Everyone likes acknowledgement when they are doing solid work, and an edible treat at the workplace could well bring on a near stampede among office workers. But in a virtual set-up, how can corporates motivate their remote staff to stay engaged and productive?

BusinessLine reached out to Ashwin Yardi, CEO, Capgemini India, to understand how the company is combating the physical aspects of Covid-19, when many employers find themselves contending with the emotional repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on their employees.

Confirming that employees are seeking reassurance, encouragement and empathy at this time, Yardi says, “The leadership team at Capgemini has been in constant communication with employees to keep them informed (of new developments which might impact them directly, like appraisal cycles, leaves policy, salary and increment etc), ensuring transparency within the organisation.”

As employees tend to deal with stress, anxiety and confusion whilst balancing the new realities at work and at home, the CEO points out it is crucial for businesses to help employees navigate the psychological upheaval that many would experience.

Creating a sense of belonging

At Capgemini, regular communication updates, including video messages from the company’s leadership, builds employee morale and engagement. “It further reiterates that we are in it together,” says Yardi, adding, “Our employees’ safety and well-being is the highest priority, and keeping that in mind as leaders of the organisation, we have been regularly sharing best practices of maintaining health and hygiene during these challenging times.”

A recent Capgemini Research Institute (CRI) research shows that while working remotely, employees tend to run the risk of feeling isolated. It is at this time that creating and maintaining social connections in virtual communities is essential to drive team spirit and a sense of belonging.

“Employees who have never worked remotely before may be particularly susceptible to ‘virtual distance’, the sense of detachment that accumulates when people rely heavily on technology as opposed to human interaction,” Yardi pointed out.

Recognising this, Capgemini has launched various employee engagement programmes to drive team spirit and ensure a sense of belonging.

The CEO says a structured employee engagement programme is in the works, to keep the morale and spirits of employees high, while working from home. “We have launched programmes like ‘Revive in Five’ where we reach out to the entire team with a topic other than work every day — wellbeing, productivity improvement, health — to help spread positivity and team bonding. We also have the ‘21-day habit challenge’, a similar employee engagement,” the executive added.

The company has also started ‘Capgemini Big BossS challenge’ where employees along with their family or friends can take up an exciting series of tasks or contests to participate. This ranges from creativity challenges, showcasing an unique talent of family or friend, online quiz contest, fitness challenge and a theme-dressing challenge.

The CEO adds these activities are a great way to help employees stay connected virtually with the organisation and bring in the fun element while doing so.

Wellness initiatives

Noting that in these unprecedented times, organisations would need to pay close attention to the overall wellbeing of employees, and in particular emotional wellbeing, the CEO again alludes to the Capgemini CRI research note which states that many employees will have experienced significant upheaval in their work and personal lives.

“The non-separation of work and private life can lead to self-management needs that employees didn’t have before,” adds Yardi. Capgemini has come up with a series of wellness initiatives for its employees, keeping this aspect in mind, and has arranged counselling service for employees who need emotional support through the corporate's empanelled counselling service provider.

“This is being enabled through a support helpline,” says the CEO adding, “We are conducting webinars, in association with our external partner, about dealing with anxiety and stress related to the present situation for our employees. We have also started a Guided Meditation series in association with our wellness partner, which includes light pre-exercise, meditation and post-exercise.”

The CEO adds it is at this time that leaders need to define objectives collectively with their teams, so that employees are invested in the goals. While this will be critical to build leadership legitimacy in a virtual environment, leaders also need to show empathy for employees’ well-being.

Capgemini has also initiated a ‘Leadership podcast series’ wherein every leader will talk about working in a virtual world, keeping client centricity, high morale and motivation as well as health and safety as focus areas.

‘New way of working’

Capgemini has already started preparing to adapt “to this new way of working without any obstruction to clients or employees,” the CEO said. “We are continuing our upskilling programmes by using virtual methods of learning. Our clients have shown great appreciation in the way we continue to deliver, which is a testament to team collaboration and a motivation to excel.”

Any period of volatility can create opportunities that businesses can leverage if they are prepared. With the Covid-19 outbreak, organisations need to take a more assertive and longer-term approach, he added.