Article (June-2020)


Moving to a mindset of bonding with a difference

Mr. Sanjeev Sharan

Designation : -   Director - Human Resources

Organization : -  ZTE Telecom India,


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How COVID-19 is going to impact the work of future and what can be the framework of work from home model?

SS Other than the life and economy Covid 19 has also deeply impacted deeply Human behavior in a big way. Due to its unpredictability and lack treatment GLOBAL economy was completed to adopt the "isolation mode of working". Currently everyone is following social distancing as the buzz word for work culture. But I strongly feel that the same will not continue in future.

The new work culture of "Bonding with social distancing" is future. Till now Team bonding, Togetherness was the buzz words but now there is a twist in it. Social Distancing has suddenly popped in the new culture across globe. Also we need to keep it in mind "Work from Home" was not the thought through model rather was only option available at the time.

But the future has something else up its sleeve. It is a great opportunity thrown to employers as well as employees to review the strength and weakness of WFH experience. They need to religiously and honestly introspect following aspects of 40+ days of lockdown compelled WFH:

A new model based of working will evolve based on learning from these 40+ days which would be much different BUT acceptable and efficient.

Do you think that work from home has been a compulsive opportunity created by Covid for organisations during crisis? Can it be long term viable solution?

SS WORK from Home was a pure compulsive and only model available at that time for any employer and employee. It was sudden and definitely not a thought through model. It would be an interesting opportunity for Management led by Human Resource to analyze and review the whole experience. There are few important factors which need to look into post resumption of normalcy back to "old culture":

Hence-forth culture will be classified as Pre Covid and Post Covid. Pre Covid culture was open to overall bonding while post covid will be "Bonding with a difference".

India has potential to move towards Virtual work stations. Next few years will see the evolution of WFH culture in traditional organizations also. To make it successful following important process interventions are essential to look into.

Management / Manager Confidence:It is the most important foundation of - work from out of sight model. Lack of right evaluation parameter to review the individual or team contribution leads to trust loss. In the absence of efficient and robust evaluation model the "trust of management" might be lost and WFH could be perceived as non serious and paid holiday.

Future continuity:Continuity in future might not be easy and acceptable by We should not be surprised to find a set of "EMPLOYEES" raising concern over effectiveness of WFH few employer as well as employees. Yes there would be many employees from traditional business who might not be comfortable and convinced of its effectiveness.

How much remote working readiness has been achieved by Indian organisations and how workplace relationship will be redefined in such organisations?

SS WFH is not a process, it is mindset. Any mindset change requires two factors- Efforts + Intent. On a realistic note Indian industry is not fully geared up or ready for WFH. We need to understand India and its economic set up along with its cultural perspective.

India has mix of industry with good share of IT/ ITES, as well as Manufacturing and Hospitality, Startups etc. Our work culture is also mixed with different needs for different industry. Few are labour intensive while others are technology intensive.

We as such prefer "human interaction" for comfort and satisfaction.

While IT/ITES and few new sectors have WFH practice model in their system but majority are still not ready. Though covid 19 has given every organization a taste of WFH model, but we have to accept that it was thrust upon the industry and organizations to adopt. It was not a thought through and accepted model for many.

It is rightly said that every experience has its positive side to look into. The sudden thrust of WFH on industry has given them new taste. Thought it would be too early to conclude that a sole experience of Covid 19 will migrate whole industry to WFH model, but undoubtedly it has sown the seeds for future where organizations will gradually but cautiously & slowly explore options. Next 5 years will be an interesting period to observe it taking shape.

What is important- 9 to 5 office work culture or work output? What organisations should do to ensure better productivity adopting work from home model?

SS -"Work culture linked to work output" is the need of any successful economy. Output minus culture can never be a sustainable model. The strength of WFH lies in its "Flexibility + Cost + Convenience". Success of WFH depends upon readiness and abilityof the organization to drive it. It is imperative for any matured organization to work around these factors to build a sustainable work culture.

Manager capability: Managers play a very important role in effective implementation of WFH. If we dig deeper and introspect the reason behind resistance to WFH, one major factor crops up is "lack of Manager's capability to assign KPI and measure productivity in WFH". Organization needs to develop the selection and grooming process of Managers to drive productivity in WFH environment.

Defining metrics: Lay down Task and KPIs with right measurement criterions to avoid ambiguity. What to do, How to do and How to evaluate.

Reporting process during WFH: It is very important for organization to define and communicate-

a) Reporting process during WFH.

b) How to report.

c) What time to report.

d) Team calls process. Etc.

Expectation setting- Defining Dos and Don'ts during WFH: Very important to write down Dos and Don'ts. It would be wise to cover dress code and taking care of environment and surroundings during calls /video calls.

It is also necessary to publish basic discipline expected from employees. What would be covered as Leave or absence, travelling etc? These small but trivial issues leave long term dis satisfaction on the moral of employees and consistency of WFH.

Management intent- Most importantly preparing Management willing to take this jump. It is important to assess the Intent of Organization/ Management to take this BOLD STEP?

The above steps will help building Right ecosystem to build a sustainable WFH model. It will further strengthen confidence building of management and comfort to employees to work with free mind and high spirit.

What kind of problems and challenges will be faced in future and how HR should prepare to meet while implementing WFH?

SS Future of work culture will be unpredictably interesting. There would be "hype" around WFH model or remote working and along with various introspection and deliberations yielding some wonderful constructive ideas.

It would be pre-mature to term Covid 19 as immediate culture changing factor but should be seen as a stepping stone for long term Cultural change. A sole experience of compulsive WFH for few weeks cannot change the industry mindset of several decades.

Covid 19 has definitely thrown an opportunity for HR to go back to drawing board and plan for future work culture which can drive business effectively addressing challenges: What are these Challenges and Why HR needs to address them?

With the shifting to new work culture there would always be fear amongst the employer as well as employees.

Enhancing Employee's productivity: is an important critical factor of employer. HR has the opportunity to design the process to assign task and KPI and evaluate fairly, which will pave the way for effective WFH. On the other hand Managers capability to be developed and they need to be Re-skilled on "How to evaluate fairly".

Controlling Manpower Wastage: It's the human tendency that "out of sight means out of mind". HR should take lead in designing a scientific measurement process. Another important action for HR will be to align various stake holders through it and seek their buy-in also. This will further close the process gaps.

Building Employer Trust: The most critical aspect of success of launching any process is "Trust of employer". The same can be built if HR can focus on above two aspects by addressing two fundamental questions -

1) Is employee fully utilized?

2) Is employee adding value?

What requires to be done in keeping virtual teams engaged and productive and bring sense of togetherness?

SS Engaging remote employees is highly critical for the consistent productivity. The ability of manager to engage the remote team plays an important role. It is easier said than done. One can try few steps to enable keeping them meaningfully productive and contributing.

KYT: Know Your Team in & out: Understand the team members on personal level: It is important to understand team much better than normal working environment. While the office environment gives opportunity for better understanding the employees psychologically and emotionally due to availability of individual, which unfortunately is not so in WFH. Hence personal connect needs to be built better and understand their personal limitations. It will help fixing reviews, discussions accordingly.

Align team to larger Department and organization goal: Align the team to larger goal and help them connect to organization. It is hind side of WFH that employees who do not work from office do miss out engagement and connecting opportunities compared to others working from office premises. Remote teams need to be taken through regular connect interventions to keep them aligned and engaged.

Office meeting calendar: Prepare calendar where WFH employees are provided the opportunity to work at office also. The meetings to be planned thought through.

Assigning defined Tasks and Review: Clear defined tasks and KPIs to be published for all employees WFH. It should be linked with systematic review process to evaluate and communicate.

Etiquette and Discipline: Ensure Discipline and etiquette to be followed for online reviews. This will help maintaining seriousness of organization culture. Dress code for video reviews ensuring no shabbily dressing allowed.

What can be the positive and negative effect of WFH on company work culture?

SS Every work process has its strength and grey areas. WFH is the buzz word lately gaining voice around. It provides flexibility and space to employee to work as per their time and deliver. It also provides freedom to employee to focus and deliver as per target in one's own environment with less or controlled distractions. It also helps reducing organization's cost which can be utilized for other developmental purposes.

Like any process WFH also has certain grey areas.

Disengagement: WFH employees have higher probability of being Dis-engagement and disconnect with organization and team.

Up skilling & Counseling: Training and Up skilling is one area whose effectiveness is also questioned. Face to face training is still seen as more impactful in terms of training. It has no substitute where participant and trainer can have better connect. The effectiveness of coaching and counseling over technology might not be very effective.

Lack of human touch: Organization is second home to an employee. Their grievances can be resolved and addressed in more humane way by virtue being present around the work place. We cannot negate that the environment does play an important role. The efforts are made to provide them comfort.

Can use of excessive technology to make WFH workable also bring the cyber and IPR threats to business organisations and how to mitigate such threats?

SS WFH is high tech dependent culture due to its "distance management". While on one hand technology dependency enhances -Speed, Efficiency, Accuracy and Response time. On the other hand it throws challenge to cyber security of the organization. Interestingly cyber security can be categorized into two - Intent and Ignorance.

Intent is all about organized cyber threats from various sources, while ignorance is due to lack of human awareness.

Interestingly Global records can prove that ratio of Ignorance led cyber threat is equally very high. While organizations make lot of investment on strengthening its cyber system to reduce risk, it is highly recommended to demonstrate equal level of seriousness into negating ignorance led threats.

While WHF is Mindset, Cyber security sensitivity is an Attitude. HR has big responsibility of creating a sensitive eco system in the organization by initiating few steps and develops this attitude.

These steps will help tightening the loose ends and strengthening the organization's cyber security process. In WFH several employees work out of secured vicinity of office premises, hence it becomes more important to create awareness and sense of responsibility amongst the employees.

This can further be made more acceptable and practical by following few interventions: Regular publication of Dos and Don'ts. Safety Mantra- "I'm safe" as a part of every review meetings or forums. Introduce awards of Security Champions - To promote consciousness. Best practice sharing amongst employees.