Work from home calls for change in culture: Indian Oil’s head of HR


Work-From-Home (WFH) is a workable mechanism. However, this needs to be simultaneously facilitated through a change in both skillsets and mindset,” said Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra, director (HR), Indian Oil. Edited excerpts of an interview :

We institutionalized WFH guidelines even before the commencement of the lockdown. Centralised communication on the subject ensured that there were no ambiguities and the areas of work were clearly specified. We put in place a comprehensive strategy to apply WFH so that during the lockdown, business continuity is ensured while at the same time health and safety of employees and stakeholders is taken care of.

What were the challenges faced during this transition?
At macro level, our priorities were two-fold – ensure uninterrupted energy supplies, especially LPG, to the country and second, take care of health and well-being of our employees and stakeholders. At micro level, there were numerous aspects that needed to be addressed. For instance, accessing documents and files at office was the biggest challenge. However, our teams worked out ways to resolve most issues by selectively providing VPN accesses for critical resources. Another issue was with regard to policy approvals/dispensations – this was addressed through email approvals and wherever necessary, through verbal clearances/virtual meetings. Payment of wages to contract workers was another issue. It normally happens on the basis of physical submission of requisite documents and verification. However, in this scenario, our departments quickly developed mechanism to process bills, seek approvals and release payments on the basis of e-verifications so that people, already facing difficult situations, should not suffer further on account of non-disbursal of wages.

Do you think WFH is an efficient mechanism?
WFH is indeed a workable mechanism. However, this needs to be simultaneously facilitated through a change in both skillset and mindset. While this is a mammoth organisational development intervention and necessitates cultural change, it also comes with need to address operational aspects such as accessing files, managing official records etc. which need to be streamlined. Also, IndianOil has its offices in the remotest corners of the nation and, therefore, connecting and working as a team may be a challenge. But I am sure that these things can be worked out to make WFH more efficient. If processes are simple, enjoyable and a source of pride, a cultural shift can definitely be successful.

How did you implement the tech back-end to enable employees to work from home?
We have been in the process of transforming our employees to be more technology-oriented. Each of our employees have a laptop or desktop. Upgrade facilities are also provided to them periodically as many of them have to work on the move. We already have a well distributed access to hardware and technology.

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