Wipro employees at the Bangalore office: AFP

With Indian states easing Covid-19 curbs and an overall increase in vaccine coverage, many tech companies are now opening up offices, after nearly one-and-half years of remote work, amid safety protocols.

The latest to announce this is Wipro, whose Chairman Rishad Premji tweeted: “After 18 long months, our leaders @Wipro are coming back to the office starting tomorrow (twice a week). All fully vaccinated, all ready to go safely and socially distanced.” The company has put in place various safety measures, including temperature checks and QR code scans.

Speaking at the company’s 75th annual general meeting on July 14, Premji had said that during the pandemic only 3% of its global workforce was working from the office. “We have settled well into this new way of working and have continued to make our customers successful. We enjoy their confidence, and I have no doubt that a hybrid model may well be how we work in the future,” he added. Premji also claimed that about 55% of its employees in India have been vaccinated.

Most companies are now adopting the hybrid model of work – bringing staff into the office on a rotational basis for two to three days a week while allowing them to work remotely on other days.

India’s leading software services exporter Tata Consultancy Services will ask its taff to come back to the office by 2021-end with the majority of them likely to get both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. The Mumbai-based company, however, cautioned that its back-to-office plans will depend on how the third wave of the pandemic affects the country.

The software major had earlier announced switching to a hybrid model of work, under which only 25% of its staff will work from the office by 2025.

Rival Infosys Ltd had issued a memo in July saying its offices are now open and employees could resume work from offices. However, it stopped short of calling all employees to attend the office.

The memo said: “We have been getting requests from certain accounts to allow their team members to work from Infosys campuses. In addition, some of our employees have also been asking to come back and start working from the office, as a personal preference.”

With hybrid or flexible models of work are here to stay, the future of certain industries that support the software sector, including real estate and hospitality, appears threatened. With fewer employees going to the office, the companies are bound to reassess physical assets such as huge office campuses. Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, and others have sprawling offices in cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune.

According to analytics firm India Ratings & Research, a hybrid work model may allow the companies to use a hot-desking policy, where the same desk may be shared by a number of employees, who report to work on different days. Such a transition can seriously hamper office real estate demand in the future, it observed.

Caterers who run food courts on these campuses are also expecting a drastic fall in demand, as fewer employees will be going to the office.