We are in the midst of a pandemic. Unprecedented, most of us are experiencing something like this for the first time in our life. Though COVID-19 has been fatal, impacting almost everything across the globe, I have been in awe of human spirit and generosity. As a Human Resource executive, I have learned a lot from compassion, empathy, and care shown by Corona warriors.
I am happy to share that these learnings have had lots of influence on our HR policy to combat these challenging times. In this article, I will be sharing the approach we have taken w.r.t HR while adapting to new realities.
When WHO confirmed CORONA as a pandemic
Discussion around COVID-19 intensified around February the first week. Eventually, WHO confirmed COVID-19 as a pandemic. Even then there were pretty few cases in India, and specifically in Pune, where Ellicium headquarter is located.
Going by the basic tenet of Ellicium’s HR policy, it was essential to have clear communication with all the Ellicians in such circumstances. We did exactly the same. Though this was pretty early, we made sure to assure everyone in Ellicium that we are closely observing the situation.
As the situation was unfolding, we took a proactive approach and announced work from home starting the third week of March. We were the 7th company to work from home in Pune when the nationwide lockdown was yet to be announced.
The family spirit is a principal cultural value for us at Ellicium. Ellicians, our family members, have always been a top priority for us. So it was a pretty straightforward decision to take.
When the whole Ellicium starts working from home
This was the first time when the whole company was going to work from home. When you have no playbook to go by, navigating challenges like these solely depends on how you respond and how quickly you respond! We started by first recognizing what kind of challenges we would face.
Here are some prime challenges we thought we will face:
1. Lack of face to face personal interaction
Spread across two-stories, Ellicium office is one buzzing place. Be it lunchtime or snack time, Ellicium would always fill with the sound of laughter. Work from home would make it impossible to recreate such an environment. It also meant that employee engagement would be hard to achieve.
2. Emotional Well Being
When you are used to meeting your colleagues every day, the absence of such a routine conversation can take a toll on you. Given that most of Ellicians are young and living away from their families, this was an important issue to be addressed.
3. Access to daily essentials
As mentioned earlier, most of the Ellicians are living away from their families and hometowns. Considering this is a national lockdown, we understood that Ellicians living on their own would face limited access to daily essentials.
How did we deal with these challenges?
After creating a list of probable challenges, we created an in-depth action plan. This action plan focused on all the important aspects as narrated below.
Transition to work from home
This was the most critical part. We created a list of guidelines to follow for Ellicians, also covered all the probable hiccups. We created a dedicated communication channel to solve issues faster. All the members from HR, Admin, Operations, and Infrastructure became front line ensuring all the minor and major issues are resolved. Because of these measures, we had a relatively smooth transaction. We continue to follow this.
Wellbeing of Ellicians
These are indeed challenging times. The constant influx of news from all the sides can incite unwanted stress. Also, living far from home can make you restless thinking about the family.
Great conversation is about listening, and that is what we did. We emphasized on an informal conversation with Ellicians just to understand how they are doing.
These conversations not just helped us to understand what everyone is going through, but also enabled us to help them with things which would have gone unnoticed from us otherwise.
One of the examples of this is when in the initial days of lockdown, one of Ellicians faced a problem in getting daily meals. This Ellician was dependent on an external source for meals. Due to lockdown, this option was closed. As soon as we got to know about this, we quickly got into action. We were able to arrange a provider who would deliver meals at home. We are glad to inform you that this is a continuation even now.
As the number of Ellicians living independently is huge, we started connecting them with necessary sources from which they can get essentials delivered at their doorstep.
We continue to provide assistance on everything that needs external help. After all, it is about being a family!
Ellicians continue to create fun memories
Certainly, there are limitations in terms of doing fun activities together while working from home. At the same time, it is important to keep the family spirits high.
Without letting this deterrence of not being together in one place affect us, we started some initiatives to continue the fun we used to have at the office.
In our weekly virtual open house meets, everyone now shares everything from what food they cooked for the first time to which series they binge-watched on Netflix.
Here is one such picture where Nikhil shares his experience of cooking for the first time.
We also encouraged Ellicians to share how they are using their hidden talent to create something. We are awestruck with creative talent Ellicians have.
Astha sharing her artwork of Madonna.
Prajakta shared her beautiful sketch work
Having fun playing Virtual Team Games!
Virtual games have become a weekly occurrence now. The very first game we played while being in work from home was ‘Aliens At Your Office’. Throughout playing this game, the creativity of Ellicians flew generously and it turned into a memorable evening.
We continue to create such memorable evenings!
Encouraging Skilling Up
We have always focused on encouraging Ellicians to skill up and validate the skill by availing certifications. Further enhancing our focus on skilling up, we planned a series of training programs. Stating one such an example here, recently 14 Ellicians went through extensive Robotic Process Automation training. Last week, all of them successfully completed Advanced RPA Developer certification from UI Path.
Also encouraging Ellicians to share their knowledge and learnings with fellow Ellicians, we arranged weekly sessions where Ellicians share their expertise with everyone.
These sessions include exclusive webinars and hands-on training. Just last month alone we completed 1146 person-hours training!
Personally, for me, it has been a challenging but satisfying experience. I have learned a lot!
Below are some of my learnings:
- Being patient and having a positive attitude is very crucial. You need to remember that as an HR, you are responsible for the wellbeing of a large number of people.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate more! A simple conversation can resolve many things.
- You should learn to be empathetic. It is an important skill to develop for HR!
- Tools are just a medium, engagement is all about establishing true connection!
- The true test of HR is now!
As this pandemic continues to unfold, let’s keep ourselves positive and hope for the best. As and when we get to the end of this, I will for sure write another article sharing further learnings.