KOCHI: Across the world, the pandemic has signalled a considerable shift in the way people work. With social distancing protocols in place, most IT companies continue to advocate work from home. While experts predict decentralised working setups and employee-employer dispersion are certainly here to stay, the trend doesn’t seem to bode well for IT hubs such as Infopark and Technopark developed specifically with the claim of providing concentrated and centralised infrastructure for corporates.
Even as corporate giant Deloitte shut four offices in the UK and Indian companies Infosys and TCS announced phasing in permanent work from home for 30 to 65 per cent of their employees, the euphoria around working from the comfort of one’s home, attending office meetings in pyjamas and dodging the morning rush hour traffic are slowly dying down. Initial reports of increased productivity and task completion seem to have been shadowed by lack of motivation levels among those working remotely.
According to Sasi P Meethal, CEO of IT Parks, Kerala, the obsolescence of Infopark and Technopark is still a faraway conjecture. “There is no doubt that work from home is here to stay. But I don’t think we will get to a point where 60 or even 50 per cent of employees of a company will operate remotely. Employees now want to go to work.
They are bored of their houses and want to interact and bond with colleagues. Some have also pointed out that working from home has, in fact, resulted in them being overtaxed as fixed office timings don’t exist anymore. They are expected to be available round the clock, and hence are unable to detach work from personal life. Additionally, the efficiency of overall staff has reduced due to connectivity issues,” he said.
Meethal speculates a post Covid work scenario where not more than 25 per cent of a company’s employees will be working remotely. “We will be able to make a better estimate in a couple of months. I foresee a hybrid arrangement. As of now, there is a good possibility that at least some corporates will move to smaller spaces, but there are slim chances of them shifting completely out of IT parks in the state. In fact, since the pandemic outbreak, the number of companies which have requested to move into both Infopark and Technopark are higher than those that wish to pull out,” added Meethal.
Co-working facilities remain on paper
In June, the state government announced a first-of-its-kind initiative keeping in mind the shift in work cultures worldwide. The initiative, which was to be implemented under the aegis of IT department and IT Parks, sought to set up as many as 100 work-near-home co-working facilities in 87 municipalities, six municipal corporations and seven towns in Kerala each, with an area of at least 5,000 sq ft. Though these centres were slated to be up and running by October, they are yet to take off.
With Covid-19 cases increasing, the project has currently been put on hold. “Even if we start now, the possibility of people availing a shared work space is minimal. They are scared to spend extended hours in a common space. People will only be comfortable only after the threat of the pandemic subsides. Hence, it will take another three to four months for the project to get under way,” said Meethal.
Envisioned as a project which could cater to the remote working requirements of private and public sector employees as well as freelancers, the authorities concerned had charted a roadmap to make use of existing and vacant buildings or loss-making enterprises across the state to house the work-near-home facilities. Plans are also afoot to invite private investments from the erstwhile NRKs who have returned to Kerala post the pandemic outbreak.