Work From Home In The Midst Of Covid-19

The past few weeks have made many organisations much more aware, more rehearsed, more practiced, and more supportive of the possibilities work from home provides.

 

The last few weeks have been tough on the world. As the novel Covid-19 continues to spread rapidly, killing thousands of people and affecting hundreds of thousands globally, business leaders and human resources teams across the corporate world are partnering very closely to ensure that employees and their families are safe. The virus spreads fast in crowded areas, from touching tainted surfaces and through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This has made working in close proximity in offices a definite health hazard. Social distancing seems to be the only way to keep all employees safe.

 
'Work from home' is not an alien concept in India, but it is also not widely prevalent. However, over the last few days, it has gained wider acceptability and has also been stress‑tested! For a dynamic company like Paytm, where our offices function round the clock to ensure that we achieve our ultimate goal of financial inclusion of every Indian, making our workforce switch to work from home mode seemed like a challenging task. But once we took the decision, thanks to the efforts by several of our leaders across businesses and functions, we managed to pull it off and are constantly improving at how we learn to collaborate and drive results virtually.

 

Having an open dialogue

 

When one of our employees was detected as positive Covid-19, we knew we had to take immediate stringent measures. Our first step was to communicate the decision clearly and directly to the employees. We deliberated on the solution that would minimise the impact on business, but at the same time, ensure the safety and health of the employees. The first communication to shut all offices across the country was to mainly sanitise, sterilise and fumigate the premises and make them safe to work from. The closure was meant only for two days. However, as we monitored the situation across the country, we extended it further. At every stage, we ensured continuous and precise communication through emails, group meetings, and so on. As we were faced with a unique situation, it was important to instil confidence in the employees by providing as much relevant information as possible. To facilitate work from home, we had to take care of several things - whether employees had the resources to be productive from home, regular updates among team members to monitor progress, etc.

 
So, what does it take to make it work? Employees should not be left to rely on second or third-hand information and take decisions on the basis of rumours. Our organisation was factual, authentic, and transparent in communication. So, when we announced the work from home policy, our teams appreciated the decision, and jumped all in to make it successful. Questions and queries were answered by leaders and teams locally and centrally. The responsible thing for everybody to focus on was to ensure that work did not suffer and everyone stayed safe.


Keep employees in touch with the company

 

During the time of crisis, it becomes imperative for leaders to ensure that they communicate with employees via virtual tools and mailers as much as possible. These tools also allow designing measurement systems that can collate and track progress. The more they feel they are in touch with the organisation, the less are the chances of their morale weaning off. The more trust one shows towards employees, the more are the chances that they would perform even better than they might usually do.

Ensure they have the right tools

 

A company needs to ensure that employees have all that is required for them to work from home. Whether it is access to the virtual private network (VPN) or anything else, they should be given access to everything that is needed. It is always better if the tech support team is working in tandem with employees to ensure that work goes on without a hitch.

Is work from home the next big thing?

 

Companies are already allowing work from home. The scale and magnitude of it would be dependent on the kind of organisation and the role being done by the person. My view is that as companies experience enhanced work from the home situation during this crisis, it will definitely change the way many have been working in the past. It is as much a behavioural mindset change as it is a physical change of how work typically happens. beings are social. Hence there is a lot of value that comes in by meetings in person and working in offices. But collaborating virtually, reducing air travel costs, saving time on the road while continuing to increase productivity is something that the organisation and employees will architect by embracing this concept when needed. The past few weeks have made many organisations much more aware, more rehearsed, more practiced and more supportive of the possibilities work from home provides.

 

 

Rohit Thakur is CHRO, Paytm.  With over 25 years of industry experience under his belt, he has previously worked with Accenture, has served as the Head- HR for Microsoft India, spent 11 years at GE in various HR leadership roles across multiple businesses like Energy, Capital, Engineering, Corporate and Aviation. He has also worked with Eicher Tractors, Cadence Design Systems and Bausch & Lomb. Rohit is a graduate of SRCC Delhi. He has subsequently also done his MBA in Human Resources, from XLRI Jamshedpur.

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