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MUMBAI : Unlike their counterparts in Western countries, Indian companies are receiving requests from employees to be allowed to work from office, at least those who are vaccinated.

Firms, on the other hand, are mulling whether to reopen offices or wait till the year-end to track a feared third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The majority of our employees have requested us to allow them to come to work," said Seshagiri Rao, joint managing director and group chief financial officer at JSW Steel Ltd. The company hasn’t taken a decision.

“Around 83% of our employees are vaccinated, at least the first dose; and by this month-end, we will have achieved 100% vaccination. Vaccination can give a lot of comfort to employees when they are asked to report to work. Though we are operating at 40-50% of our workforce in metro cities, in our factories, we can’t do that, so we got them all vaccinated."

Rao is expecting that, if not this year, by next year, people will start coming to work at JSW Group’s offices. At its factories, workers are already vaccinated.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) and Larsen and Toubro Ltd, among others, have vaccinated over 90% of their employees. While RIL last week said over 98% of its 236,300 employees received at least one dose, FMCG giant HUL gave its figure as 90% of more than 88,000 employees.

Companies are also planning to extend the virtual or hybrid work model, leaving the decision to work from office to employees. A hybrid model is a combination of remote and on-site working, where some employees are on-premises, while others work from home.

Companies believe that while the hybrid model has allowed people to find work-life balance, employers have found it challenging to foster innovation, collaboration and sustain an organization’s culture in a virtual environment.

Internationally, the call to return to office by CEOs at Apple Inc., JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley has been growing louder.

“We employ many young people who came to us to tell us to open offices for them," Ganesh Natarajan, chairman, 5F World and Honeywell Automation India Ltd.

“People are getting in the way of their family members, occupying the private place. They need to be allowed at work. The pull factor, however, emerges from corporates. In any corporation, it is much more effective to be in office," added Natarajan, who was addressing the CII HR Conclave 2021 on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, in a communication to employees, said anyone coming in to work on its campuses will need to be vaccinated and that the company is extending its global voluntary work-from-home policy to 18 October.

Last week, Infosys Ltd told employees that they could resume work from offices.

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