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New rules of engagement for hybrid workplaces in India

​As Indian companies adapt to the new hybrid workplace, HR teams must respect the dividing line in managing the engagement of two groups of employees: those working in the office and those working from home. .

Employers follow a range of different models. While some companies have specified how many days a week, as well as which days, staff must come into the office, others have left it up to employees to decide. Some companies have embraced having permanently remote employees, making the workplace highly distributed. Others hire employees for what used to be full-time but part-time jobs on-site, which complicates the composition of the workforce.

“When you juxtapose these realities — of a very complex workplace and a very complex workforce — the challenge for HR leaders is immense,” said Avadhesh Dixit, chief human resources officer for Acuity. Knowledge Partners, a research and analytics provider in Delhi. “HR teams are going to struggle for a long time to pull off all this cultural integration, communication integration and employee engagement.”

Communication channels

With more offices reopening, companies are stepping up their face-to-face communication with employees. At the same time, many are stepping up their email and other digital communications to keep in touch with remote staff.

“We have significantly improved our communication channels in terms of the number of employee connection initiatives that HR and managers are expected to take,” Dixit said.

Acuity’s policy is completely flexible, allowing employees to work from anywhere without having to travel to an office. Yet every day, 25 to 30 percent of their employees attend in person, Dixit said. The company is holding more town halls and online team meetings, while also scheduling periodic in-person team meetings. In those cases, if a remote employee needs to be called, the cost of airfare and hotel is paid for by the company, Dixit said.

To create informal channels, Acuity encourages managers to invite their teams to lunch or other similar meetings at company expense. “In the next few days, I will increase the budget so that people can meet face to face more often,” Dixit said.

Finding a work/life balance

In a hybrid workplace, there is a risk that the line between office and home will be blurred, so more and more organizations are creating policies to keep the two separate. “It is important that the leader clearly establishes and communicates company policies on work-life integration to their employees and adheres to them,” said Sailesh Menezes, head of human resources in India for Hewlett Packard Enterprise ( HPE) in Bengaluru, an information technology company.

Since not all employees are in the office daily, impromptu events to engage and support employees are much more difficult to organize, said Garima Pant, group human resources director at MullenLowe Lintas, an advertising and marketing company. communication headquartered in Mumbai.

Pant says staff are called into the office two days a week, but those days are not fixed, which initially created a dilemma. The HR team wanted to hold in-person activities twice a month to keep people coming back. They found that the middle of the week was the best time to hold such events because that’s when most employees worked in person.

“Wednesday is the new Friday from an employee engagement perspective,” Pant said.

Accelerated Induction

In a remote environment, helping new employees connect with the organization becomes even more important. At the Indian branch of Stryker Corp., a manufacturer of medical devices and equipment, the integration has been handled entirely online for the past two years. Lately, however, it is being handled in person, but differently from how it was before the pandemic, said Rajiv Oza, a human resources manager based in Mumbai, India.

The company adopted a fast-track induction program two months ago when a group of new employees joined the division in Gurgaon, Oza said. Since company policy changed to require employees to be in the office only 12 days a month, all new employees have come to head office to attend a two-day orientation program with workshops and sessions with the leaders. After the two days, many of these new employees returned to different geographies.

Oza said this induction program was more intense than before the pandemic, as staff at the time would continue to be in the office five days a week, giving them more time and opportunities to learn. engage. As a result, Oza said they are encouraging managers to schedule more frequent meetings and offsite functions with team members. “Culture should not be diluted because of [the hybrid environment],” he explained.

To cater to multiple employee audiences, HR teams also use a combination of online, offline, and hybrid engagement events. In the Indian unit of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, for example, most employees work remotely but have to come into the office once or twice a week for team meetings, seminars and engagement activities. “As a result, we have redesigned all of our offices as collaborative spaces,” Menezes said. More than 25% of the total workforce is in the office every day, he noted.

To familiarize employees with the redesigned local offices, HPE has launched a “QR Hunt Site” in which employees must find QR codes hidden in different parts of the office. The company also hosts in-person “speed mentoring” sessions in offices.

Online activities launched during the pandemic also continue. To connect employees from different geographies, HPE launched the “Mystery Coffee” initiative. In this, the system matches employees within HPE’s global workforce based on their interests, then connects them for a 30-minute video meeting where they can talk about their work, personal issues and more. “It’s about creating positive relationships and connecting with other people,” Menezes said.

Additionally, there are hybrid events where some attendees are in the office and others attend virtually. These events feature interactive platforms, which encourage teleworkers to participate.

“We believe the hybrid work environment is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future,” Menezes said.

Shefali Anand is a New Delhi-based journalist and former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. You can follow her on Twitter.

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