Work-From-Home is not an emerging concept anymore. Since March 2020, a majority of Indian professionals have been coping with a socially distant reality. This has meant rare in-person meetings, no water cooler conversations, and—most importantly—limited face time with colleagues. The ensuing uncertainty around the pandemic has made it imperative to make the best out of alternative working conditions. A holistic, people-centric approach, on the back of new technology, is the need of the hour. Adopting some leadership tips to encourage, enable and empower teams would enable them to thrive in the new normal.

Keeping in touch

First things first, leaders must be willing to go the extra mile to make their employees feel engaged and supported, especially in a world where casual catchups by simply walking up to a coworker are rendered undoable in a digital setup. But when armed with innovative tech advancements, the ‘undoable’ often meets a new world of possibilities. Leaders must take charge of understanding the best means of regular, digital communication that not only beat WFH blues, but also facilitate a culture of transparency and empathy across teams.

Small but meaningful interventions, such as employee feedback sessions, daily team catch-ups, town halls, and executive participation in meetings, can have a lasting impact. But we must also know where to strike the balance to avoid communication fatigue. When engaging with staff, ensure that the interactions allow enough room for participation and healthy dialogue. Doing so could go a long way in fostering a sense of belonging where employees feel valued. It’s only fair that leadership teams proactively learn ways to communicate with sensitivity and empathy as we navigate the ongoing health and economic adversities together.


Thinking Collaboration? Think Technology

As collaboration takes centerstage in healthy employee engagement today, don’t shy away from going all in with high-performing tech and software infrastructure to build a seamless remote workplace. Take care of the basics first – invest in cyber security and robust frameworks to build a solid foundation for a safe, efficient workplace. Empower employees with upgraded assets and handy applications and hold requisite training walkthroughs or refreshers to boost ease of utility. And the end result? Smooth cross-functional team collaboration, improved digital literacy, and uninterrupted workflow.

Tech can also come to our rescue by taking care of a lot of dull, mechanical, but necessary tasks that otherwise take up a chunk of our productive time. Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS), for instance, can entirely digitize a range of basic processes such as leave applications, reimbursements and tax declarations, as well as smoothen induction and exit processes.

Driving personal and professional growth

The importance of standing behind employees, in spirit and in practice, is also crucial. Leaders must show unfiltered interest in shaping the growth story of their employees – right from development plans and upskilling paths. Such proactive initiations can give a much-needed boost to our teams. Learning programs, manageable bite-sized information, designated time slots to brush up additional skills, and tie-ups with external learning/development trainers are all effective ways to cultivate a work environment that promotes growth. It is of immense value to extend such learning and training opportunities beyond employees, to key communities and stakeholders that the company works with.

Remember to extend a similarly earnest initiative to back personal growth as well. The downside of working remotely is no secret, and the adverse impact it can have on physical and mental health must be paid heed to. Practices such as designating fixed work hours plus downtime, inviting health experts for informative sessions, promoting a culture of fitness, launching employee assistance programs, and encouraging unwinding sessions, can be particularly fruitful in cultivating a healthy work environment.


‘Managing from home rather than WFH’

With employees constantly juggling between home and work responsibilities, flexibility offerings are critical today. These are difficult times, and all of us are tackling challenges of different kinds on multiple fronts. We must then, look at the critical act of balancing the personal and the professional as ‘managing’, rather than ‘working’, from home. This small shift in thinking can create a world of difference.

Leaders must allow flexibility in locations and working hours, help staff set up home workspaces, grant greater recognition for good work; and make sure to let the staff know they are always ready to help.

So, what does the toolkit for creating a healthy, efficient remote workplace consist of? Some committed efforts to facilitate the right kind of communication amongst all, a generous push towards adopting newer tech, and most importantly, a supportive, empathetic work environment that reads “inclusion and care” at its heart.

The author is Vice President – Human Resources, Castrol India Private Ltd