO, Tech Mahindra.
The move is especially being appreciated as it is not possible for certain departments to work from home. “It is a much-needed step in the right direction as we have to judiciously weigh both the options of making operative the critical service industry and also keeping the pandemic at bay. Due to the client confidentiality requirements many of the IT sector employees cannot work from home, thus allowing them to function from the offices with up to 50% staff is much needed and welcome,” said Prof. Maneek Kumar, dean of School of Engineering and Technology, BML Munjal University.
Furthermore, industry leaders also state that restarting operations is of great consequence to ensure that the end-user or clients are not impacted due to the lockdown. “Government is taking all the necessary measures to combat the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus. The Indian IT industry has been a leading sector in terms of growth and has contributed significantly to the country’s export revenue and GDP over the last couple of decades. Moreover, technology is the biggest enabler for critical services industries such as banking and insurance. Hence, it is essential to ensure that end-users do not face any hindrance while availing these services. Taking all this into consideration, the IT sector is expected to start working from offices only in phases, with the initial focus on delivering mission-critical projects that cannot be serviced from home due to various reasons,” states Neelesh Kripalani, senior vice president and head, Center of Excellence (CoE) at Clover Infotech.
“Enterprises are consistently supporting the government’s initiatives to prevent the spread of the virus. As per recent reports, IT firms are ensuring that as many as 85% of their employees are working from home, even while servicing global clients,” he adds.
Work-from-Home Should be Encouraged as Much as Possible in IT and ITes Companies
Business leaders state that while re-opening industries is critical for the revival of the economy, employee health and wellbeing should be of utmost importance for an organization. “While there are multiple challenges to resume work from offices in a world affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, it is essential for businesses to continue to serve its customers. The key here is to enable work from home for maximum number of employees, wherever possible. This ensures that only the employees who must go to office for reasons such as for working on systems wherein remote access is not shared, or in cases where the client has not allowed work from home. There could be various reasons for this but if only 10%-20% people work from office, it could enable the office administration to maintain social distancing norms, ensure temperature checks at entry, avoid crowding at general areas such as cafeteria to ensure that the employees in office are not impacted because of the virus,” said Kripalani.
“In fact, companies in IT are making certain changes such as restructuring workstations and cubicles to ensure that the distance between every employee is maintained as required. The floor managers and the administrative staff are also working with a set of guidelines such as ensuring hand-sanitizers wherever possible, keeping vigil on the floors and ensuring that there is no crowding at areas such as conference rooms, printers etc.,” he added.
Prof. Maneek Kumar shared a similar view and said that since the primary challenge in re-opening industries is to maintain social distancing, office complexes could be re-engineered to ensure the same. “In my opinion the main challenge facing opening up of any sector be it service or education, during or immediately post-COVID, is bound to be social distancing. Be it the IT sector with the concept of open offices or the students in classrooms in educational institutes, the spaces will have to be re-engineered to meet the requirements of social distancing. Necessary health protocols will have to be strictly implemented to ensure both the health of work as well as that of the workforce,” he said.
Employee Wellbeing Holds the Highest Priority
Companies have also stressed on the fact that their employees’ health is what matters the most under the current circumstances. Therefore a majority of the workforce will continue working from home, while the lesser percentage that has to attend office will be taken care of by strictly following the SOPs of social distancing.
“At Endurance, we are very conscious of our responsibility towards employee safety. We will continue to drive stringent preventive measures such as social distancing, work from home, and make effective use of digital technologies for business continuity. When we allow employees to resume office, it will only be limited to critical workforce. We have two offices in India, and we have always collaborated with our global offices in the US. This helped with a pre-existing cultural acceptance for remote collaboration. We work in a contactless fashion and separated from our teammates; so the ability to do our jobs hasn’t been impacted,” said Manish Dalal, senior vice president and general manager, Endurance Group, APAC.
Along the same lines, Jaguar Land Rover, which plans to gradually resume production from 18 May onwards, said that their employees were their priority. “The health and wellbeing of our employees is our first priority. We are developing robust protocol and guidelines to support a safe return to work. We will adopt strict social distancing measures across our business and are currently evaluating a number of different measures to ensure we protect and reassure our workforce when they begin to return to work,” said a statement from the company.