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“Back-to-work Preparations Are on Hold for the Time Being, and India Inc Is on High Alert Because to Omicron

Corporate India is on high alert as the first Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant are being reported in the country

Corporate India is on high alert as the first Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant are being reported in the country. Organisations across sectors told ET they are keeping a watchful eye on developments. Some are considering hitting the pause button on the next phase of return-to-office plans. Some have cut down on business travel while others have stepped up Covid protocols and safety norms.

Companies say that, after their learnings from the first two waves, they are confident they have the systems and processes in place to take appropriate, immediate action as needed. Also, the majority of employees are now fully vaccinated.

Google said Thursday that it was pushing back its January return-to-office plans globally amid growing concerns over Omicron. Earlier in the week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had flagged risks stemming from the new variant.

Employee safety paramount


NSE -0.18 % Group had planned to switch to full attendance by January-February from 50% now at its corporate offices. “We are watching the situation–if things get bad, we may put a hold on those plans,” CHRO Madhu Srivastava told ET.

Nucleus Software had been planning to open offices soon with work-from-home fatigue impacting many associates, said chief people officer Prema Rajaraman. “But the sudden entry of a new variant has forced us to put our plans at bay for the time being,” she said.

It’s a similar situation at online grocery retailer BigBasket, which was planning to restart its corporate office with 25% occupancy on January 1.
“We are on high alert and may revisit this decision if there is a need for it,” said Tanuja Tewari, vice president, HR, adding that it has strengthened Covid protocols in warehouses and stores.

Panasonic India, which had called back its entire workforce and resumed business travel, said it has stopped all international trips, and is allowing only critical domestic ones. “All requests now need to be approved by me. We have also cut down on corporate office employees visiting branches,” said CHRO Adarsh Mishra.

Employee safety paramount

“We are closely monitoring the development around Omicron to determine the best and safest path forward,” said Shantanu Jha, senior vice president, HR, Cognizant India. “The health and safety of our associates is our top priority whether they are working from home or the office.”

KPMG is watching how the situation evolves.

“There is some worrying news on new variants, yet it is too early to make any conclusive decisions basis that,” said Sunit Sinha, head, people, performance and culture, KPMG India. “We, as a firm, will continue to monitor developments and employee safety will always be paramount.”

Several companies in sectors such as manufacturing and financial services had shifted close to full attendance after Covid numbers stayed consistently down. However, they are now monitoring the situation closely and will take a call on shifting part or a majority of employees back to WFH depending on more information on Omicron and fresh government guidelines, said top executives.

“We are watching the situation very closely and can quickly lessen our population in the office – maybe go back to 10-30% WFH again – if something serious surfaces,” said Sudhir Dhar, executive director, HR, at Motilal Oswal Financial Services. “But we don’t want to rush into anything and will take a call based on the situation.”

The coming weeks will be crucial, said Nasscom senior vice president Sangeeta Gupta.

“For most companies, till December, coming into office was mostly voluntary,” she said. “It’s still early days so companies are in wait-and-watch mode. Everything depends on how the next few weeks pan out and companies decide what is most appropriate.”

Meesho and UST said that they would allow employees the flexibility to choose where they want to work from.

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Rajesh Tamada