‘Work-from-home’ vs back to office

Only 5% of Russians continue working completely from home

Working from home doesn’t seem to become a “new normal” for Russian companies and their personnel, although more dynamic businesses are planning to develop benefits of remote working, such as savings on office rent and workspaces.

Russian companies are planning their employees’ return to the office, says The Moscow Times adding that only a handful of Russian businesses are embracing the work-from-home revolution. While some fast-growing younger firms have embraced the idea and captured the benefits of remote working, others are seeking to get back to the norm as soon as possible.

Working from home could be a win-win for both businesses and staff, considers Deputy Chairman of Gazprombank Dmitry Sauers. “It reduces the cost of renting offices and organising workspaces. […] And then the savings on office rent can be shared with employees, for example, by increasing their salaries,” he explains. Besides, home working enables to search for employees in different parts of the country, which “completely changes the model of HR management and organisation of the business”.

Russia’s largest private bank Alfa-Bank is also “working on options to fundamentally transform [our] work”, says the company’s Human Resources Director Marat Ismagulov. Most of the bank’s 11,000 staff is supposed to shift to a mix of in-office and remote working. “For example, people will work three days a week from home, and two days in the office.” According to Ismagulov, employee productivity even increased during the remote working period.

Russia’s largest online retailer Wildberries confirms a jump in productivity over recent months. The company wants to give its head office employees “the opportunity to choose the most comfortable working conditions for them: to work in the office or from home”.

Tinkoff also plans to stick to a work-from-home strategy even when the pandemic fades. Although the bank is going to bring personnel back to the office from 1 September, it wants to overhaul its work in the long term. The office is meant to become a place for large team meetings, strategy sessions, etc., while day-to-day work and projects may be performed from home.

However, the majority of businesses are inclining to return to pre-crisis life. According to Levada Center, the share of Russians working completely from home has fallen from 13% to 5% by the end of July. The researchers also state that the number of employees put on forced vacation at the height of the pandemic was almost twice higher than of those switched to remote working.

Some big corporations have already fully cancelled remote work. For example, Gazprom started testing and bringing back its office-based staff right after the cancellation of Russia’s six-week “non-working” period in mid-May. Rostec also confirmed the return of its employees to their working places “with various social distancing, employee-testing and other sanitary requirements in place”.

For those who return, the space is unlikely to be a familiar one, says The Moscow Times. Start time for Gazprombank’s office staff will vary from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. to spread flows of people out throughout the day. Rosneft is going to switch its head office staff to a reduced 30-hour week. Businesses will provide office workers with personal protective equipment such as gloves and face masks. Other measures include hand sanitising stations, meeting rooms with place markers and desks rearranged to comply with mandatory 1,5-metre social distancing requirements.

By Anna Litvina

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