Companies debate return-to-work, work-from-home policies

The verdict is still out on whether employees of large corporations will return to the office once the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. And if workers are pushed back into offices that are retrofitted to support the new world of social distancing (say hello to 8-foot tall cubicles and goodbye to open floor plans), it’s unclear if they will be mandated to report to the office each day, like in the pre-coronavirus days.

“That is a question that is right now being debated in every boardroom,” said Genpact’s long-time CEO Tiger Tyagarajan on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade on whether changes in the workplace such as working from home would become permanent. Tyagarajan has a firsthand look into the thinking inside those boardrooms.

One of Genpact’s core businesses is tied to helping companies rethink their operations from end-to-end. It’s a business model nicely catered to the needs of big companies right now — all of which are trying to safely restart businesses but also reposition for a future even more rooted in the use of technology.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – 2020/05/15: A social distancing set up as a precaution seen at an office before the reopening of most business. Offices and work places being set up to meet the social distance measure and precautions as things move towards a new normality amidst the corona virus quarantine and closure of most places. (Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“We could not imagine that all of the work that we are doing now could be done from home. The technologies that we are using have been around for some time, it is just that we didn’t get a motivation to push ourselves there,” Tyagarajan said. “Now that we are here, why does all of [us] have to go back to the office? So I deeply believe everyone will figure out what needs [they have] to go back and how and what doesn’t need to go back. Because some of the things that we have seen in a work-from-home environment has surprised us.”

Up to now, the number of large companies sharing their return-to-work plans publicly has been small. Experts say that’s because of the complications around retrofitting offices for new social-distancing measures, legal issues in bringing workers back without a COVID-19 vaccine and the different governance stances in each country.

Some companies have begun to take the wraps off their plans, though.

American Express CEO Stephen Squeri told employees this week it’s OK to work from home for the rest of 2020. Last week, Twitter said it would let some employees work from home forever. Facebook and Google plan to let workers do their tasks from home for the rest of the year, while Amazon has said employees could work from home until at least early October.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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