Side Gigs, Upskilling, Recreational Offices: Zoho’s Tech Director Believes it’s Time to Accept the Change 742

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As the remote work/WFH/hybrid model becomes a part of the new normal, companies need to give employees autonomy to choose whether to return to the office or not and value employee wellness above anything else to ensure a connected, productive, and happy workforce.

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Rajendran Dandapani, Director of Technology, Zoho Corp

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in all likelihood, changed the way people work. Organisations that struggled to adapt to this once-in-a-century disruption now face the prospect of changing how they view their employees and productivity in general. 

If anything, the ‘Great Resignation’ is a signal that the workers of today have different priorities and are swayed by different perks than the ones that motivated them before the pandemic.

Here are five ways in which workers—and along with them—the workplace has changed:

1. Remote or hybrid — employees will prevail

As the vast majority of the population gets vaccinated and is ready to get back to social settings, organisations face the question of whether to get their workforce back to physical offices or not.

Also read: Realising Hybrid Work Model is Here to Stay, We Virtualised 15 Roles Forever: Meghna Gupta, Axis AMC

This cannot be an arbitrary decision by any management. Modern workers want autonomy to choose whether to return to the office or not. They are acclimated to remote tools now and are convinced that productivity and performance at work don’t require the confines of a traditional workspace.

“This cannot be an arbitrary decision by any management. Modern workers want autonomy to choose whether to return to the office or not. They are acclimated to remote tools now, and are convinced that productivity and performance at work don’t require the confines of a traditional workspace.”

Companies that value employee wellness and empower them to make a choice will stand a better chance at employee retention. With companies creating WFH policies that set the right expectations and setting up small satellite offices that cut out the arduous daily office commute — a majority have enjoyed not having to commute for nearly 18 months, they have instead used the time with their families or even as “me time”, and have been just as connected, productive, and happy at home as they are in the office.

A remote work policy will also appeal to the Gen Z workforce who are inspired to excel in their career as well as lead a digital nomad lifestyle. Workation—where they combine travel and remote work—is already a trend. We are likely to see more employees adopt this trend when travel restrictions ease.

2. “No” to micromanagement, “yes” to self-management

As teams have become distributed across geographies, the role of the manager has also irreversibly changed. Micromanaging and sweating the details—strategies that some traditional managers are used to—will no longer work. The role of the manager will be less about “managing” the subordinates and more about being a mentor or even a friend.

Gentle nudges will likely become the order of the day. New employees will have to be given “breathing space” to imbibe a company’s culture and to be able to adjust well. Onboarding new employees with all the right perks will be the biggest challenge for the HR teams. In the hybrid-work world, old perks like beanbags and foosball tables will become redundant.

3. Offices/co-working spaces will still have a role

Though remote work/workations/WFH will all be a part of the new normal, offices will play a different but still significant role. They will transform to become “get-together” zones for teams that will meet periodically to brainstorm ideas or for in-person collaboration.

“As teams have become distributed across geographies, the role of the manager has also irreversibly changed. Micromanaging and sweating the details—strategies that some traditional managers are used to—will no longer work. The role of the manager will be less about “managing” the subordinates and more about being a mentor or even a friend.”

There are also specific roles in any industry — like customer support in the SaaS industry — which require personnel to tune in during odd hours. Most such employees prefer to carry out such roles from offices rather than from their homes. Office 2.0 will play a different role, even if not a central one as it did in the pre-pandemic era.

4. Employee skill set improvement — the onus is on the company more than on the individual

The workers of today are constantly looking at rapidly upskilling themselves. They are ambitious, restless, and mostly unwilling to be straitjacketed into classically defined roles. The onus to help them through their ambitions and career paths falls on the company. Organisations that are keen on providing mentorship and a helping hand in their career advancement can no longer just rely on manager appraisals but have to take an active interest in advancing their careers and offering support.

Organisations will have to proactively support employee wellness constantly — instituting programs that focus on mental and physical health, for instance.

Also read: Be Future Ready with Digital Transformation, Sustainability, and Gig Workforce

5. Open-mindedness to side-gigs

Digital platforms have enabled the creator economy on a scale never seen before. A software developer can easily juggle their day job with being a gadget reviewer on social media where they create compelling content. Another might earn some fame and money by being a stand-up comic during the weekends. Organisations will have to become open-minded to allow their employees to do their gigs as long as it does not affect their regular work and performance.

Registered name of the company & location: Zoho Corporation Pvt Ltd., Vallancheri,
Tamilnadu
Year of Incorporation: 1996, as AdventNet Inc.
Number of Employees: Over 10,000
Name of the Founder: Sridhar Vembu
Name of the Key Executives:
Sridhar Vembu, Founder & CEO
Manikandan Vembu, COO
Shailesh Kumar Davey, Co-founder and VP-Engineering
Business Line: With 50+ apps in nearly every major business category and an array of productivity and collaboration tools, Zoho is one of the world’s most prolific software companies.
Hiring Pipeline: We have 3000+ openings across different functions (India alone).
Key HR differentiating factor: The organisational culture at Zoho is by itself unique – pursuing a unique set of choices, which span hiring, training, product strategy, location, and customer satisfaction, all driven by a holistic philosophy that puts contentment and humility as key virtues.
Key Investors: Zoho Corp is a privately held company. No external investors.

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After dropping out of IIT-Madras as an Engineer in Electronics and Electrical Communication, Rajendran was part of the founding team at Zoho Corporation, then called Vembu Systems. Later, he spent seven years at Xerago, Asia's largest New-Age Marketing Entity, as their Chief Algorithms Officer. After rejoining Zoho Corporation in 2004, he spearheads mobile development at Zoho and is the President of Zoho Schools of Learning.

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