In July, the Telangana government said it wanted workplaces such as IT and software companies to be fully functional by September end.

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news COVID-19 Sunday, September 12, 2021 - 08:57

It has been more than one and a half years since thousands of employees of IT, software and other multinational companies (MNCs) switched to ‘work from home’ (WFH) mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As companies kept extending WFH, many employees in states like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh eventually moved back to their native places in rural areas or small towns. In July, when the Telangana government said it wanted workplaces such as IT and software companies to be fully functional by September end, it drew mixed responses from employees.

On one hand, some raised concerns over contracting the COVID-19 infection if companies switch back to a regular mode of functioning. On the other hand, some point to the burnout from the WFH culture and want offices to reopen, to go back to normal working hours.

In view of the government's proposal and the possibility of companies switching back to the regular mode of work, TNM reached out to IT and software professionals in small towns and rural areas in both the Telugu states who are thinking about shifting from WFH to office.

Sowjanya (name changed), a Data Analyst with a Hyderabad-based software company, has been working from her home in a remote village along the Telangana-Maharashtra border in Kamareddy district. She is in favour of going back to the regular office culture as WFH involves excessive work and stress. “In the initial days of WFH, I was comfortable and got to spend some time with my family. However, as days passed, the higher-ups asked us to work for more than 10 hours. Besides, the Internet speed at home never matches the workload and deadlines assigned to me. I think I would rather work from the office if safety precautions for COVID-19 are taken," she said.

Other software engineers whom TNM spoke to felt that except for the advantage of having home-cooked food and lack of burden of rent (in most cases), working from home feels as if they are functioning without any regular leave or weekends.

However, for many other employees, going back to office would mean relocating to cities again, and then there is also the fear of COVID-19 infections.

Prabhakar K, an IT professional with a Hyderabad-based leading MNC who is working from his home in Karimnagar (a tier-two city), fears the possibility of contracting COVID-19. Arguing for the continuation of WFH, he said, "We are not really sure how safe Hyderabad is or if our office is COVID-19-proof. Since workplaces are usually packed, we can consider a hybrid work mode, where only 25-30% of the employees work from the office."

When asked about going back to the office after being fully vaccinated, Prabhakar said, "Studies have shown that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is still prevalent even among those who have been vaccinated, which is why most people are scared."

Koti R, a senior software engineer from a reputed company, has been working from home in a village near Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur ever since the pandemic began. He feels that there is no need to go back to office mode as the pandemic has not yet receded.

"There is some sort of work-life balance in WFH without affecting productivity. Moreover, for many employees, coming back to Hyderabad involves shifting their families too, including young children," he noted.

Telangana Information Technology (IT) Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan said that it is the government's position to reopen offices as the state is seeing a growth in vaccination rate and a drop in infection rate in Hyderabad despite the hospitality, retail and entertainment sectors reopening. He added that the prolonged shutdown of offices has not just affected employees but also service sector workers like drivers, housekeeping staff, security guards and cafeteria workers.

Meanwhile, some companies have reportedly informed their employees to be prepared to come back to working from the office, at least in a phased manner. While some companies are arranging vaccination facilities, some have asked their employees to get fully vaccinated soon to re-join whenever asked.

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