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news | IST

COVID-19 impact: Experts discuss adapting to new workplace models

The pandemic has redefined work, the workplace and the workforce in a way that none of us had ever imagined. Compelled to rethink human resource utilisation, organisations across sectors have had to re-align priorities and reset work-life.
A global survey by EY across 16 countries including India on the impact of the pandemic on the workplace threw up some interesting findings. Around 69 percent of employee respondents in India said they would choose flexibility when they work and 76 percent of employees want flexibility in where they work.
Employers largely agree - 61 percent are planning to make moderate to extensive changes in order to allow more hybrid working yet only 46 percent have communicated these plans, creating a potential disconnect with employees on crucial issues of flexibility, culture, and productivity.
Despite the overwhelming push for flexible working - the survey reveals that 39 percent of employers want or have already asked all their employees to return to the office full-time post-pandemic.
As businesses get back to work after an extended period of stress, multiple risks still exist - 53 percent of employers said one of the biggest risks will be their ability to establish fairness and equity among employees when some jobs require a fixed schedule or location creating a 'have and have not' dynamic based on roles. Up to 41 percent of employers said hybrid working could pose a risk to culture, creativity, and collaboration.
So the question now is how can companies evolve new ways of working as they offer flexibility to the workforce? Also, as organizations balance retention, attraction, and productivity needs, are they doing enough to blunt the impact of the great resignation of 2021?
To discuss these findings, CNBC-TV18 caught up with Elizabeth Fealy, deputy leader of the Global People Advisory Service Division, EY. She also leads the workforce advisory division at EY and along with her is Saurabh Govil, president and chief human resources officer, Wipro and Vikram Tandon, group chief human resources officer, Adani Group.
According to Fealy, about 90 percent of employees want flexibility and that statistic is pretty close in India. What we are really working with our clients around is defining a hybrid model, a flexible model hybrid is a completely new way of working. Before the pandemic, we were mostly together and during the pandemic, we were mostly virtual and hybrid is a combination of both.
"To be clear, people need to be in person for certain things. We are seeing that or mentoring or training, meeting with clients, innovation. So what we are working with our clients around is, what is that balance of hybrid work, where you are together in person for periods of time, and then you can do some work sort of remotely. We look at what is the type of work, what work needs to be done together," she said.
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"So, the bottom line is the genie is out of the bottle to a certain extent on the flexibility of work and organisations are really trying to figure out how to provide that balance, but still ensure their workforces together and kind of key moments," Fealy said.
Govil said, "There are three things. First, flexibility is the key. People are demanding flexibility, in place of work, time of the work, where to work and it is most pronounced in the tech industry. Second, we believe that it is important for people to come together for building the right collaboration and culture at regular intervals in the office. It is important that we want people to be at some time together. The third is there will be certain roles and jobs, which can be done completely remotely and how can we manage that. So these are three parameters, which are going to define how the world will move forward."
“We are seeing a few people wait and watch right now on how things are going to evolve because the pandemic also is there in some sort in some part of the world. But we believe that leadership will drive the agenda, and we will see how it goes forward. We have started it, we have seen leaders coming back. Some people are very keen to come back, some people are still reluctant and say that, continue the flexibility and will see how things move forward," said Govil.
Tandon said, "We are quite a manufacturing and a contact-based infrastructure set up. So our ports, airports, green energy just can't run without people on site. Thankfully, neither have we seen very large rates of attrition so far and have seen a healthy return to the office. But what one thing has certainly changed is that the employees' wellbeing has certainly come centre stage. What we have seen is that certainly the employee wellbeing piece, the need for quick personal check-ins, the need to check how everybody is doing has become quite important," he said.
For the full discussion, watch the video