Important to trust your employees in a fully virtual work environment: Ruchi Bhalla, Head-HR, Pitney Bowes
The measure of success for remote working will depend on how fully the organisation trusts its employees in a virtual environment, says Ruchi Bhalla, Vice President & Head of Human Resources at Pitney Bowes Inc
Some edited excerpts from an interview:
What are some of the key initiatives initiated for ensuring that business continues as usual?
To ensure business continuity, we have focused on two key aspects – Open Communication and Infrastructure Readiness.
Open Communication is established when an organization completely trusts its employees to do the right thing. In order to help employees stay connected and positive during this trying time, Pitney Bowes has launched an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that provides Free Confidential Counselling, Access to Meditation and Relaxation Exercises, Online Resiliency Workshops and Guidelines to Remote Working. Additionally, we have launched Udemy Online Courses on Managing Virtual Teams, Cultivating Mental Agility and Managing Time while Working from Home. These courses are aimed at providing guidance to managers and employees to seamlessly balance Work-Life Integration in a virtual working environment. We have also set-up an Emergency Helpline for any support that employees need during this time.
In terms of Infrastructure Readiness, companies need to make sure employees are equipped with the necessary infrastructure – such as laptops, internet connections, online tech support, phones connectivity in order to work efficiently from home. Online collaboration tools are available to teams to stay connected and ensure business continuity via virtual meetings without any disruption to business.
What are some of the key challenges faced to ensure a Work from Home Policy ?
The greatest challenge we are all facing today, is to keep employees motivated and inspired as they balance home and work responsibilities. Many people are working from home for the first time and are juggling children at home with schools closed or other family members also working from home. Employees and Managers need to be sensitive and patient as disruptions and background noise is higher during this time and they need to be more flexible with their colleagues. Organizations are also faced with logistics and IT challenges which can affect business continuity. It is important in a remote working environment to provide a sense of camaraderie and support, and this can be extended through Online Forums, Chats and regular virtual Manager-Team Connects.
Since the pandemic has had a different impact on each location across the globe, as a global company, Pitney Bowes is working through this crisis together while keeping the best interests of our employees, clients, partners, and the community at the heart of everything we do.
What in your view, are some of the key lessons learnt during this crisis?
Overcommunication plays a key role in providing direction and keeping everyone in sync and engaged, while prioritizing employee health and business continuity. It is important to trust your employees in a fully virtual work environment, while extending them the support they need to do their jobs efficiently. Keeping a single point contact for all information is the best way to move forward during a crisis like this to avoid confusion and misinformation. We also rely on internal expertise and trusted resources (like the World Health Organization) to address questions.
What are some of the technology tools used to facilitate smooth collaboration between employees?
Technology tools including video conferencing and messaging tools, such as Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, have become even more relevant now. These online collaboration tools are ensuring business continuity by helping teams communicate with each other as well as with clients. Utilizing these tools to maintain personal and professional peer-to-peer interactions allows employees to adapt to this new way of working.
Do you believe that the current mandatory use of remote work for business continuity is a signal to all organizations that it’s time to revisit their remote working policies ?
Our priority as an organization is the safety and wellbeing of all our employees. The effectiveness of implementing a remote working policy for businesses usually depends on the kind of business, in terms of the importance of client interactions, logistics or even employee convenience. How successful remote working is for an organization will also depend on how fully the organization trusts its employees in a virtual environment.