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Towards social, sustainable workplaces

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Shruti Tandon - Director, People Enablement, Nagarro

17-Sep-2021

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The pandemic transformed everything from people and societies, to institutions. New normals have taken root in every sphere of life. Covid induced challenges mean that institutions constantly reinvent themselves and find smarter ways to work while keeping their core values intact.

At Nagarro, where collaboration and empathy are core business values, we worked tirelessly through the pandemic months to create structures that ensured a blend of priority outcomes -- employee wellbeing and company productivity.

Our responses to Covid were divided across the pre-April and post-April phase, with current strategies focused on using data to create flexible work models that factor in one big reality -- no ‘one size’ fits all. 

Social bubbles are high on our agenda, and we already devised operating models to cater to three groups of people with varied expectations and requirements:

  • Those who are happy in the Work FromAnywhere (WFA) mode and want to continue operating from hometowns;
  • Those who want to be able to attend office once in a while
  • People who do not want to work from home and want to work from the offices.

Our response to Covid  was no different to that of a family. 

We transitioned almost organically to theWFA module in the pre-April phase, having started early with our distributed certification program to enable work flexibility. Handover of assets -- monitors and devices followed. Today 8,000 of our employees out of 10,000 are working remotely. 

The post-April phase required a very different level of response. As health resources ran dry due to a raging pandemic, we set up a Corona management team, an informal group, to assist employees and their family and friends with anything they needed, from medicines to oxygen cylinders and concentrators. The group networked across segments to mobilize life-saving resources, leveraged its global footprint to procure oxygen concentrators and cylinders, arranged hospital admissions at home, and validated resource databases that were scarce at the pandemic's peak. We extended advance salaries, financial and leave assistance to Covid hit employees, raised donations to support each other, ensured insurance coverage for employeesin-home quarantine, and arranged vaccination drives across multiple cities. Most of all, we maintained personal contact with everyone that was struggling. It was like family members standing up for one another in tough times.

After May, the receding second wave of Covid left people depressed and struggling with mental health challenges. Several of us lost friends and family to the pandemic. We collaborated with a third-party vendor to create a participative technology-driven wellbeing platform to deliver one-on-one expert-led coaching programs on emotional wellbeing, fitness, and lifestyle management. We emphasized intermittent breaks to avoid burn-outs and launched a Low meeting Wednesday program to encourage lesser internal meetings. Hiring in the WFA module helped both ways -- it gave the company access to a large talent pool in smaller cities and allowed people the option to stay at home and work. This model sustained customer satisfaction and employees' emotional wellbeing throughout the pandemic. In fact, our customer satisfaction levels have never been higher.

Social bubble

The non-pharmaceutical intervention of social distancing remains the bedrock of breaking the chain of COVID transmission by maintaining physical distance and limiting social interactions. But prolonged social distance strategies come at a cost given the need for interpersonal elements in all social and economic interactions. A significant new study published by the world's leading science journal Nature recently proposed behavioral network-based strategies for selective contact reduction that every organization can easily understand, control, and adopt. The key to this strategy is designing a work model that treats employees as a top priority.

We have managed to sustain high levels of productivity throughout the pandemic. Much of that was possible because of the flexibility offered to employees. A digital culture reset and focus on personalization and employee experience remained our focus.

Going forward, we don't want to return to traditional ways of working and will build more free work and social spaces, making office visits wholly optional and voluntary.

There will be no fixed office seats. Employees will book their seat for the day online.

Learning and development

Businesses are asking L&D functions to be hyper-agile in responding to the ever-changing demands, especially in the wake of the pandemic.  We promote a culture of learnagility through digital meetups and community-based learning. Our "No Leads Left Behind (NLLB)" program is a weekly hour-long series where we discuss how to gain an edge in our interactions with customers/prospects in sales or account management situations. It is open to everyone.

No Tech Left Behind (NTLB) is another bi-monthly talk on everything tech: startups, gadgets, productivity tools, apps, tech news, tech and more. This is a "must attend" for engineers and anyone who cares about tech.

Show and Tell is a high-intensity 45-minute meetup on Tuesdays. Each time, three different people share over ten minutes each with exciting developments related to their projects, clients, practices or GBUs, and then there is a Q&A.

Internal social networking platform Yammer allows anyone to complain, argue and engage across our non-hierarchical structure.

Strategic opening

We have gradually started opening our offices, with the utmost caution, in the concept of a social bubble, a place for our colleagues to visit optionally, twice a week, and catch up. For those who don't want to come to the office but feel they are losing the warmth and comfort of social interactions with team members, a program called Reconnect will enable informal lunches or dinners in small groups that facilitate casual lunchesand interpersonal exchanges.

We believe there should also be other forms of social bubbles -- digital or physical meetups – that inspire a culture of community-based learning. Digitally enabled personalized employee experience will remain a crucial aspect of our collaborative approach towards workspace interactions

We also have digital meet-ups. These are wonderful places to learn, open to all where we discuss a range of topics-how to gain the edge in our interactions with customers/prospects in sales or account management situations.