Not long ago, the pandemic drove us in, forcing people to leave workplaces and begin accepting a new work culture. As the situation unfolded, everyone adapted to the new reality, not aware of what might happen the next day.
As we look into stepping outside, and consider hybrid working, we look at the journey we have made, and how the workplaces change post-Covid-19 outbreak.
In an exclusive interaction with ETHRWorld, Suresh B R, Senior VP and Country Head – HR, Bosch India, shares his learnings, observations, the idea of work while battling the pandemic and re-imagining office spaces.
The pandemic has shaken everything, do you feel there is something that might never be the same again at work?
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the ways in which companies operate. With no existing precedent to help us navigate our way, we were forced to adapt and evolve to the uncertain reality we were presented with, with agility and composure. As we now embrace this new normal, there are a few things that might never be how they were pre-pandemic.
Previously followed models of work and SOPs have now become redundant. Work from home, which was previously presented to employees as an option, has now become the norm; achieving a 100 percent workforce operating from an office space still seems like a distant reality. Going ahead, we will witness more autonomy lying with the employee, as they now have the liberty to choose where they want to work from, subject to the circumstances of their roles and business needs.
How do you think workplaces have changed post-Covid-19 outbreak?
Workplaces have undergone a tremendous change ever since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the most crucial change being the complete, overnight shift to work from home. As physical interactions reduced significantly, the ways in which teams and employees approached day-to-day tasks changed as well.
As employees and teams try to overcome the unavoidable disconnect that developed as a result of remote working, each employee becomes accountable to deliver the agreed results based on mutual trust. Physical presence at the workplace no longer holds the importance it once did, but it is rather an employee’s performance that counts. Coming to work will be about collaboration – what best suits the team and their tasks.
How has the idea of hybrid work evolved over these two years at the company?
Covid-19 has given a new meaning to the level of flexibility that can be achieved at the workplace. It has shown us that roles and industries that were previously considered unsuitable to flexible models of work can now be adapted to keep up with ever changing situations.
While the pandemic did disrupt traditional ways in which companies operated, it also presented us with the opportunity to embed far greater and broader flexibility, not only in terms of work from home, but also reshaping the work of the future with a hybrid model in which teams are distributed across home and workplace and work flexibly in a variety of ways.
Flexible and hybrid models of work have gone a long way in supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, especially with regard to gender equality. It has helped unlock women’s and other caregivers’ participation in the workforce and tap into a broader talent pool which has helped in achieving gender balance in leadership roles.
But the hybrid model of work is still relatively new, and it comes with challenges of its own, in terms of maintaining smooth communication among a distributed workforce, collaboration and ensuring the company’s culture and ethos does not erode, digital fatigue and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
If you could go back in time and had to fix one thing at your office before the disruption, what would it be?
The pandemic has been a great learning experience for all companies in streamlining work and achieving efficiency.
Accompanying the big shift to work from home was the rapid adoption of technology to cover all facets of work and an employee’s lifecycle. Such a rapid and mass adoption of technology, which has never been seen before, has been a key enabler in maintaining continuity in work and has played a crucial role in enhancing productivity.
Another key takeaway from the pandemic was the dissolution of institutional barriers and moving away from a controlled and hierarchical organisation to a more networked organisation based on trust. Most organisations were forced to abandon pre-existing approval processes as they adapted to working from home. Many have seen the benefits and will continue this streamlined approach going forward.
There is also now a greater focus on employee wellbeing. As homes now also serve as offices, the lines between work life and personal life have blurred. As employees combat digital fatigue and burnout, among others, organisations are now laying greater emphasis on securing the wellbeing of their employees.
Could you please elaborate on a challenging situation where you had to handle things remotely, knowing that you couldn’t step out?
Supporting our employees and their families who were directly impacted by the pandemic was made challenging by the imposed lockdown situation as we had to organise support, resources, infrastructure and provide care to our affected employees. While earlier, we would organise resources for support and care through our presence in office, with the lockdown, arrangement and organisation of resources had to be done via phone calls or video calls.
Another major way in which the lockdown has impacted us as an organisation has been in terms of our hiring and onboarding process, which traditionally, has always been through face-to-face interviews and assessment. We have now had to switch to a 100 percent virtual mode of carrying out these processes.
Have you done an internal survey to understand where the employees want to work? If yes, what are the key findings?
We consider it extremely important to check-in with our employees and gain their feedback as we strive to provide them with the best work environment we can, here at Bosch. Our employees are at the centre of all our policy initiatives. Checking in with our employees became even more important as we encountered the situation the pandemic faced us with. We are constantly reviewing and upgrading our policies based on continuous feedback from both the employees and the management.
Based on our internal surveys, we have found that 81 percent of employees feel connected while working from home; 83 percent are comfortable with a hybrid mode of work and 86 percent of employees are satisfied with the support they have received from Bosch.
How is Bosch India imagining a workplace for the future? What’s the future of work?
At Bosch, we have adopted a hybrid working model, called ‘Smart Work’, which is a digital transformation lever for the organisation. It is actively shaping innovative ways of working, leadership culture and supports the employees with flexible working options. The Smart Work policy provides flexibility, work-life balance; safeguards the interests, health and safety of all the employees while successfully managing business continuity, employee productivity, optimising workspace and creating opportunities for more diverse and inclusive teams across locations.
Our office spaces have also been re-designed to create an environment of cooperation and collaboration. We are moving away from fixed workstations to flexible seating and are offering employees the choice to select their own seats. The number of seats in the office will be limited considering remote and hybrid working possibilities. In lieu of this reduction, we will offer more collaboration spaces on the office floor. It is also our aim to realise a digital and paperless office and make it permissible by leveraging new age technology and digital means.
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