Work from office all five days or your appraisals will suffer, TCS tells employees

Bengaluru: Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) has warned employees that failing to return to offices by March will affect their appraisals and performance reports, two executives privy to the development told Mint.

“While the company has not said it will fire employees (who don’t return to office) or cut their salaries, it will impact our appraisals and performance reports,” said a TCS executive with knowledge of the matter.

“We first got the intimation of working from the office at a town hall last year. Gradually, HR passed on the message to delivery managers, who then intimated their teams. Each of us was also told about the development at our individual desks,” said the executive, who added that the HR department had also sent emails to employees about this.

Employees across the board were told to work from the office for three days a week around February last year, said the executive. Now, the company has decided to recall employees to offices for all five days of the week.

“All employees were asked to work from the office for five days a week from January 2024 but no deadline was given to us. A senior HR executive also informed us of this through the company’s internal communication tool, Ultimatix,” the employee added.

Emails sent to TCS did not elicit an immediate response.

Kamal Karanth, co-founder of Xpheno, a specialist staffing firm, said, “IT companies’ clients are tightening rules and expecting better protocols from a cybersecurity perspective. That’s why IT companies feel it is safer for their employees to work from offices.”

TCS’s top brass has been urging its employees to return to offices since last year, marking a shift from its ‘25 by 25’ hybrid model from 2020, which called for a quarter of employees working remotely by 2025.

“The vibrancy and energy levels in our offices are increasing as more of our employees return. We expect to be back to our normal operating mode by the end of the current fiscal year,” Milind Lakkad, chief HR officer, TCS, wrote in the company’s December-quarter earnings press release.

On the importance of working from office, Lakkad wrote in the company’s FY23 annual report that new employees have missed out on “workplace essentials” such as mentorship, team building, and collaboration thanks to the two years of lockdowns.

“Over half of our workforce today was hired after March 2020. New employees get acculturated through physical interactions with senior colleagues and leaders, and observing and following their behaviour and ways of thinking. Without those interactions, employee engagement and acculturation was badly affected. All these factors led us to gradually bringing people back to our offices during the year,” Lakkad said.

On whether insisting on work-from-office was disadvantageous for companies, Xpheno’s Kamath said employees preferred hybrid or work-from-home models. “When my company informs candidates about job openings on behalf of IT companies, the first question they ask is if the job is remote, hybrid, or work-from-office. If the job is office-based, they don’t take it unless they are unemployed or if the company is offering a 50% raise,” he said.

TCS ended the December quarter with 6,03,305 employees, 5,680 fewer than it had at the end of September 2023, and 10,669 fewer than at the end of December 2022.

It is not the only Indian IT company exhorting employees to work from offices. HCL Technologies Ltd has been doing so as well. A spokesperson for the company said, “Mid-manager-level employees and above are being encouraged to work from office at least three days a week.”

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