The future workplace will be very different, courtesy Covid-19

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Published: July 8, 2020 3:50 AM

Even as we have maintained the focus on meeting customer needs and maintaining seamless connectivity, we have ensured our employees are supported as they grapple with the new reality.

PRIYANKA ANAND, VP & Head of HR, South East Asia, Oceania & India, EricssonPRIYANKA ANAND, VP & Head of HR, South East Asia, Oceania & India, Ericsson

The Covid-19 pandemic has not only resulted in an economic recession but has forced companies to shift to a new work regime. Ericsson has succcessfully helped its employees adapt to the new ways of working by equipping leadership to guide and support its workforce thus ensuring they are able to cater to the changing demands of the customer. Priyanka Anand, vice-president & head of HR, South East Asia, Oceania & India, Ericsson, talks to Sudhir Chowdhary on the importance of employee centricity and employee experience in the digital workplace. Excerpts:

How important is employee experience, especially in the digital workplace?
Employee experience continues to be as important an aspect of the workplace now as it was in pre-Covid days. In the current situation, the fundamentals of engaging with employees remain the same. What is important is how organisations ensure a smooth transition to digital ways of working that least affect the employee experience and employee morale.

Employee centric policies that improve employee satisfaction and mental wellbeing remain critical as it is essential to keep an open channel of communication with employees to make them feel engaged and connected with the organisation and its purpose. For instance, Ericsson started doing regular fun “Coffee sessions” (called Fika Sessions in Swedish) where teams catch up over coffee, discussing anything but work. Such engaging sessions not only ensure a feeling of togetherness but also help maintain employee wellbeing during social distancing.

What were some of the steps that Ericsson took to support its workforce to navigate the crisis?
As an organisation, we have always invested in a growth mindset and when we were confronted with this pandemic, as a leadership team, we looked at the crisis and thought about how we could re-frame the picture: how do we adapt to the new ways of working ourselves and get the teams to work with a changed mindset.

For us, driving the balance between business continuity and empathy has been key. Even as we have maintained the focus on meeting customer needs and maintaining seamless connectivity, we have ensured our employees are supported as they grapple with the new reality. We have ensured that we maintain open communications with teams across the organisation so that they always feel supported.

How is Ericsson ensuring overall employee wellbeing and engagement in the new normal?
We launched a Wellness programme for our employees with focused interventions around their physical wellbeing, financial management, emotional wellbeing and social wellbeing. We have set up 24×7 employee assistance program to provide one-to-one support to employees. We did a pulse survey during Covid times to assess the employee sentiment and see how we could augment our programme.

To strengthen the virtual engagement of leaders with their teams, we have launched virtual coaching programmes for leaders across the organisation. Our ‘Leaders as Coaches’ programme focuses on empowering leaders to lead effectively with empathy, providing them with necessary tools to have greater self-insight and support their teams as required.

We encourage employees to continue building their competence by going through learning modules available on our anytime/anywhere learning platform called ‘Degreed’. And finally, as I mentioned earlier, we have continued to have open forums and consistent communications with our employees at all times.

How do you visualise the post-Covid workplace?
The pandemic has impacted and made us do things differently. We have around 85,000 employees working from home across the globe. We have done a lot of things virtually that we have not done before, such as our first virtual annual general meeting, virtual ‘Unboxed Office’ events for customers, daily meetings with customers while remotely delivering services and deploying software to customers globally. And even as we have embraced change, what has not changed is our employee centricity. Employee health and safety continues to be paramount even as we ensure business continuity and deliver on customer commitments.

We are getting our jobs done just as effectively while working from home. So, work from home is a new reality. It is here to stay just as the fact that the future workplace will be very different from what we have as of today.

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