While Covid-19 is showing no signs of subsiding, Indian businesses are figuring out how to spring back in action. As that happens, they are looking at different strategies to create a safe environment for employees to get back to work. "One thing is certain; we are entering a new world of work and it is crucial to be well-prepared for this new reality. The emphasis must be on creating a safe environment where employees can be productive and make an impact," says Paul Dupuis, MD & CEO, Randstad India.
He adds businesses will have to ensure they create offices as clean zones. At the same time, firms will also have to offer alternative ways of working, including remote work, which is also about the future of work. Third important piece is about protecting jobs and providing job security to the workforce. Sandeep Gulati, MD, Manpower Group India says, "This is our opportunity to restart the economy to create a future of work that works for everyone...more digital, more virtual, more connected and more wellbeing-orientated than we could ever have imagined."
To ensure a well-being oriented organisation, he says: "We need to start base lining the organisation from the human perspective. There is usually conversation around IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient) but now we need to bring in HQ, the human quotient."
He shares there is a need to go back to fundamentals. Businesses now will have to figure out how many people can come to work, how many can travel for an event. If a firm has 400 people, the chances are it is working from 400 different locations, instead of a single office, and each employee will have their own preference of a working environment.
Organisations will have to learn to work like an orchestra where each musician works individually and yet together they create the perfect symphony, says Gulati.
As organisations work from a several locations, leaders will require a mindset shift where they will have to give up control and empower the employee to deliver. "The new business plans have to be nimble, adaptable and outcome-based. They can no longer be activity-based," he says.
Marco Valsecchi, Country Manager & MD, Adecco Group says that while more and more brands are announcing work from home for long term, office spaces will continue to play an important role. "We are social animals and need to interact with each other. Also, values like empathy and trust are very difficult to build through digital medium."
While work from home will continue, the relationship between office and employee might change. There will be more space allocated per square foot to employees and more people will work in shifts. Also, firms are looking at re-doing office spaces, keeping in mind its impact on employee's wellbeing. They are opting for colour palettes that have an impact on mindset and installing screen savers, artefacts, wallpapers to ensure they create a positive impact on the employees.
Richa Singh, Co-founder of mental health plarform YourDOST says that COVID has lead to a considerable rise in stress level and anxiety amongst professionals.
A recent report by YourDost shows that over 55% of Indians have experienced a rise in their stress levels during the lockdown. Additionally, feelings of anxiety, anger and loneliness have also increased with a net increase of 41%, 38% and 29%, respectively.
The key concerns employees raise are: the feeling of anxiety due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and yet the firm's expectation to work as productively as earlier. Another is the difficulty in maintaining personal and professional boundaries while working from home.
Singh says the coping mechanisms of meeting a friend or speaking to a colleague over a coffee are no longer available. Organisations now have to figure out ways to facilitate such mechanisms for the employees in the new circumstances. Singh suggests firms can look at building the resilience of the employees at individual level and at team level, they can have wellness champions who ensure wellbeing of their colleagues.
The speakers were part of the launch of a 'how-to' report 'Help India Get Back to Work Safely' guide, which has best practices and recommendations for organisations to support a safer return to workplaces.
Also read: How Productive is Work From Home?