The pandemic gave a big jolt to the business world in 2020 but it also acted as a catalyst to how corporates will choose to function going forward. It has normalized remote working and flex workforce, an agenda that many D&I leaders were trying so hard to drive pre covid.
Our recent expert webinar which saw participation from companies like Axis Bank, HCL Technologies, Aditya Birla Group, IBM, Microsoft, Boeing India, Northern Trust Bank and others, reveals that leaders see value in continuing with the hybrid model and are equipping managers to drive an inclusive culture without biases.
Research in India and globally reveal that employees spent increased work hours in the pandemic, had difficulty in balancing work life, engaging children, homeschooling and increased level of stress and social isolation. However, there was a concerted effort by organizations to address these issues by actioning a host of initiatives around wellness and childcare. Many organizations also rehashed their leave policy, benefits programs and restructured insurance policies to extend maximum support and care to employees especially women, parents and caregivers. In a recent client listening exercise where we reached over 50 organizations, a few emerging trends and initiatives that got repeated are as below:
Women Wellbeing - Companies looking at deepening wellbeing support for women employees. Engagements on Physical & Mental Health, Fitness, Nutrition and Financial planning consultations are planned. These engagements are in the form of expert workshops, byte sized videos, self-assessment tools, gamification etc.
Choose to Challenge - In line with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, organizations have not just planned for a week- or month-long intervention but have plans to drive the change through workshops and interventions all year along.
- Programs planned to help women break barriers and advance in leadership positions to enhance the gender balance mix in leadership positions
- Coaching and mentorship programs to help women employees elevate their brand at workplace.
- Successful & influential women innovators, activists and leader’s immersion to share their success mantras, growth drivers, challenges and their views on deifying gender norms.
Inclusion Sensitization - Manager coaching and sensitization is a huge focus area to make this year’s hybrid model successful. While last year was about driving inclusive leadership in a virtual space, this year it is about driving an inclusive culture in a hybrid model. Most organizations spoke about coaching managers to enable better collaboration, connect with teams and drive a culture of trust. Companies also are recognizing and celebrating inclusion champions in the workplace.
Return to Work Planning - 40% companies are planning to return back to work in a phased manner from Mar-21. Leaders are being encouraged to lead return to the workplace with a view to motivate and instill confidence. Nature of work and team preference continues to be taken into account. Companies are doing this in a phased manner
Family Initiatives Dialed Up - As work from home continues for the majority of the population across companies, companies continue to invest in family first initiatives in the form of virtual engagement sessions for children, families. No meetings before 9:30 am, between 1 – 2 pm and post 7 pm. Besides that, many organizations spoke about their intent to create awareness about gender neutral domestic abuse and introducing a policy / program to support and care for those affected.
Relaunch Daycare Benefit with Increased process enhancements - Companies are gearing up to relaunch their daycare benefit support in Q2 with a higher percentage of employees expected to return to work in the coming months. As per the results of our recent survey on crèche support*, 78% companies reported they are set to relaunch the daycare benefit. Benefit likely to be relaunched between April – June with funding support. Greater than 1/3rd companies have budgeted for daycare audits especially for daycares that are often used by employees.
Working Parent Support Reinforced – With schools not opening up anytime soon, especially for younger children, organizations stay invested in extended support to the parental population by means of investing in equal parenting, virtual care programs for children, access to resources, coaches and counselors. Equal parenting, raising resilient and independent kids, managing screen time, being cyber safe are some trending topics that companies are focusing on.
ProEves recent research* reveals that with work from home being continued and constraints on daycare capacity, 75% companies are providing Virtual care and parental support in some form. 63% of these companies are funding in limited or full capacity and the remaining are providing discovery and discount support.
In a nutshell, as companies gear to return their employees back to the workplace, they carry with them the learnings of 2020 of being resilient and driving a digitally strong and agile workforce. 2021 will continue to see organizations drive the DEI agenda aggressively through hybrid work model, manager sensitization, family first and wellness initiatives, working parent support to be able to leverage a truly diverse workforce and achieve greater gender equity and inclusion
*Source: Proeves Crèche Benefit India Survey 2021 across 51 companies