Data will decide which Indian IT employees will come back to office amid Covid-19

Slow and steady.
Slow and steady.
Image: AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan
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Indian IT services companies are relying on data to navigate the post-Covid-19 world.

As the sector partially returns to offices after nearly three months of government-mandated lockdown, companies like Infosys and Tech Mahindra are looking at the data related to employee metrics and client demand to decide who comes in and who continues to work from home.

“We are going to be very focused on data. It will tell us very clearly what the movement of people is,” Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer and head of growth at Tech Mahindra, told Quartz during a roundtable organised by IT industry body Nasscom.

For now, most of the companies in the $200 billion industry are expected to bring back only around 15% of their staff to offices, which will include employees who are needed for essential roles, and others who have infrastructure-related hurdles in working remotely.

With over four million employed in the sector, managing people’s movement amid a pandemic could be a nightmare. Here’s how some of the industry leaders are dealing with it:

Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer and head of growth at Tech Mahindra:

We’ve made a list of projects that we will start calling people out on. Project managers have made their teams and rosters and all the prep work is ready. But we’ll not call everyone on day one just because the government has allowed it. We will take a gradual approach.

We are going to be very focused on data. It will tell us very clearly what the movement of people is. Things like the Arogya Setu app, our own story of what the route is, (and) the transport mechanisms we’ve made available for people to make sure they’re safe and social distancing is available.

We, as leaders, have to make sure we’re coming to work, demonstrating that our work environment is safe and therefore allowing our associates to come. Some of us leaders are already going to work. I’ve been going for last three to four weeks to make sure we follow social norms. CP (Gurnani, CEO) has also been doing it, just to make sure the message goes out that it is safe to come to come in to work, if you’re needed.

Coronavirus is not going away in a jiffy. From our side, we need to take the fear away and bring the caution in. If it is unprecedented fear, it’s going to impact us unnecessarily. But if it’s careless abandon, it’s going to impact us even worse.

BVR Mohan Reddy, founder and executive chairman, Cyient:

We’re using tremendous amount of data right now in terms of what’s the productivity level of people, and what are the outcomes. Based on the output and productivity levels, 2-3% of people been pulled in.

Where we’ve not seen the right type of output, we’re asking them to come to work. It has to be a planned approach, processes have been put in place but and you can’t put a timeline because there is uncertainty.

UB Pravin Rao, chief operating officer, Infosys, and chairman of Nasscom:

We have carefully selected people from projects where clients were very reluctant about working from home. We are not in a hurry to get people back. And when people have come back, they’re sharing their experiences and it’s been positive. They talk about our safety measures.

We’ve used data, looked at clients who, once things become better, want people to work in office. And rather than doing it in one shot, we wanted to start bringing them in and acclimatise them over time.