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Expect completely new approach to employee policies: DDB Mudra's Rita Verma

The company is ensuring its employees remain focused and calm.

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MUMBAI: The Covid2019 outbreak has pushed HR departments to the top of the priority chain. The challenge before them is to rebuild and reinvent workplaces to safeguard the lives of their employees. In an interaction with indiantelevision.com, DDB Mudra Group EVP and head HR Rita Verma highlights different measures taken to ensure a safe work environment as the country phases out of lockdown and looks forward to reopening offices.

Excerpts:

What measures have you been taking so far to relieve your employees from mental and emotional stress?

People are our most important asset and we’ve always kept their physical and mental wellbeing in mind. During this lockdown, the biggest challenge for people has been uncertainty of the situation. The key to easing emotional and physical shifts as we all go through this together is to talk openly. So we’ve been extra mindful of keeping all communication regular, honest and authentic. Every leader has been completely accessible and is actively reaching out to their teams. We invested in a mental health partner last year because we would like our people to reach their highest potential, cope with life’s curveballs and be an active member in their relationships, workplace and community at large.

Everyone is juggling their own unique personal living situation, so offering people some flexibility in work schedules and encouraging them to take time off if they feel overwhelmed has been critical. In a time like this, sometimes you don’t know what will make you feel better, so we’ve offered physical fitness sessions, virtual meditation, tips to manage stress at work and home. The idea is to help people tackle whatever roadblock they may be facing in a given week. Some of these sessions are led by external instructors, while in many cases our own people have stepped up to the plate. Take Krupa from our 22feet Tribal Worldwide team who is a certified trainer and has volunteered to run a fitness class. Things like these make a difference.

Once office resumes, how will you deal with the increased focus, and in some cases paranoia, regarding health and wellness?

For starters, we will let people decide when they’re ready to return after the government authorities declare it safe to do so. No organisation, which depends on the creativity and freedom of thought of their people, can be productive if their people show up at work anxious. We’re preparing all our offices keeping in mind sanitation and social-distancing guidelines. But all of this is when our people feel ready to return.

How are you planning to take care of employees’ psychological state when they get back to work?

By having an open dialogue with leaders, HR leads with the support of counsellors, and in general having lots of constructive conversations to ensure timely addressing of queries regarding safety and wellbeing of our people.

According to you, what will the world of HR look like after the lockdown is lifted?

HR gives importance to the health of employees and their families. Productivity matrix will be a key focus. Different functions will be analysed and their ways of working will be looked into. Re-skilling, restarting and realignment will be the newer approach.

How are you preparing to bring back your workforce once the lockdown is lifted? 

We will be phasing out the employees transition once the lockdown is lifted.  Flexibility will be given to join the office. Work-from-home will be encouraged until things start getting better.

Are there new procedures and practices that are being taken up for the betterment of employees by the HR departments?

There will be a completely new approach to employee policies. A lot of focus on their health, remote work productivity, lesser crowds in office and virtual engagements will continue. But the lens through which we will continue to look at our policies will remain and that is empathy; to come out of this as healthy and strong as possible.

What social distancing and sanitization measures are in place in your company?

Offices have been regularly sanitised even during lockdown; those practices will continue, thermal checks on all employees and visitors will be mandatory, use of sanitizers, gloves and masks will also be mandatory for everyone.

Generally, the work in the advertising industry begins late. How will you address that issue now?

Our current work-from-home situation has already instilled a lot of discipline and adoption of tools in order to make things work remotely. People are realising the benefits of this. The focus will be completely on bringing the best out of our people and therefore an increased focus on productivity of employees. Not everything is solved through a company policy alone, but largely through office culture and ours is seen in the continued good work our teams are doing. So far, we have found that common work hours are a useful way to make the most of everyone’s time.

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