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The HR role in a post-pandemic world

Companies will have to re-look their existing policies and structures.

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MUMBAI: As we look forward to a post-Covid2019 world, minus any lockdown restrictions and worries about the virus, how will companies deal with the scenario? Indeed, the world will never be the same again. How will then companies cope in such a changed world? The human resources (HR) personnel will have the cardinal duty of ensuring seamless business operations and employee welfare. Assessing the new requirements of the office as well as employees will be the immediate task.

Indiantelevision.com spoke to media and advertising industry heads to understand how their HR heads are preparing for the post-Covid2019 world.

Townhalls and virtual meet-ups are the common ways to ensure people feel connected to each other. DDB Mudra Group EVP and head-HR Rita Verma and Dentsu Aegis Network head HR business partner – south Asia Sunil Seth say that open and honest communication has been the way to tackle stress.

“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. 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,” says Verma.

On the other hand, #ARM Worldwide co-founder and COO Abhishek Punia says that Covid2019 has taught the importance of mental health. “Psychologically, people will have fears in their mind and by providing them with a safe and clean environment, with all sanitisation and hygiene measures in place, we can instil confidence in their minds,” he says.

To tackle stress, Logicserve Digital created an online chat room, virtual tea-time session where employees can share stories, dance sessions, pet meetup, meditation sessions and money management sessions.

TheSmallBigIdea co-founder and CEO Harikrishnan Pillai says that there is a tendency to get deeply engrossed with work and forget that we are humans who are used to interacting with many individuals but now confined to the walls of our homes. “We have encouraged managers to keep speaking with the team members, especially ones staying away from the family or the ones who are new to the organisation,” he says.

As green zones have slowly started resuming operations, companies will now have to deal with an increased focus on health and wellness and in some cases, paranoia. Companies agree that checks such as using sanitizers or washing hands frequently, thermal scanners, compulsory wearing of masks, reminders to maintain social distancing will have to be taken. Additionally, pre-sanitisation, as well as frequent cleaning, will need to be incorporated as new measures. Another requirement will be to maintain physical distance between employees when they work as well as in spaces like lounges or cafeterias.

After health measures come flexibility, which most companies will now undertake if they haven’t yet already. The next step is to create batches of employees and divide them into shifts if they are called on the premises.

Seth says that there will be no change in shifts. Verma adds that common work hours have been found to be fruitful. “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,” she says.

Godrej & Boyce Mfg has planned for business scenarios and rosters of employees who are required to come to work and which work could be carried out from home. It is also encouraging the use of personal vehicles.

Logicserve Digital head - HR Anshuman Misra says that they are in no rush to bring the workforce back to the office since flexible policies are already in place. He is considering flexi-working and flexi-timing with a greater focus on results than efforts.

While most companies are encouraging people to travel using their personal vehicles, if possible, The Visual House founder and CEO Deepmala says that carpools will be encouraged only after considering the health and safety of everyone involved. Similarly, TheSmallBigIdea is considering non-peak-hour travel to ensure minimal contact.

AGENCY09 culture manager Archita Arekar says that they are mentally prepared for another six months and the HR team is working on a new policy post-Covid2019 that favours work flexibility and employee safety.

Elderly people have to be extra cautious about the Covid2019 virus. Companies that employ older people need to take extra care. While DAN has a majority of millennials, elderly employees will be advised to continue to work from home until enough measures in the external environment allow them to travel to office with full safety. Same is the case with Logicserve; the company will also be cautious with those who have kids or senior citizens at home or those with health conditions.

The HR department will play a prime role in ensuring the wellbeing of employees in the new era. This will include creating new policies, structures and measures. There will be a nuanced approach to employee health, safety and wellbeing.

Verma says that HR will take a health-first approach with lesser crowds and more virtual engagement. Productivity matrix will also be a key focus. Different functions will be analysed and their ways of working will be looked into. Reskilling, restarting and realignment will be the newer approach, according to her. “But the lens through which we will continue to look at our policies will remain, i.e., empathy; to come out of this as healthy and strong as possible,” she adds.

According to Seth, organisations, where HR practices were strong, will see no difference. However, the HR horizon will require to be widened from the perspective of the psychological and emotional needs of employees. “It will further need a strong configuration in terms of leadership and management. It may also require certain investments to offer in terms of coverage on health, emotional and financial benefits to the employees,” he says.

As a consequence of the pandemic, companies have started focusing on intensive hygiene practices as a daily routine. Misra says, “Once the lockdown is lifted, HR’s role will be even more crucial and important as the personnel have to continually ensure the health safety and wellbeing of all employees while being aligned with the organisational goals.”

On the other hand, Pillai says, “In times like these, our HR department has played a crucial role in keeping the teams connected, formulating policies and helping in smooth operations along with the admin team. HR teams will need to be on top of the game as we might be looking at a workforce that won’t meet every day but still need to be kept motivated.”

HR heads have a lot on their plate right now and going forward, they will have to ensure strong measures that will enable their employees to be at their productive best.

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