When COVID-19 shook everything into disarray across the world, not many were prepared to deal with the challenges that were thrown at the workplace. Keeping the health and safety of employees and their families as the topmost priority, everything had to be reworked while nothing remained its usual way – from productivity to teamwork and collaboration to fun at work.
Verizon India was swift to activate 100 percent work from home for the first time ever, addressing many challenges pertaining to regulatory conditions, hardware and software, information security and infrastructure. But we knew that enabling work from home was just the beginning, given that the lockdown was going to be long-drawn and the new normal was yet to unfold to its fullest.
Guarded by our strong V Team culture and thanks to the coordinated efforts of functions such as GRE (Global Real Estate), Security and Digital Workplace among others, our productivity did not take any hit.
We knew we had to focus intently on the human side of remote working to ensure people remain connected, motivated and focussed while being at home with the new arrangement.
Celebrating the personal side
Working from home is invariably less formal and inevitably more personal than working from office. That was a perfect reason for us to celebrate the personal sides of our teams. So, from sharing work from home pictures (and mind you, home also meant al-fresco for some) to organising selfie contests, a number of activities brought out the offbeat stories of how employees adapted and even started thriving in the new remote working environment.
We had heart-warming as well as tongue-in-cheek stories galore about children getting curious about conference calls and first-time cooking expeditions showing remarkable results and the like.
Team members got to know each other’s personalities more vividly, starting to build better rapport, which I am sure, will grow into enduring team dynamics.
That said, we were also well aware that a long-term work from home regimen poses multiple challenges and it was important to let people share best practices, experiential accounts of what was working and what was to avoid.
So, we publish through our internal communication channels a series of videos featuring employees giving tips to make work from home work well. And the tips ranged from expert advice on network connectivity (wired or wireless), healthy food habits to adhering to an exercise regimen to maintaining a clutter-free work corner and keeping personal time uninterrupted by work. The response has been tremendous. Leaders in the organisation chipped in sharing their own best practices to the larger employee community too.
Employee Resource Groups
Another great initiative during these times came from our Employee Resource Groups (which comprise volunteers who come together around areas of common interests to organise fun events at the workplace).
They conduct different virtual events, most recently an online quiz with questions that couldn’t be googled for answers. These initiatives help bring some lighter moments in the regular work-day.
Also, coffee chats over video conferences which mimic the coffee breaks at the office. They have been a great way for people to discuss things outside of work and have their regular water-cooler moments. We also have fun groups on social media platforms to enable people to share their creativity whether it is cooking, painting, singing, or any other hobby.
Verizon India has a strong employee engagement practice. Our people leaders stay connected interactively with their teams as a regular practice. The lockdown period has seen such leadership engagement become more intense yet increasingly casual. Weekly team calls now have friendly contests, time for personal narratives etc. while business deliverables are met with uncompromising commitment.
To me, it appears we are discovering a whole new idiom of team management that is fun yet effective. The fact remains though, that a large number of our employees are waiting to get back to work missing the office and its vibrancy.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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