Workplace 2.0

Being a ‘happy’ place to work has become important for companies. No wonder then that workplaces today offer much more than good salaries, all in the name of attracting talent and increasing productivity

WHAT IF you got an extended maternity leave that goes beyond the mandatory three months? Leave that allows you to be away from work for six months, gives you an additional four months of ‘flexi-working’ hours with full pay, and, if you still need more time, a one-year career break without pay? Also, what if you were told that you could work from home, if required, and avail of a ‘no swipe-in/swipe-out’ attendance system?

Corporate HR departments of ‘new-age workplace’ companies are developing various ways—like compulsory yoga sessions every week with a potluck event accompanied by music and dance thrown in; free movie tickets for Friday nights; reimbursement to play your musical instrument in office; boot camps part-sponsored by office; online gifting and delivery options for near and dear ones—to keep their employees in high spirits.

Flipkart recently rolled out an unprecedented maternity benefits package. The e-commerce firm announced it will offer six months’ paid leave plus four months of flexible working option with pay to mothers. It is also offering an extended maternity leave of up to one year without pay, after which the employee can return to any available job at that point of time. A better paternity policy is also on the cards.

A Flipkart spokesperson says: “Studies show that highly engaged employees are more productive and drive better business results, and Flipkart truly believes and practises that. We conduct various activities throughout the year to motivate our workforce and keep the environment inspiring, alive and active.”

Gurgaon-headquartered online marketplace ShopClues organises yoga and zumba classes at work. “The dress code is smart casuals and there is no restriction on sporting tattoos. We have got a corporate tie-up with premium gyms and fitness studios to encourage our employees to lead a fitter life,” says Nitin Agarwal, senior director, marketing, ShopClues.

If you happen to walk into the offices of Paytm— the Noida-based mobile commerce platform backed by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba —on weekday evenings, you would certainly hear music playing out loud on the floor. “We have budgets for our teams to go out not just for lunches, movies, dinners and amusement parks, but also out of town for a day or two,” says Amit Sinha, VP, people and business, Paytm.

Datawrkz, a Bengaluru-based data analytics company, follows a no-attendance policy, which means there is no swipe-in/swipe-out system and employees are free to work from home, if required, and avail themselves of ‘flexi-working’ hours. StoreKing, another Bengaluru-based ‘assisted e-commerce’ platform that helps rural customers to shop online, hosts a potluck event in which employees can prepare delicious dishes accompanied by a music-and-dance session. The best dishes also get awarded.

MyKindOfJob, which claims to be India’s first online commercial marketplace for people who are looking for flexibility at work, practises policies like contributing 50% of an employee’s salary towards his or her ‘passion allowance’ or letting a junior have a say in hiring his or her mentor by making them a part of the interview process.

Tolexo, an e-commerce site for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) based in Noida, plans to launch an entrepreneurship programme through which an employee can pursue a business idea related to Tolexo’s business model.

The list doesn’t just end with start-ups. At Godrej Properties, employees are encouraged to express their fun-loving side through hobby clubs. It also offers an informal platform of communication, through which employees get a chance to interact with a director, share experiences and suggestions about the functioning of the organisation.

“I’ve heard of a company which has introduced the pedometer challenge—handing out a pedometer to each of its employees in the interest of pursuing a healthy lifestyle. There’s another company which turns the office AC off for an hour at lunch every day to encourage its employees to eat their meals on time. Another interesting example is of a company that auctioned off brand-new phones to its employees with the aim of collecting money for charity,” says Pallavi Jha, chairperson and MD, Dale Carnegie Training India. “These are all out-of-the-box solutions that bring in newness and excitement while simultaneously achieving your goals of employee health, engagement and enthusiasm,” she adds.

So far, so good. But do these appealing HR policies actually work? “Companies recognise that they can differentiate on cash only to an extent and ‘benefits’ are a powerful tool in the hands of the employer to create a truly differentiated value proposition. Indian companies are progressively innovating around aspects like lifestyle, well-being and flexibility in benefits,” says Anuradha Sriram, benefits director of global professional services firm Towers Watson India, adding: “We have seen that such practices do help companies attract and retain employees.”

Employee-engagement activities are important to achieve an organisation’s goals, says Udit Mittal, director of Unison International, a recruitment services firm based in Gurgaon. “A 15-minute daily breathing and relaxation practice, or a weekly yoga session, even at the sacrifice of office working hours temporarily, can bring out lasting results,” he adds.

Increasingly, organisations are focusing on designing employee-friendly initiatives and policies to absorb and retain the best talent available in the market. “Organisations are recognising the need to move away from the authoritarian stand to adopt policies, which aid the creation of a high-performing work environment,” says Yogendra Vasupal, founder of Stayzilla, a Chennai-based online accommodation bookings marketplace. Apart from its bereavement, maternity and paternity leave policies (which also go above and beyond the statutory needs), Stayzilla has also incorporated a ‘certificate reimbursement’ policy that enables its team members to pursue a course or certification programme that aids their growth.

As per Spectrum Talent Management, a headhunting and manpower recruitment firm based in Noida, companies such as Qualcomm, Google and Intel are some of the best organisations for employees in the current scenario. In fact, what’s common to these companies is their focus on HR policies that benefit employees massively. “Compulsory yoga is common at top corporations. Indian companies such as Infosys and even little-known new enterprises such as Impetus Technologies are offering great employee benefits,” says Vidur Gupta, director, Spectrum Talent Management.

The key here is the large pool of young talent that the country has and also the resultant low job loyalty and large-scale job shifts that companies are experiencing. “Young people love to work in a quirky environment and such innovative HR policies are vital to engage and retain the young working population and foster a fun work culture. This also rejuvenates employees and gives them a reason to go that extra mile at work, leading to high performance,” explains Moorthy K Uppaluri, MD and CEO of Randstad India, an HR consulting firm headquartered in Diemen, Netherlands.

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