We are amid a pandemic. Unprecedented, most of us are experiencing something like this for the first time in our lives. Though COVID-19 has been fatal, impacting almost everything globally, I have been in awe of the human spirit and generosity.
As a Human Resource executive, I have learned much from the compassion, empathy, and care Corona warriors show.
I am happy to share that these learnings have greatly influenced our HR policy to combat these challenging times. In this article, I will share our approach with HR while adapting to new realities.
When WHO confirmed CORONA as a pandemic
Discussion around COVID-19 intensified around February, the first week. Eventually, WHO confirmed COVID-19 as a pandemic. Even then, there were few cases in India, specifically in Pune, where Ellicium headquarters is located.
Going by the basic tenet of Ellicium’s HR policy, it was essential to communicate clearly with all the Ellicians in such circumstances. We did the same. Though this was pretty early, we assured everyone in Ellicium that we closely observed the situation.
As the situation unfolded, we took a proactive approach and announced work from home starting the third week of March. We were the 7th company to work from home in Pune when the nationwide lockdown was yet to be announced.
The family spirit is a principal cultural value for us at Ellicium. Ellicians, our family members, have always been our top priority. So, it was a pretty straightforward decision to take.
When the whole Ellicium starts working from home
This was the first time the whole company would work from home. When you have no playbook, navigating challenges like these solely depends on how you respond and how quickly you respond! We started by first recognizing what kind of challenges we would face.
Here are some prime challenges we thought we would face
Lack of face-to-face personal interaction: The Ellicium office is one buzzing place across two stories. Be it lunchtime or snack time, Ellicium would always fill with laughter. Working from home would make it impossible to recreate such an environment. It also meant that employee engagement would take a lot of work to achieve.
Emotional Well Being: When you are used to meeting your colleagues daily, the absence of such a routine conversation can take a toll on you. Given that most Ellicians are young and living away from their families, this was an important issue to be addressed.
Access to daily essentials: As mentioned earlier, most Ellicians live away from their families and hometowns. Considering this is a national lockdown, we understood that Ellicians living alone would face limited access to daily essentials.
How did we deal with these challenges?
We created an in-depth action plan after making a list of probable challenges. This action plan focused on all the important aspects, as narrated below.
Transition to work-from-home
This was the most critical part. We created a list of guidelines for Ellicians and covered all the probable hiccups. We created a dedicated communication channel to solve issues faster. All the members from HR, Admin, Operations, and Infrastructure became the front line ensuring all the minor and major issues are resolved. Because of these measures, we had a relatively smooth transaction. We continue to follow this.
Wellbeing of Ellicians
These are indeed challenging times. The constant influx of news from all sides can incite unwanted stress. Also, living far from home can make you restless thinking about the family.
Great conversation is about listening, and that is what we did. We emphasized an informal discussion with Ellicians to understand how they are doing.
These conversations not only helped us understand what everyone was going through but also enabled us to help them with things that would have gone unnoticed.
One of the examples of this is when, in the initial days of lockdown, one of the Ellicians faced a problem getting daily meals. This Ellician was dependent on an external source for meals. Due to the lockdown, this option was closed. As soon as we learned about this, we quickly got into action. We were able to arrange a provider who would deliver meals at home. We are glad to inform you that this is a continuation even now.
As the number of Ellicians living independently is vast, we started connecting them with necessary sources to deliver essentials to their doorstep.
We continue to assist with everything that needs external help. After all, it is about being a family!
Ellicians continue to create fun memories
Indeed, there are limitations regarding doing fun activities together while working from home. At the same time, keeping the family’s spirits high is essential. Without letting this deterrence of not being together in one place affect us, we started some initiatives to continue the fun we used to have at the office.
In our weekly virtual open house meets, everyone now shares everything from what food they cooked for the first time to which series they binge-watched on Netflix.
Here is one such picture where Nikhil shares his cooking experience for the first time.
We also encouraged Ellicians to share how they are using their hidden talent to create something. We are amazed by the creative talent Ellicians have.
Have fun playing Virtual Team Games!
Virtual games have become a weekly occurrence now. The first game we played while working from home was ‘Aliens At Your Office.’ Throughout playing this game, the creativity of Ellicians flew generously, and it turned into a memorable evening.
We continue to create such memorable evenings!
Encouraging Skilling Up
We have always focused on encouraging Ellicians to improve and validate their skills by availing certifications. Further enhancing our focus on skilling up, we planned a series of training programs. Stating one such example here, recently, 14 Ellicians went through extensive Robotic Process Automation training. Last week, they all completed the Advanced RPA Developer certification from UI Path.
Also, encouraging Ellicians to share their knowledge and learnings with fellow Ellicians, we arranged weekly sessions where Ellicians share their expertise with everyone.
These sessions include exclusive webinars and hands-on training. Just last month alone, we completed 1146 person-hours training!
Personally, for me, it has been a challenging but satisfying experience. I have learned a lot! Below are some of my learnings:
Being patient and having a positive attitude is very crucial. It would help if you remembered that as an HR, you are responsible for the wellbeing of many people.
Communicate, communicate, and communicate more! A simple conversation can resolve many things.
You should learn to be empathetic. It is an important skill to develop for HR!
Tools are just a medium; engagement is about establishing a genuine connection!
The actual test of HR is now!
As this pandemic unfolds, let’s keep ourselves positive and hope for the best. When we get to the end of this, I will write another article sharing further learnings.