IT staff working onsite caught between coronavirus and a hard place


BENGALURU: Indian IT professionals working on client projects onsite are a worried lot. The reason: their employers are finding it tough to send replacements due to global travel restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Two employees working onsite, including at client locations, in two different European countries told ET that they were “scared” to travel to work locations due to the virus and they cannot opt to work from home because the nature of their jobs requires commuting to work.

Indian firms such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL Technologies and Mindtree have encouraged their onsite staff to work from home, but some critical projects need employees at client offices. “I am stuck in uncertainty as we do not see our replacement coming anytime soon. Also, we have to go to work since everyone is not allowed to work from home,” an employee at one of the top five Indian tech services companies based in a European country told ET, requesting anonymity. “What worries me is the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in a small country (such as this),” he said.

Another Indian IT employee in another European country which is seeing an increased number of infected people said he was supposed to come back to India after having completed his project but is “at the mercy of” the virus now. Managers at technology services companies are dealing with not only employees’ concerns, but also over how to bill clients based on the work delivered.

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“For some critical projects, they (employees) have to deliver and cannot work from home because the infrastructure is not yet ready,” said Kamal Karanth, cofounder of Xpheno, a Bengaluru-headquartered staffing agency.

Some tech services companies say only about one-fourth of their employees are in a position to work from home, he added.

“…over the past several weeks we have taken a series of preventive measures to protect our employees from the coronavirus outbreak,” a Wipro spokesperson told ET.

“Given the evolving situation, beginning Monday, March 16, we have advised our employees across the globe to work from home wherever feasible and if their role allows them to do so. We had already enabled work for home in several infected regions,” the spokesperson added.

HCL Tech said it was ensuring social distancing practices for employees across geographies, wherever it is essential for them to work from an office or client site.

“Most of the Mindtree Minds are working from home already… Further, we are working with our customers to enable alternate work options,” said a company spokesperson.





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