The pandemic and the need for an immediate lockdown resulted in an extraordinary exercise in business continuity planning. While manufacturing plants and retail establishments remained closed, the majority of the knowledge-based services firms and sales and research teams continued to work from home during this crisis.
In the first wave, the activities were aligned to equipping home workers with the infrastructure i.e. laptops / Desktops and secure log-in to customer systems, the question soon moved to how can firms adopt to the new normal i.e. need to adapt to the new normal, especially in ensuring high levels of productivity, employee connect despite a majority or several staff now working from home. This is even tougher for new recruits i.e. fresh talent or lateral hires who need to be onboarded in this unique scenario of not even meeting their colleagues and learning the ropes via the grapevine.
Some of the issues which clearly emerge in firms with significant population working from home include:
- Timely Guidance & Supervision: Managers are finding it more difficult to pass on instructions and checking on the productivity of employees
- Lack of Social Connect/Bonding: The social grapevine of informal interactions and team outings are somethings which employees miss working alone at home
- Inculcation of organization values to new recruits: The hardest impact has been on new employees who are joining in the midst of the pandemic who have very little interaction with peers and teams physically
- Checking in on the mental health: forced isolation, job security fears and increased working hours has led to anxiety and other disorders as per a study by Indian Psychiatry Society in last few months
- Recognizing good performance in a remote context: Lack of appreciation and a pat on the back is missing as work is largely transactional
Initially firms were firefighting on short term productivity, however as months have progressed, firms are reimagining ways of working around wellness, recruitment, training, collaboration, communication channels and process & compensation.
Some progressive firms are taking up some out of the box initiatives to engage employees include:
- Weekly online fitness sessions such as virtual yoga, aerobics, sending employees branded yoga mats and dumbbells and step counting challenges are undertaken
- ‘No meeting’ Fridays Back to back virtual meetings can result in burnout so a day of the week is dedicated for personal development & winding down for the weekend
- Virtual Onboarding kits containing essential products such as laptop, noise suppressor headphones, ergonometric mouse pads to welcome new recruits
- Augmented Reality provides an immersive learning experience by Scenario-based learning, technical product training and site training
- Manager Development firms are investing in manager development programs to help managers manage teams remotely in a more empathic manner
- Whiteboarding anywhere / anytime Several virtual online whiteboard softwares are being adopted by firms as part of their regular brainstorming sessions
- Showcasing hobbies & fun @ work Employees are encouraged to share pictures or videos of activities or personal events – picture of a baked cake, videos of families, pets or hobbies such as painting, singing or even dancing
- Gamified Team activities are effective in promoting team bonding and collaboration by specialized gamified applications which offer a balance of fun and education
- Snap Surveys are undertaken to check how employees are feeling on a particular day and also inputs on policies and any improvements sought from the companies
Firms are adapting to the needs of employees by reimagining the employee experience digitally, looking at tools to enable collaboration and self-expression and setting out processes and policies to prevent burn-out and making employees feel valued by using technology and a personal connect by senior management to inspire confidence during these trying times.