It has been two weeks since the Prime Minister called for a complete lockdown. The recent outbreak of the COVID – 19 has caused a tectonic shift in our lives, we are all living in unchartered territory. There are so much stress and anxiety about job losses, loneliness, and other factors.
In this situation, all of us are working for home, and we Indians are not used to this scenario. But we have coped well, MediaNews4U continuing the series on, ‘Stay Positive’ spoke to Leaders in various sectors on how they are motivating their teams in dealing with this crisis.
Tanay Kumar – CEO, Co-Founder, and Chief Creative Officer -Fractal Ink Design Studio Linked By Isobar, on the question of motivating people in his organization talks about the various methods they have put together to motivate their teams, “I think the first thing is this is the first time everybody is encountering such a lockdown in India. A lot of them have mixed opinions of or cannot even decipher as to what is going through their mind while they’re at home. So when we took a call to work from home last week, one thing that we made clear is that although it is “work from home” but it’s still working like one team as always. Everyone should feel that everybody is available at all times if somebody requires help in any situation it will be available.
Communication is something that is paramount for all of us to be fully connected, that was one thing that we actually stated to them in person while we were deciding on Work from Home. We made sure that we all regroup together in the morning, say good morning and just post some nice little pictures of ourselves.
Our development team set up a website page, which is live on our website, wherein you can actually as an employee, post a picture of whatever you’re doing. What that actually did was it gave a conversation starter for people to start the day with. In normal times what usually happens is you wake up and get to work, say something to your friends, to your colleagues and that we thought will be absent. Now we have replaced it with that post a picture of yourself doing something, making a cup of tea, etc. What this achieves is it actually makes them wake up and think as to what I’m going to post today.
I think everybody is conscious of the fact that they are actually making sure that the projects that they’re working on are working smoothly. So to be able to motivate we decided to provide these breaks in between. We have something called fun Fridays, we got a person with a particular hobby, the last one hour of Fridays is dedicated to telling what the hobby is and how to go about developing it. We did a floral typographical done by one of the employees, I think around 60 of them were online. Trying to draw and to post it on the website. These little things will make them feel that they are a team and want to be a part of it and I also want to do it. Such breaks are very important in these times and we did not want to make work from home seem like a jail.
Most of us are stuck onto your computer and a chair, looking at a wall throughout the day without having any kind of motivation, my goal is to break the base into smaller chunks, give an opportunity for everybody to be waiting for the break to do and participate in something.
There is also this anxiety of not knowing what to do with themselves because they’ve never worked from home kind of thing. Are you aligning these fears, you know, how are you telling people there’s nothing to worry and, you know, working from home also can be fun.
I think two ways I can see right now is that the seniors actually taking the whole challenge of keeping the spirits up. It’s mostly the juniors who are going through some sort of anxiety as their seniors are not around physically there to tell them what to do, and they can’t make decisions all by themselves. I am seeing our senior people have actually taking cues from us and starting to kind of really use these same methods internally. So, this anxiety is killed immediately and making an hourly call or kind of getting together on teams breaks that chain of thought, because the anxiety will develop if you let it develop over a longer period of time. Every one hour we ping each other and say okay, fine.
We now are actually making more conversation, where we’re talking to each other more. I think it’s good. I think in a way we are. I see a lot of good things coming out of this isolation. We were kind of scared or kind of apprehensive about how clients will react to our decision. I think everybody’s in the same boat. We all have realized that we are on the same side of it, we will have to really make this work and more amicable way rather than kind of come up with a blame game around that this is working or is not working everybody seems to be in the same boat and everybody seems to be trying to appreciate the efforts whatever it is, an efficient approach which actually is making projects more positive.”
Ashish Khazanchi – Managing Partner Enormous talking about the initiatives said, “We have a fair number of active projects going on across various brands and teams right now. So there are long calls and video chats on all of those with the teams many times in a day. This aside, we try and get on a call across offices on goggle hangouts and get as many numbers of people as possible and try and keep it informal. We are all proactively thinking of ideas to contribute to the general state of wellness of society and ideas that could improve the safety of people and tailor them to our brands so that they can keep the conversations with their customers alive too. I believe there is no better motivation for truly creative people than to find a release for creativity and that’s what we are trying to nurture every day here. We also do some nonsensical stuff like plank challenges or push up challenges or a group drink on zoom calls where the whole office comes truly alive and stays together as one.”
Manashi Kumar, Chief People and Strategy Officer, BARC India
“We are living in extraordinary times and we realized that the only way to overcome this is by BARC Indians coming together for the wellbeing of the teams and their families and that has been the top priority for the organization. In view of the ongoing COVID-19, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, has taken necessary precautions at the workplace. In the first week of March, we had ensured that all employees coming to the office to take private vehicles and avoid public transport before we decided to Work From Home from March 16, 2020. WFH policy is applicable till the lockdown period, April 14, 2020 and we are continuously assessing the situation. Our focus has been to connect and communicate more during these times.
The HR team is in constant touch with all the employees to check their situation as well as their families’. We have been regularly sharing updates on WHO guidelines with myth busters, the concept of social distancing and self-quarantine, list of testing Centre and isolation wards, etc with our employees. We have also rolled out an advisory to all employees on effective ways to work from home among other things. While employees are confined to homes, we have online physical functional training to help them keep fit. Apart from that, we are cheering our employees by playing Housie, Quiz and celebrating birthdays, etc via video calls.”
Chetan Asher, Founder & CEO, Tonic Worldwide, says, “These are unprecedented times and requires everyone to adapt quickly. We initiated work from home early on, about two weeks ago, so in a way, we had time to fine-tune and iron out any challenges we anticipated. Clients were also prepared about the switch. At Tonic, teams are allowed to Work from Home for certain days in a year and that helped us make a seamless transition. It’s difficult to work from home as your work and home life blends in, but the team has balanced it well to ensure its business as usual. There are also certain advantages, for e.g. commute time, we want to take advantage of the reclaimed time and use it for things we always wanted to do. Hence we are rolling out a full program where talented tonickers will do live sessions for the team helping them learn new skills or hobbies. For example, our film lead is doing a live session for improving phone photography skills, someone else is teaching baking. I feel this remote working time will only bind us all closer.”
Heather Gupta, Group HR Director, MullenLowe Lintas Group
Moving a pan India operation to WFH almost overnight is a massive challenge. The MullenLowe Lintas Group has a very active Crisis Response Team which swung into action to ensure that business could go on, as “normally” as possible, while providing active support for any issues which employees were facing.
The team managed to move the entire organization to WFH within 48 hours, including all of those with large machines, such as the iMacs used by designers. Frequent communication from the Group CEO, together with clearly articulated steps, and check-ins with our people, ensured that the process was seamless.
As people began to settle into working from home, the organization worked hard to ensure that their feedback was taken and that any issues were quickly ironed out. The entire organization moved to use Microsoft Teams, thanks to training sessions run by our IT team, and work continued smoothly thanks to our cloud-based system, Egnyte, which allows for fast file sharing. The HR team supported health and wellbeing with an online yoga and Zumba classes, and our flagship leadership training program, Like A Boss, has moved online for its community of over 40 emerging leaders. HR has reached out to employees through surveys and one on one conversations and supported them in adapting. Some obvious issue areas, such as juggling domestic chores with conference calls, have been fed back to senior leaders, and supportive measures put in place.
As we move into week 3 of Work from Home, we are collecting employee feedback, suggestions, and ideas, and also ensuring that our Business Contingency Planning is robust. The HR team continues to reach out across the organization, for practical as well as emotional support and we are monitoring the situation for all.