Home/ Opinion / Views/  Trust and transparency are what will define the new world of work

Almost over a decade ago, the idea of a complete remote workplace model was almost unimaginable, leave alone achievable. But here we are today, fast-tracked into the uncharted territory of redefining future models of work, workplace, workforce and a work culture that is borderless and inclusive. While the pandemic has opened the gates to newer models of how we live and work, it has also made us re-imagine our employee engagement strategies. Organizations today are recalibrating their approach towards employee engagement, built on providing the flexibility of a hybrid working model.

Trust is a two-way street: However, this is where the debate starts—can employees use this time to take up another job? Is it ethical for them to pursue another job during or after their official and contractual working hours? Would this lead to any conflict of interest or breach of confidentiality? While encouraging employee flexibility is important for firms to move up the value chain and remain competitive, one thing is clear, flexibility must be built on the cornerstones of trust and transparency.

Employees taking up second jobs is not just restricted to India and we have seen multiple global examples even before the pandemic. According to data released by The US Census Board in 2019, about 13 million US workers had more than one job, mostly gig-based, outside of regular working hours. In India too, the concept is not new and there have been instances of professionals from industries such as healthcare and the creative sector experimenting with the idea.

However, the problem is not related to employees doing multiple jobs. Today, the gig workforce has emerged as an important talent management strategy for organizations and is helping countries and industries close a talent demand-supply gap. The Niti Aayog also corroborates this and predicts that the gig workforce across sectors and industries in India will expand to 23.5 million workers by 2029-30. But the problem is how they do it. For instance, if a full-time employee engages in side projects post official work hours while being fully transparent to his/her primary employer, then there is no scope for any disagreement. Whereas, when other employment opportunities are pursued without informing the employer, boundaries of trust and transparency are broken.

Dual full-time employment should not be equated with gig working and is a breach of contract. In contrast, gig workers normally will have contractual agreements with one or more firms and will undertake specific projects based on skill sets. Gig roles for employees that have a full-time job must be based on the principles of trust, disclosure with the employer, ensuring no conflict of interest and data security. However, not all full-time roles may lend themselves to this flexibility due to client contracts and confidentiality agreements.

It is also important to mention that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for the industry. Work models will vary based on business models, size and customer contracts. Startups most often have a much higher proportion of gig workers, as this offers them the flexibility of business variability.

Trust is a shared responsibility: As an industry, we must set clear goals of how we are re-imagining the workplaces of tomorrow, albeit in a trusted working condition that is flexible and transparently recognizes performance and skills.

A symbiotic relationship between an employee and an employer will be the key that helps create a work culture, improve productivity and encourage collaboration at work. To enable these new models of work, organizations can consider the following approach:

Re-imagine models of work: Companies would need to collaborate, share best practices and learn from each other to create optimum and alternate models such as identifying certain internal gig roles that can incentivize and at the same time provide flexibility at work. When employees are given the freedom to pursue their passion beyond work hours, they feel valued and learn new skills. However, such instances must be clearly communicated to the employer and there should be a mutual agreement from both parties.

Clear communication on non-compete clauses and conflicts of interest: Human resource teams should make clear communication on the company’s code of conduct, non-compete and data privacy norms to employees. Newer employees must be clear on what they are signing, read through the contractual obligations mentioned in the company offer letter and adhere to them.

Foster a culture of open and transparent communication: Open conversations between employees and managers on any possible gig offers taken by the employee will help in identifying certain data breaches and client confidentiality issues, maintain productivity at work, and at the same time go a long way in balancing trust at work.

Shape the hybrid workplace: As work models evolve, organizations are shaping hybrid work models that enable employees to connect with the organization, enhance collaboration, imbibe values and culture and enhance learning opportunities.

Today, we are living in an ever-evolving age of limitless possibilities and uncertainties. If we look back at the enormous learnings from the past two years alone, we can see that flexibility and agility are important to navigate this uncertain environment. Shared advocacy and trust between the employer and employee will shape evolving models of work.

Debjani Ghosh is president, Nasscom

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Updated: 09 Oct 2022, 10:09 PM IST
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