As work-from-home mandates are ending, they’re causing some unusual changes in the job market.
TCS has said that more women have been leaving the company since the company has been calling employees back into offices. TCS said that the attrition rate for women, which was usually lower or similar than that of men, has now increased to be more than that for men. The company says that it has observed this change since it ended its work-from-home flexibility.
“I would think working from home during the pandemic reset the domestic arrangements for some women, keeping them from returning to office even after everything normalised,” TCS Chief Human Resources Officer Milind Lakkad said. While TCS’s overall attrition rate was 20% at the end of March, the company didn’t specify what the current attrition rates for men and women. Nearly 35% of TCS’s 6-lakh workforce is composed of women employees.
Lakkad said that the higher attrition among women is a “setback” to TCS’s efforts to promote gender diversity, and added that the company is focusing on reversing the trend. TCS has introduced a policy on flexible work arrangements, which provides necessary support and flexibility for caregivers of young children and expectant women employees. TCS also runs a women-focused development program named ‘iExcel’, which has completed 22 editions and featured 1,450 women. TCS says that it had even filled 25% of internal leadership positions with women candidates, even though they constituted just 14% of the applicant pool. And TCS runs something called Rebegin, which is an initiative for experienced women professionals re-entering the workforce after a break.
But all these measures don’t seem to have prevented women employees from preferring to leave the company as opposed to attending office in person. It’s hard to tell if these women have simply moved to other companies that are still letting employees work from home, or have entirely dropped out of the workforce. But given how most companies now mandate working at least a few days from office, and finding remote-only jobs is much harder than it was during the pandemic, it’s likely that some fraction of these women have stopped working entirely.
And this is something the Indian economy can ill-afford. India’s female labour participation rate is just 19 percent, much lower than in developed countries, and even lower than neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. More worryingly, this number is falling — India’s female workforce participation was 30 percent in 1990, but is only 19 percent now. Having half the population not engaged in gainful economic activity could weigh heavily on India’s growth, and delay its entry into the medium-income country club. But with Indian women voting with their feet on the issue of working from home, companies might need to come up with some new ideas that can simultaneously meet their gender diversity goals while coaxing employees back into offices.