The Future of Work in India

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

July 4, 2022

The world has been through a tumultuous time in the past two years. Businesses stand disrupted; governance strained; and economies halted.

Amid the enforced lockdowns and social distancing measures, most of the workforce moved to working from home. But looking back and taking stock of these actions, it really seems to have had a wide impact on infrastructure, business and operations that needed a physical touch. All could not be automated.

The continuing waves of the pandemic brings back memories of closed malls, empty streets and department stores running out of essentials. Businesses that had the means to cope with this sudden change of events survived. Meanwhile, others closed shop.

This is not the story of one nation or a region, but similar patterns have occurred throughout the world. The situation in India is no different.

India has opened fully now; its businesses and employees are either back to the office full-time or are operating in a hybrid setting.

Everything that was taken for granted was disrupted, particularly the way Indians worked. The future of work looks very uncertain, but definitely changed. This is one of the topics being discussed in the upcoming Horasis India Meeting, which will be held between 25 to 26 September, 2022 in Vietnam. The meeting will bring together 300 of the most senior members of Horasis to inspire India’s next big leap.

Back to Office

In the second month of 2022, the capital of India lifted all COVID-related restrictions, allowing restaurants, bars, cafes and movie halls to function at 100% seating capacity. This has certainly brought great relief for thousands of businesses in the capital state, that suffered great losses in the past two years of the pandemic.

There is a clear division on how work will happen in India. Some companies are asking all their employees to be back to office, while IT companies and startups are gearing up to the idea of hybrid work models. Infosys, India’s largest IT company, expects to see a hybrid model in the future where only 40% to 45% of employees are likely to work from office on any given day. On the other hand, Tata Consultancy Services has adopted a 25/25 model, which expects no more than 25% of its employees to work from the office at any given time, and not to spend more than 25% of their time in the office.

On the other end of the spectrum are industries such as the JSW Group that has already started working with full capacity in its offices. Sun Pharmaceuticals, the country’s largest drugmaker, has asked all its employees to return back to office.   

The hybrid model of work is not only restricted to IT companies and startups, but has also caught the attention of traditional companies such as Ceat, Tata Steel, ITC, Mahindra Finance, Thermax and Forbes Marshall. These companies are allowing hybrid working, with two-three day working from office and the rest remote. Some are also experimenting with the idea of work-from-anywhere model, which allows the freedom to employees to work from anywhere in the world. 

It is still uncertain whether the pandemic has completely lived its duration, or is in its last phase. Or are there more waves of variants waiting to happen. So, at the moment, work from home remains a very real option.

HR at Crossroads

Human resource managers are flipping through all processes to understand the best approach to work in these uncertain times. Some are asked to take difficult decisions on who can work-from-home permanently and who are needed back to office, all five days of the week or only two to three days.

Additionally, there is also the burden to ensure that employees have the setup at home to cope with the demands of office work such as good internet connection; continuous supply of electricity; and other needed infrastructure to virtually collaborate with colleagues and hold meetings with clients.

Some businesses are actively exploring the idea to increase their investments towards automation and robotization. Reliance has recently invested US$132 million in an India-based robotics company Addverb technologies. Prior to this, Reliance has already been using robotic conveyors, semi-automated systems and pick-by-voice software in its warehouses. This commitment will further increase its automation plans across its businesses in various fields. A part of this deal, includes installation of robots in Reliance’s oil and gas storage facilities, helping manual workers in packing.

Plans Ahead

We are certainly moving towards new times where the bulk of the actions will be dictated by companies that quickly maneuver through changing times with the help of technologies. But that shift should be increasingly governed by how this new way of work also includes people. An inclusive future of work that is also sustainable to the people who depend on it is the need of the hour.

Photo Caption: India’s financial capital, Mumbai. Photo by Satyajeet Mazumdar on Unsplash.