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Despite relaxations, IT firms in Hyderabad tread cautiously

The sprawling campuses of Information Technology giants and the huge software parks in this tech hub continue to remain almost deserted even four days after the sector was allowed to resume operations with 33 percent workforce following relaxations in Covid-19 lockdown norms.

Only few companies have resumed operations and that too only with about 10 percent of the employees while a majority is still adopting a wait and watch approach due to various factors including the apprehensions among the workforce, operational challenges like ensuring social distancing in work places, continued restrictions on the people’s movement and the logistics.

Very few people are seen moving in the IT hubs of Hitec City and Gachibowli even after the relaxation in lockdown norms. The IT corridors, which used to teem with thousands of techies on normal days, have been deserted for nearly two months.

Even before the relaxation in lockdown, five percent of employees of some companies were attending offices for essential operations like data centre maintenance, payroll, support services for healthcare and pharma. The turnout in these firms has now improved to 10 percent.

Information Technology Department officials say more than 90 percent of the employees continued to operate on work from home model and not companies are keen to resume operations at this stage.

The lockdown in Telangana ends on May 27 and it is only after its lifting that the sector is likely to see some real activity.

“Getting people back to work from office is as difficult as making them work from home,” HYSEA President Bharani Kumar Aroll told IANS.

He pointed out since 95 percent of people were working from home and hardware was shifted to enable this, bringing it back to office and setting it up is a challenge.

The employees have apprehensions in returning to work. With what they have been watching and reading about coronavirus, the majority of them are not comfortable to be back to work.

“We have to look at the work environment from a social distancing point of view. They can’t be sitting next to each other. The social distancing planning needs to be done. This will give confidence to employees to come to office,” he said.

Kumar believes that the companies will have to ensure a safe environment for employees, maintaining hygiene and required sanitisation.

As the offices were shut for nearly two months, the companies need lot of preparations to resume the operations. Not many companies are keen to resume operations even with 33 percent employees as they face numerous challenges.

They have to get authorisation letters from police authorities for the employees coming to office. Transportation remains the biggest challenge as the lockdown rules say a car can carry only two persons including the driver.

The companies may also end up incurring huge expenditure on transportation of employees by buses as they can be plied with only 50 percent occupancy in view of the social distancing norms. With the night curfew continuing in the city, the firms can’t have night shifts.

Even for operations during day time, the authorities asked them to ensure staggered working hours.

Cyberabad Police Commissioner V.S. Sajjanar, under whose jurisdiction the IT corridors fall, told the companies to gradually ramp up and reach 33 percent strength in phased manner.

The companies were asked to follow staggered timings – login between 7 a.m. to 10 am and logout between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Movements are strictly restricted between 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in view of the night curfew.

The police also issued directions that no gathering of employees be allowed outside IT parks, campuses which encourages street hawkers and other activities on roads.

The IT firms were asked not to operate the cafeterias until further notice. No socialising or gathering of employees in common areas within the IT companies or IT parks would be allowed.

The IT Industry in Hyderabad has over 5.43 lakh employees working in 1,500 companies. The sector had clocked exports of over Rs 1.09 lakh crore during 2018-19.

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