Indian industry is bouncing back after the turbulence brought by the pandemic. With the come back work dynamics are changing. When COVID-19 struck India back in 2020, all companies opted for the work from home (WFH) model for their employees, as their health and safety were of topmost priority.
As time progressed, many companies transitioned to the hybrid model (part WFH and part coming to office) as many employees didn’t wish to return to the office completely. Those who continue wishing for WFH cite job flexibility, independence, time for themselves, and, of course, having no eyes constantly checking up on them as the main benefits of this work model.
And it seems that this model is here to stay as several employees now want permanent WFH. More than 80% of the HR managers admitted that hiring employees for full-time office presence is getting more difficult.
The trend of considering the hybrid work model has emerged as companies are primarily opting for flexible working patterns post the pandemic. The flexible working approach is a mix of four patterns that includes just-in-case remote work for specific circumstances, three-plus office days a week, an equal mix of office and remote work, and remote work for three-plus days a week.
Seeing the current trend, companies like Mondelez and Tata Steel said they are hiring for permanent work-from-home roles, while many others including Maruti Suzuki and ITC are embracing a partial remote working approach where employees come to the office only for a couple of days.
The Department of Commerce has notified a new rule 43A for WFH in Special Economic Zones Rules, 2006 which is supporting the change in work culture to Work from Home.
The ministry said the notification was issued on demand from the industry to make a provision for a countrywide uniform WFH policy across all Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The new rule provides work from home for a certain category of employees of a unit in SEZ.
These include employees of IT/ITeS SEZ units; employees who are temporarily incapacitated; employees who are travelling and who are working offsite, it added.
WFH may be extended to a maximum of 50% of total employees, including contractual employees of the unit, it added. Work from Home is now allowed for a maximum period of one year. However, the same may further be extended for one year at a time by the DC on the request of units.
In respect of SEZ units whose employees are already working from home, the notification has provided a transition period of 90 days to seek approval.
SEZ Units will provide equipment and secured connectivity for WFH to perform authorised operations of the units and the permission to take out the equipment is co-terminus with the permission granted to an employee. It also said that there is flexibility granted to the Development Commissioner (DC) of SEZs to approve a higher number of employees (more than 50%) for any bonafide reason to be recorded in writing.
WFH is beneficial to employers lower costs, long hours put in by employees, improved retention, and even easier recruitment. Remote companies have lower business costs because they save money not only on office space rent but also on office furniture, equipment, supplies, housekeeping, and more.
For industrial growth, having the companies and the government on the same page is a boon. It is happening for WFH in India which would benefit both employers and employees. However, this facilitation is raising some questions. Such as, WFH is facilitated and supported in the SEZ so what should be the approach of companies based in areas other than SEZ? WFH can be availed by tech companies so what about employees in other industries in the service sector and also in the manufacturing sector?