Despite success of work from home model, Wipro chairman wants employees in office
Bengaluru/IBNS: Even as Wipro decides to continue with work from home for most of its employees, chairman Rishad Premji personally believes working from office helps build culture and fosters innovation and plans to strike a balance between the two models.
Slowly but steadily, India is limping back to its pre-Covid phase adopting the "new normal", but 98 per cent of Wipro employees continue to work from home to avoid the spread of the infection, Premji said at a fireside chat with Sudhir Sethi, founder and chairman of Chiratae Ventures.
"Had you asked me in March if the majority of 1.85 lakh Wipro workers could work from home, I would have laughed. But the Covid situation has taught us, anyone can work from anywhere," he said.
Less than 2% of its employees or 3,000 out of 1.85 lakh employees are coming to the Wipro office. After its Covid-19 experience, the company has decided to not bring back hundred per cent of its work force back to office.
"The government has been incredibly supportive in terms of providing relaxation on rules and requirements that you have to work from SEZ units. We are having more conversations with the government as to how we can make this a permanent feature. We will never go back to a hundred per cent of the old model actually," Premji said.
However, Premji underscored that security will be the main issue in the work from home model to ensure the customers are comforted. As soon as the model is challenged or rattled, people will get nervous, he added.
Emphasisng the importance of office culture and team work, Premji said he wants his workforce to come back to office though it would not be the entire Wipro team working onsite at a time.
"Equally, I personally am of the view that we want people to come back, so we will never have anybody working from home all of the time. Equally, we would have all of our people working from home some of the time," he stressed.
"We want people to come back to build culture, right? I'm spending a lot of time personally, over the last six months on culture. And the reality is culture grows by osmosis. Culture grows by people engaging at the ward coffee machine, or the water cooler, gossiping about the organization, exchanging notes. That's a very core part of how things build and grow. And it's equally very important for innovation," he said pointing out the significance of collaborative environment.
"See, the challenge with these kinds of conversations is that you can have them effectively. You can have them, but you can't have them informally. They're very structured. You know you don't banter. You don't take 30 minutes off to just sit and think, and suddenly something strikes you, right? For innovation. I think it's powerful for people to come together. Oftentimes, innovation happens in the downtime when you don't expect something to come about and something comes about. So for those two reasons, I think it's important that people come back," the Wipro chairman said, underscoring that when people come together they think more spontaneously, making way for fresh innovations.
Wipro has an average annual attrition and hiring rates of 10 per cent each, which means 35,000 employees are coming and going out of the company every year, Premji said. "Infusing your values, your thinking, your approaches into these people is much easier when you engage with them directly," he said.
As of now, the company has not decided on the ratio of people working from office and home, Rishad Premji said.
"I don't know how much we'll be back. Maybe we go back to say 60 to 80% something in that range. I don't know yet, but certainly, we won't be at, I don't think it's in the foreseeable future that we have 75% of our people working from home and definitely not everybody working from home. Everybody will come in some of the time," he explained.
Employees could be asked to come to office three to three and a half days in a week, he said.
More than 95% of employees of top 5 Indian IT companies are still working from home, revealed the data shared by the management for the quarter ended June 30.
Premji said the Covid situation has broken several barriers which earlier posed difficulties in hiring talents from the ecosystem outside the company.
"There are people who are very happy in their cities and don't want to go to another city, there are women who want the flexibility of work from home after child birth, there are people with disabilities who cannot come to office. I am very very excited about the broader talent base that is present outside the core cities and can now be accesed with the model," he stated.
As coronavirus cases continue to be reported in huge numbers, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) extended the relaxation in terms and conditions in July last to allow work from home till the end of 2020. Earlier, the restriction had been eased till July last.
The move was welcomed by industry captains. With the relaxed norms, companies can ask their workforce to carry on with work from home.