Organisations across the world are embracing radical change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have far reaching consequences on the future of the workplace. In a time when we are encountering social isolation and disengagement, the need for human connection as well as mental and physical wellness has emerged as foundational for a business to survive and prosper. While we try to bounce back as a community, several organisations have stepped up to safeguard the health and safety of their employees, that is further extended to the families of employees. Businesses have revisited workplace strategy and talent management, as hybrid and flexible models define the future of work.
Extra Care in the Time of Need:
During the wake of the pandemic, employee health, both physical and mental wellbeing, emerged to the forefront as one of the key constituents of a resilient workforce. Providing employees with the tools, resources, financial aid and flexibility for health and safety and self-care has become a priority for corporations-from blue chip organisations to startups. Many companies have even gone above and beyond in providing assistance to individual employees in procuring food, groceries, oxygen concentrators, and supporting the families of those impacted by COVID.
At WeWork, the safety and wellbeing of our employees and their dependents is a priority. We offered the Corona Kavach Group policy to safeguard employees and their dependents against expenditure arising from Covid-19; this includes hospitalization expenses, home-care treatment, and a sum of five lakhs insured per family, as well as COVID leave for those impacted. Furthermore, we have kickstarted vaccination drives for all our employees and 3 dependents and have also offered to reimburse the vaccination costs. We have relooked at our group medical insurance and policy; to support the families of COVID bereaved, the medical cover for the dependents will continue until the policy expires, as well as the deceased employee's salary will continue to be paid to the family for a stipulated period of time. The family can also avail counseling services to help manage their grief and loss and WeWork India will offer employment to the immediate family member(s) on a best effort basis.
Uplifting Overall Employee Experience/Holistic Development
'Community over commerce' has become the overarching philosophy for many organisations and this is reflected in people and performance management policies. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for a healthy work-life balance, adaptability, and mental and physical wellness. With digital overload becoming a reality, encouraging employees to take a mental health break or make space to pause, reflect and focus has been the focus of Human Resources teams. The shift has been towards uplifting the overall "life" experience for employees, and not just their experience at work. In a prolonged work from home scenario, many organisations have announced 'zoom-free' days or 'wellness days' to help employees to rest and recuperate. During the lockdown, organisations are also using the time available on account of the temporary economic slowdown, to build the capabilities and skills of the workforce of tomorrow.
Image: Priti Shetty, Head of People at WeWork India
At WeWork, we introduced the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), to enable employees to have access to a range of personal and professional counseling services during these distressing times, and also rolled out a wellness calendar with expert sessions on health and wellness, mindfulness, stress and anxiety management, and pandemic related education. As travel begins to gradually resume, WeWork India offers
a 'workation' policy of up to ten days annually that allows people to travel and spend time with loved ones or just explore new places, while they work remotely. We also launched a 'Further Education Program' to help employees meet aspirations for learning and development and higher studies, with 16 scholarships offered in 2021.
Building A Firm Foundation:
The pandemic is a testament to the fact that company culture is indeed an organisation's immune system and acts as the glue that binds us together when there is uncertainty and unpredictability in the environment around us. As remote employees miss the human connection that forms an integral part of culture, driving company and function level communication is key to facilitating greater employee interaction and engagement. Hosting employee-led virtual events and extending these events to families, connecting with employees from across markets to check in are various ways in which organizations can demonstrate genuine empathy and support in a "remote" world and provide the right opportunities for every individual to "belong".
WeWork India has always upheld a 'speak-up culture', where asking questions and continuously improving remains our primary focus. Additionally, having a suitable physical work environment accentuates collaboration, well-being and productivity. We ensure our spaces are designed with ample natural light, collaboration spaces, wellness rooms, technology to support networking events and connect with remote team-mates or stakeholders, and conform with the highest standards of health and safety and social distancing norms. We have amplified our efforts on inclusion and many of the diversity initiatives led by our Employee Resource Groups are extended to members as well, to make our workspaces more inclusive and safe for women, LGBTQ+ communities, parents, differently abled persons etc.
As corporate India gradually makes a return to workspaces, a key priority will be making the workforce and customers feel safe and supported, in more ways than one. Organisations will offer increased flexibility for employees, gig workers and customers, to operate and meet at workspaces closest to their homes. Innovative workplace design strategies that factor in staff rotations, hybrid work models, health and safety protocol as well as wellness priorities, will define the future of work.
(The article is authored by Priti Shetty, Head of People at WeWork India)
WeWork bears the responsibility of the accuracy and completeness of the above article.
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