From Surviving to Thriving: Reimagining Work Like Never Before 0

Vimmi Chachra
From transitioning to remote work seamlessly, supporting employee wellbeing while upholding business commitments, thinking ‘people first’ to bringing employees back to offices, the article explores how Sopra Steria, India navigated the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured employees adapt effectively.

It’s been a challenging time, the COVID-19 pandemic has had tremendous effects on the world of work, as well as our mental and physical wellbeing. What started out as a crisis response has now become the next normal. The pandemic has accelerated the future of work trends, putting a spotlight on the workplace and prompting innovative companies like ours to manage the enterprise in newfound ways. At the same time, it has shed a clear light on things that need to change which have led us to re-imagining our ideas and hopes for the future. As we navigate the unprecedented challenges, the following highlights explore how we have been adjusting to operating during the pandemic and preparing for the recovery.

Going from 100% work-from-office to 100% work from home

If we were to say this in a single word, we could say, we transitioned seamlessly. We set-up a ‘COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee’ at the very beginning to continually monitor the volatile situation and proactively prepare for the challenges that came along. We rapidly mobilized and collaborated across diverse stakeholders and external partners to enable >85% of our IT workforce for remote-working and left no stone unturned in procuring the necessary infra towards this objective. With the delay in delivery timelines of purchased laptops, we explored and opted to rent some. In addition, we physically moved the desktops to the residences of our employees.

We were preparing for remote-working to ensure employee safety and business continuity even before the country lockdown was announced. Prior to COVID-19, we did not have a documented WFH policy and as a transparent and trust-based organisation, employees would WFH on an urgent need basis. However, today most of our employees are enabled to work remotely. We prepared and implemented an agile and focused delivery framework to facilitate remote working, wherever possible, increasing our office sites from 5 to over 4500. 

When the virus started to affect European countries, we had close to 200 employees and some with their family members overseas, in various countries including France, UK, Belgium, Germany, USA and Netherlands. Our dedicated travel desk offered travel guidance to all our team members and to a feasible extent supported their decision to either stay back or return to India. We closely tracked each incoming employee for the entire leg of their travel beginning from their quarantine process to onward journeys to their hometowns.

We got almost 110+ people back in India before the government restrictions came into force and evacuated another 52 employees via the Vande Bharat mission. During these trying times, we constantly reassured our employees, keeping them duly informed amidst ambiguity over governmental processes, the volatility of shortlisting by High Commission / Embassy, Ticket Availability, etc. Our HR teams here and overseas worked seamlessly over frequently changing assignment end-dates and visa extensions amid lockdowns thereby, ensuring minimal risk-exposure to our employees.

Trust, sense of collective responsibility, customer focus, and respect for others are the key pillars of our DNA. The business, delivery and function leaders constantly connected with their teams on various available virtual platforms to share updates, discuss deliverables and address areas of concern. The leaders also collaborated with their teams to brainstorm new initiatives in the new normal world. We also deployed additional project management tools to track deliverables, timelines, and all customer KPIs to continue to support the remote-working model. Our organisations’ strong culture and values, showed the forward path to sustain the pace of our delivery and retain the trust of our clients and employees.

In the current scenario, our managers and leaders have stepped up, shown resilience, trusted in their people evermore, and attempted to go beyond barriers for enhanced business and customer orientation thinking ‘People First’, invested in keeping our task force motivated, employable and future-ready.

Employee well-being initiatives are undertaken by the company

Since the onset of the pandemic, we stayed focused on supporting employee safety while upholding business commitments. With employees well-being in focus, we established a Doctor’s helpline for medical advice, developed inhouse tracking tool and a query assistance mailbox to address all concerns related to COVID-19 We kept close contact with each of our employees who were infected or had a family member infected or had recently returned from an overseas location. We are grateful that largely all our infected / infection-exposed employees are stable or recovering. We have stood firm on our support with medical insurance for team members/families covered. We also had inspirational and health-related sessions for all employees and their families.

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wellness program

Our long-standing wellness program “WeCare” was further bolstered in Q3 with a focus on the emotional wellbeing of our employees and their families. It helped with confidential support, resources and information on personal and work-life matters.

Our Talent Management teams are closely working with the employees to ensure that they are engaged and motivated enough during these trying times. Many contests and employee-connect activities are being organized on a regular basis to promote the feeling of ‘unity’ and ‘oneness’.

To cope with the new normal we have implemented several innovative ways to remain engaged with our colleagues, this includes sessions on mindfulness to help employees build resilience and deal with a crisis, concentrated sessions by Doctors/Experts on coping with COVID-19, virtual walkathons, yoga sessions, trivia quiz, virtual coffee sessions, talent shows, and many more. We launched our own radio infotainment show which had both employees and leaders exchanging lighter moments and music.

Virtual onboarding and exit process implemented

In the current scenario, our managers and leaders have stepped up, shown resilience, and attempted to go beyond barriers for enhanced business and customer orientation keeping our task force motivated, employable and future-ready. As rightly stated by Winston Churchill “A good crisis should never go waste”, this crisis has sparked innovation among us resulting in disruptive innovation and realignment of several of our business processes, on-boarding and exit procedures.

Our first virtual onboarding session, a process introduced before the lockdown, was conducted from office with New Joiners and the Employee Services team (in close collaboration with the recruitment team) sitting in separate meeting rooms. Joining kits were shared in advance with the new joiners to complete the documentation, which was then uploaded, verified a day before the joining. Virtual introductory sessions were organized via Microsoft Teams to integrate the new joiners within the delivery teams.

Similarly, the exit process was completely reviewed in consultation with the various internal stakeholders like IT support, Legal, Finance, HR business partners, Facilities, Transport, etc. This meant waiving off ID Card amount while also getting a ‘Proof of Destruction’ from employees, publishing an asset submission schedule ahead of time, carefully taking handover of IT assets and verifying them) at any Sopra Steria location and releasing the relieving documents. Many of those who separated were out of station and others were unable to return assets due to border restrictions.

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The future – coming back to the office after COVID

Virtual onboardingWe re-opened our offices at Noida and Pune in Q2 for some of our projects who had been unable to work remotely owing to client restrictions and data security. Ever since our services resumed, the team was welcomed with the B2O kits, and they have been excited at the opportunity to deliver. The positive impact on our people, the SSI business and our client has been almost tangible!

In fact, a lot of precautions and measures were undertaken prior to the opening date. The entire office premises were fogged thoroughly. Each of the cabs deployed were sanitized both at the main gate and after every pick-up.

In addition, there have been regular sanitization of workstations, break-out areas, coffee machines and touchpoints like common surfaces, door handles and lift buttons. To ensure physical distancing, the seating has been altered and washrooms have been modified The housekeeping staff has been specially trained on ensuring a high level of hygiene and cleanliness. All of these measures are well-defined in our B2O (Back2Office) handbook.

We also have an in-house app that allows employees to book seats in advance to adhere to the social distancing norms. These steps are indeed helping us provide a clean, safe, and secure environment to our people as they focus on meeting the client requirements. In the new hybrid WFA, WFH and WFO normals, we are fully focused on enhancing the team building and morale of our employees, and at the same time measure the output on their deliverables.

In the new hybrid WFA, WFH and WFO normals, we are fully focused on enhancing the team building and morale of our employees, and at the same time measure the output on their deliverables. Click To Tweet

Conclusion 

It is an understatement that people will always want to work for the organisation that has their best interests and well-being at heart. We, SopraSteria, recognize that people are at the heart of every change and thus from responding with increased benefits and flexibility for employees and encouraging overall wellbeing to ensure employees transitioned smoothly to remote work or bringing employees back to offices, we believe we have stepped up to take the lead in response to the crisis.

The pandemic has altered the world of work in unimaginable ways and its effects will be long lasting– perhaps even permanent in nature, however, this crisis also provides an opportunity for us to re-shape an organisation’s mission in a manner that helps it navigate through this crisis and thereafter. Now is the time to unveil hidden capabilities, transform problems into opportunities, and rethink the purpose of your business and value proposition.

We were preparing for remote-working to ensure employee safety and business continuity well before the country went into lockdown. Prior to COVID-19, we did not have a documented WFH policy and as a transparent and trust-based organisation, employees would WFH on an urgent need basis. However, today most of our employees are enabled to work remotely.

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Vimmi Chachra has above twenty-eight years of extensive experience in Talent Management, Operations Management, Corporate Strategy development, Enterprise Reporting, Business Development, Presales, Program & Project Management. She started her corporate career as a Software Engineer with TCS and made a lateral movement in her career to HR almost a decade ago. Before moving to Sopra Steria, she was associated with Genpact/ Headstrong for more than 12 years. At present, she is the CHRO of Sopra Steria India; her responsibilities include Recruitment, Employee Engagement, Training, and Talent Development. She is leading key Talent Transformation initiatives in line with business needs adjusting talent strategies to respond to changing business. Vimmi is an MBA from IIT Delhi and MCA from IMT Ghaziabad.

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