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Why HR leaders are wary of shorter work week policies

This is truly the best time to be a techie. After all, the IT sector is witnessing a hiring boom, and demand is clearly more than the supply in the talent market. It is definitely talent that is in the driver’s seat in the IT industry and not the employers.

While many top-tier companies continue their search for the right tech talent, others are developing ways to stand out from the rest as more attractive employers to draw the best techies.

In economic terms, it may be the ideal time to be a techie. However, when speaking of work-life balance, the scenario is far from ideal. The job of a techie has grown to be more extensive in nature since the pandemic struck. Professionals in the field increasingly report of being overburdened with work.

“I think, the present situation is witnessing a lot of trial and error. Whether shorter work weeks turn out to be a sustainable policy or whether it will have a negative impact on the company, are just guesses and imaginations at this point of time”

Paneesh Rao, CHRO, Mindtree

To devise a solution to the issue, two Indian startups, TAC Securities and Slice, recently rejigged their work weeks, cutting them down to four- and three-day work weeks, respectively, while increasing the work hours per day.

With this move, Rajan Bajaj, founder and CEO, Slice, states that they to expand their teams and offer a lucrative opportunity. “This programme will not only provide broader exposure to different technologies but also give people a chance to broaden their work portfolios. Our aim is to bring in at least 100 folks in the next year, with a projection of hiring 1,000 team members over the next five years,” he says in a statement.

Is it a sustainable policy?

The pertinent question here is, whether the introduction of this is actually a sustainable policy. Will the sole purpose be to lure talent towards such organisations? In conversation with HRKatha, Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, expresses her doubts. “Such fancy policies aim to attract people to a company, but their sustainability is debatable,” she states. She rightly points out that while companies may cut down on the working days, they will not reduce the deliverables expected of their employees. “If organisations compromise on their deliverables, then they would definitely have to face repercussions,” she adds.

Raina maintains that a service provider is hired to deliver value to the client and this service provider further employs people to deliver on this. With a shorter work week, whether the productivity of employees will remain the same is still a question mark.

“Such fancy policies like shorter work weeks aim to attract people to a company, but their sustainability is debatable”

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal

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For IT professionals, Raina opines that the three things that matter are: exposure, empowerment and a work-life balance, in that order. In smaller scale organisations, such as startups, professionals are more empowered than they are in larger organisations. Therefore, they also appear to offer a greater work-life balance. However, in the longer term, larger organisations will have an upper hand in talent attraction that gives such professionals greater exposure. “In the long run, what matters is how one creates experiences for the employees. These experiences meet exposure, and traditionally, larger scale organisations have much to offer in this regard,” she explains.

More of a trial and error

For Paneesh Rao, CHRO, Mindtree, the question of moving towards a shorter work week is one such innovation or change that the pandemic has brought about. He says that a judgement on the efficacy of such a policy is still questionable as companies have just started to implement it.

“I think, the present situation is witnessing a lot of trial and error. Whether it turns out to be a sustainable policy or whether it will have a negative impact on the company, are just guesses and imaginations at this point of time,” he says. He adds that all companies are trying to experiment with unique strategies to attract talent, while other companies are keeping close tabs on the outcome of such policies. After all, they want to gauge whether such policies would be right for them to implement or not.

“In no way do I see short work weeks sustain the level of productivity and sustainability that can give an edge”

Debjani Roy, CHRO, Mind Your Feet

For Rao, the bigger challenge that needs to be addressed right now is the confusion between working from home or calling IT professionals back to office, because, in IT, the productivity is almost identical in both modes of work.

What could be future IT work culture be like?

Kamlesh Dangi, group head – human resources, InCred, says that companies implementing such policies may be doing so considering the specific constraints of their work.

With such models, companies may be able to attract certain talent that may find smaller work weeks more attractive, but for the larger talent pool, this criterion may not be as attractive, Dangi tells HRkatha.

He feels that since InCred has been able to manage its constraints well, there has been no particular need to incorporate such a change in its operation. “There is an added pressure to retain talent at the moment. We may have to offer higher salaries or increments or lucrative projects to keep employees engaged. However, such requests have not been received till yet,” he reveals.

“In the long term, people will work towards an hourly or daily arrangement — a consultant kind of arrangement. Basically, these are specialist services and talent may juggle multiple projects at a time in a non-conflict environment in the future”

Kamlesh Dangi, group head – human resources, InCred

Regarding the future of work in IT, Dangi has a more unconventional take on where things may be headed . “In the long term, people will work towards an hourly or daily arrangement — a consultant kind of arrangement. Basically, these are specialist services and talent may juggle multiple projects at a time in a non-conflict environment in the future,” he asserts.

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‘Making productivity stand on its head’

A smaller work week, at least in an Indian setting, is not how management has traditionally operated. There may be a new school of ideas taking over, but Debjani Roy, CHRO, Mind Your Feet, believes that the conventional thinking of management and productivity reigns supreme. Implementation of such a policy raises doubts in her mind regarding productivity. “In no way do I see this kind of a model sustain the level of productivity and sustainability that can give an edge. I don’t see that at all,” she asserts.

In her understanding, larger IT companies may have brainstormed and concluded that there may be no alternative to the traditional norms set, as they are the tried and tested ways of ensuring productivity while still giving the employees a balance in their lives. She believes that these may result in short-term gains but defy the norms of management by making productivity stand on its head. As she rightly puts it, “This is a question of prudence not adherence to an old-school matrix of productivity. Such policies leave more questions in my mind than answers.”

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Source: https://www.hrkatha.com/features/why-hr-leaders-are-wary-of-shorter-work-week-policies/

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