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MUMBAI : The future of work and workplaces will not be the same again, and the mandatory 5-days a week in office will be a thing of the past, a top official from global consumer goods major Unilever said on Monday.

The company's chief operating officer Nitin Paranjpe said 4-days a week has the potential to become the new normal as people start giving more importance to work-life balance. "It is very unlikely mandatory 5 days in the office is ever going to come back again," Paranjpe, who was heading Hindustan Unilever till a few years ago, said at the annual NTLF event organised by IT industry lobby Nasscom.

He said over the last 10 months, Unilever has spoken to a lot of its employees to see what the practical way of going ahead is and added that there will be different ways of employee engagement for companies going ahead. Reminiscing that companies used to work 6 days a week in the early days of his career, which came down to 5, he said 4 days can also become the new normal, calling the process a part of “social change". “One thing is for sure – the future of work and workplace will not be the same," he said.

Learnability will be the defining characteristic of employees in the future, he said, adding that this is so because of the rapid changes in the overall practices which render formal education “irrelevant" very soon and compels everybody to unlearn and re-learn faster. From an Indian perspective, he said reskilling people across ages globally can be the biggest business opportunity awaiting the country. The old days of wage arbitrage, with which the Indian IT story started, are behind us now, he made it clear.

The future is about embracing diversity and having staff which is inclusive enough to take on newer challenges as they come, he said. Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, domestic IT major Tech Mahindra's chief executive and managing director C P Gurnani said even though the government has allocated 400 crore for skill development, we are lacking on many fronts.

He specifically pointed out to 5G, where we are trailing the world because the government is yet to allocate spectrum, none of the 800 universities have dedicated curriculums focusing on a crucial technology like artificial intelligence, and similarly many aspects are lacking to make manufacturing into a USD 1 trillion sector. Gurnani said there is tremendous potential and appetite within India, but there is a need to create jobs at a fast pace.

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