Happy with work-from-home, no plans to go back to office- HGS

Hinduja Global Solutions, one of India’s largest BPO providers with nearly 47,000 employees, said it was quite happy with how things are going under the ‘work from home’ mode, and has no immediate plans to shift employees back to the office.

The comments come even as IT firms like TCS have asked employees to be at their ‘home location’ before the end of the year as they look at returning to a work-from-office model.

Like almost all IT and BPO companies in India, HGS had shifted nearly its entire workforce to the work-from-home mode in April last year after the government imposed strict curbs on people movement to control COVID-19.

However, unlike IT firms, for BPO companies like HGS, the move was almost all upside as they were able to bring down operating costs drastically.

Non-labor operating expenses, such as facility costs, comprise a higher share of operating expenses for BPO providers compared to IT companies, as BPO workers are typically paid lower than IT engineers.

As such, the savings — in terms of lower fixed infrastructure expenses — was considerably more substantial for BPO workers than for IT outsourcing companies.

Moreover, productivity losses were also lower on the BPO side from the shift to home-based work as most of the functions associated with BPO delivery could be carried out by the individual worker without constant collaboration and meetings.

In contrast, many IT verticals and functions require a high degree of team interaction for optimal fulfillment.

“We haven’t gone back to offices, and as of now, I can only tell you that there are no concrete plans to bring people back to offices, because there’s no requirement to do that,” Partha DeSarkar, Executive Director and Global CEO of HGS, clarified on the current situation.

“Even though vaccination rates have improved and in most countries, the numbers are under control, we still are being very very cautious and taking each day at a time and not really looking at coming back to offices and increasing the risk for our workforce. Given that it has not resulted in any dip in productivity, we see no reason why we should be concerned with that,” he pointed out.

“An added factor is that while we use work from home as our principal mode of delivery, our operating expenses go down. That is another strong reason why we feel that work from home is going to be a big chunk of our deliveries going forward,” he added.

Another factor, which DeSarkar did not mention, was increased employee satisfaction due to lower expenses and more free-time associated with work from home.

At the same time, De-Sarkar said the company was not ruling out ever returning to the work-from-office model, and said it is tweaking its office-portfolio so that, in case of requirement, it can switch back to a work-from-office or hybrid mode.

The company is trimming its office space in some geographies, but also adding more space in places like Jamaica and North Ireland, he pointed out.

“We cant be in a situation where we don’t invest in the [offices] at all,” he said, pointing out that if the company was to bring back everyone to work from the office, it simply didn’t have enough seats to do that right now.

“We don’t want to be in that situation, and that is the rationale behind investing in a few centers, while we are divesting in some other centers that we don’t believe we need. It’s a balancing that we are doing,” he pointed out.