This state of affairs presents leaders with two challenges: how to manage remote working conditions amid the uncertainty of today, and how to prepare for and optimize the hybrid working models of tomorrow, in which fully in-person and remote work will be two ends of a fluid spectrum of options.
In a recent study The work trend index by Microsoft, the findings of the study has led to one big question: As leaders go from worrying about whether or not people will be “productive” to worrying about if people are working in sustainable ways.
Some of the findings of this research were:
- The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others.
- Causes of workplace stress differ for Firstline and remote workers.
- Six months in there are more communications and fewer boundaries.
- No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity.
- Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday.
Inspired by this research and to delve deep into the current trend of the hybrid workplace, we reached out to leaders to understand how the wellbeing and wellness of the employees would shape in the future.
Supporting this campaign with his thought, we spoke to Ravindra Kumar GP, CHRO, Tata Motors. Tata Motors is the biggest automobile manufacturing company in India with an extensive range of passenger, commercial, and defense vehicles in its portfolio. We were really looking forward to this conversation as Ravindra was managing an organization where employees had to work during the lockdown to maintain transportation in certain cities. Managing the hybrid workplace even before the lockdown happened, Ravindra has some great lessons and experiences to share.
In this exclusive tête-à-tête with Ravindra, we demystify the major burnout factors, his take on some of the findings from the Microsoft study, The work trend index, and Tata Motors’ efforts in creating a sustainable wellbeing strategy for its employees that helps them thrive at work.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Empathy is key to a Hybrid workplace model:
The potential costs of remote work especially burnout—are as real as the benefits. Employers must continue to develop programs and policies that create an empathetic culture centered on employee wellness.
Remote work is not equally possible for all employees. Especially when schools are closed or are conducting virtual classes, childcare duties often intrude on parents’ workdays. Living quarters, the presence of partners and roommates, and many other factors can influence the quality of interactions that occur during remote working.
Ravindra shares, “Today everyone is working in a restricted environment. Everyone is taking more workload than they took. We need to be more empathetic while we interact and work with each other.”
This thought is in fact in tandem with the study finding which is “62% of people we surveyed said they feel more empathetic toward their colleagues now that they have a better view of life at home.” Further, in some cases, the move to more remote work is also making work more inclusive. Over half (52%) of the people we surveyed feel more valued or included as a remote contributor in meetings because everyone is now in the same virtual room.
Managing the emotional wellbeing and emotional boundaries
When we initially started working from home, people assumed that working from home means working 24*7. There is no beginning or end to the day. Besides managing the daily chores of home, they were in fact stressed about being on camera at home.
At Tata Motors we began with a very simple initiative of educating people and bring a mindset shift about remote working. We communicated on actions for people:
- Respecting each other timings
- Taking regular breaks
- Video meetings aren’t compulsory and are voluntary
- Weekends and holidays need to be avoided for any kind of meetings or work and need to be avoided
- Plan a lunch break and lunch break can be longer as one has to prepare for lunch himself/ herself
Ravindra shares we need to acknowledge that ways of working cannot be changed within a flick. There was a complete reset and we need to give it time.
Hybrid or Remote or Office: The workplace doesn’t matter now
According to him to make a hybrid work model it’s absolutely necessary if employers have equipped employees with all the infrastructure.
According to Ravindra, while the future of work will be more remote than it’s ever been before, infrastructure which enables us to be connected, ergonomic workspaces, and opportunities for social connecting and team bonding – will likely remain a core part of the future of work.
When we asked Ravindra how do we manage employee productivity and wellbeing at the same time, he has a very simple answer to it.
“If an employee is engaged, it doesn’t matter whether it is hybrid or a company HQ. Wherever an individual is getting the benefit to managae his work, his life and is happy about it, that is the workplace for him.”
He further adds that managers need to be much more flexible and adaptable. One cannot control each and every act and hence one has to empower and needs to be much more open to delegate decision making responsibilities.
Food for thought:
Ravindra’s insights on the manager’s role also paved the way for new thinking which is on the new role of managers to take a wider role in helping them manage their wellbeing. helping their people prioritize, stay connected, and protect their time.
But it also leaves us with the question: How will managers support and engage fully remote teams?
From the research by Microsoft, it was found that employee burnout accounts for as much as 50 percent of a company’s attrition. And it is important that managers take an active role in helping and supporting their employees their wellbeing.
To enable that Teams have a new feature Manager insights which help managers gain line of sight into teamwork norms such as after-hours collaboration, focus time, meeting effectiveness, and cross-company connections alongside an average for similar teams. These insights help managers identify where change can have the greatest impact.
Further with Organizational insights in Teams give leaders visibility into how work is evolving and impacting the people who propel their business into the future. By answering questions like, “Are employees at risk for burnout? Are people maintaining strong internal connections? Are relationships with customers being maintained?” insights act like an EKG for business resilience so leaders can easily take the pulse of their organization. Leaders can track indicators of employee wellbeing and effectiveness and respond to irregular rhythms using research-backed recommendations for improvement. By seeing the impact of change over time, leaders can build cultures where wellbeing is the catalyst, not the cost, of productivity and resilience.