NEW DELHI :
Three to four times a day, Rahul Chaudhary, founder, Can-Tech, a niche design and software services firm, gets a couple of his employees together on Zoom. They don’t discuss work or updates, but chat about Netflix shows or about dealing with working from home. He does this through the day with all his teams.
Team meetings on Zoom, Slack and Scrum are no longer just about deadlines and projects. Much of the joy of working comes from office gossip over chai. With the lockdown entering its fourth week, and extended till 3 May, young professionals missing social life at the office, are having conference calls to chat about the state of their mental health or just recreate a tea break at work. A number of companies too are facilitating cooler talks to keep up morale.
“What we miss out on is the random banter and gossip that helps us de-stress at office. We don’t realize this on regular working days, but walking up to someone and having a casual chat is very important. It helps maintain the non-work connection in the team," says Chaudhary.
Stress and anxiety are at a high with the entire country in a lockdown. While some may have families at home for support, they may find it stressful to be indoors all day. “In troubling times like these, employees must be encouraged to open up to each other and acknowledge the underlying stress so as to overcome it," says Suvarna Mishra, vice president, HR, Sodexo BRS India, an employee benefits and rewards provider.
HR engagement activities have also gone online alongside the usual daily work and business continuity planning. E-commerce player Snapdeal has introduced Snapdeal Radio with music, productivity tips from leaders and exercises to do at home. The company has also tried to draw in employees’ families with talent showcases online—from paintings by children and dishes cooked by family members to dance performances recorded and shared within the network.
“This can be challenging if you do not have your day clearly planned. But it is essential for managers to connect with their teams. We can catch up on work, but shouldn’t miss out on the human connect," says Pravin Kutty, vice president and head of human resources at Snapdeal. “In fact, we hope the culture of connecting and collaborating only increases through this lockdown."
Shweta Saha, sourcing merchandiser trainee at clothing and accessories retailer Gap Inc., spends a lot of time on calls with colleagues discussing everything but work. “We catch up on what is happening at home, who has had internet issues. It is relaxing because every time someone shares a funny incident, you feel like we’re all in this together, and that is comforting," she says.
Health device maker GOQii has been using its network of mental health professionals not just for clients but employees too. “People’s sleep seems to have been affected badly," says Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO, GOQii. This could be due to changes in routine, too much screen time, or heightened stress. “We have asked all our employees to monitor their sleep with the free GOQii wearables we’ve given them to get six to seven hours of sleep."
At mobility company Uber, a global Employee Assistance Program provides a number of services such as counselling that are confidential and free for employees and their family. “The health and well-being of our employees are our greatest assets and in times like these we want to encourage them to reach out and ask for help if they need it," says Neha Mathur, senior HR business partner, Uber India and South Asia. Mathur adds that there are particular challenges to remote counselling. “Sometimes it’s not easy to reach out for help and we understand that, so we have regular webinars with specialists to help employees navigate the work-from-home transition, and cope with uncertainty and any other issues they might face."