People@Work

Adding more leave to the off day calendar at work

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on August 26, 2020

From gratitude days to wellness breaks, the pandemic is seeing new additions to leave entitlements

On August 17, OYO Hotels and Homes announced a surprise holiday for its employees. Quirkily called Oyopendence, this gratitude leave for staff, as it termed the off day, two days after India’s Independence Day, did catch the eye.

Undoubtedly, working from home has been tough for many people. Unlike office where you know when to switch off and go home, it is difficult to log out of the home office. Companies are beginning to take stock and address this with some welcome leave initiatives.

Indeed, there has been a wide swing in the way HR departments of companies have gone from being concerned about whether employees are doing productive work at home to now worrying over whether they are getting enough breaks at home.

This could explain why Zoo Media (a network of six agencies) initiated a Wellness Break for its employees from August 12 to 14. The break was strategically combined with Janmashtami, effectively giving all its employees a six-day break when combined with the weekend.

Describing the thought behind the initiative, Pratik Gupta, Co-Founder, Zoo Media, says, “When we realised that our people were hesitating to take leave, and the increased endless coordination between teams didn’t allow for clear bifurcation of work-time, housework-time and me-time, and as jetting off for a quick weekend was no longer an option, we thought it best to mandate a break.”

Weekend curfew

Apart from the unexpected Oyopendence day, hospitality start-up OYO too has been giving thought to how it can help employees get a better grip on work-life balance. Says Dinesh Ramamurthy, Chief Human Resources Officer, OYO Hotels and Homes, “The Covid crisis and the resulting ‘new normal’ has made it imperative for us to introspect and take steps to ensure a healthy work-life integration.”

The result of this introspection is that, starting this August, the hotel company has made it a five-day work week for its staff. A ‘weekend curfew’ has been imposed where everyone is encouraged to avoid calls, meetings and messages on weekends and holidays.

Ramamurthy says that OYO has always championed a diverse and flexible leave policy, which includes categories of adoption, surrogacy, bereavement, marriage and sabbatical.

Indeed, society’s new focus on inclusivity has really begun to have a bearing on the leave policies of firms. A couple of years ago, all the focus was on giving equal weightage to paternity leave. Then came policies to address surrogate parenthood. Now, it is the period leave, a hot topic of discussion as some companies have started adding it, the most high-profile being Zomato. The food delivery company sparked off a fresh round of discussion this August when it introduced this leave.

iXceed Solutions and Gemius Design Studio too have jumped on to the period-leave bandwagon. Explains Anushree Pacheriwal, Co-Founder & Creative Navigator, Gemius Design Studio, “More than 60 per cent of the team at Gemius comprises women. We wanted to express our gratitude to our female workforce and decided to introduce the concept of Period Leaves from August 2020.”

While most of the other new leaves introduced have been met with happiness, the period leave has evoked heavy criticism — even from women, who have termed it regressive.

Defending the decision to institute this leave, Yogita Tulsiani, Director and Co-founder, iXceed Solutions, says it will bring more sensitivity and openness about the menstruation cycle and the pain it brings.

“Some might consider it regressive or some can consider it discriminatory. But it will encourage more women to join the workforce,” she says.

Published on August 26, 2020

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