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How Companies Are Supporting Employees in The Times of Remote Working Managing employee welfare has become challenging amidst work-from-home regime

By Vidhi Bubna

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Before the Covid-19 pandemic isolated everyone into their homes, physical office spaces offered immense opportunities for team building.

Earlier companies were able to focus on the personal as well as professional development of their employees by organising activities such as office parties, lunches, bonding exercises and office breaks. These activities play a key role in making employees feel they are contributing to something larger and increase the overall team spirit. In particular, office parties, activities and bonding sessions help employees to trust each other and increase their motivation to work as a team.

But, employee welfare has become challenging with them working remotely, say industry players.

Zoom meetings pose a big challenge as employees often feel like they are not growing personally and don't feel involved in the ethos of the company. For employers, keeping employees motivated to work during the pandemic is more difficult than ever.

With no immediate respite from Covid-19 in sight, senior leaderships of companies are formulating interesting solutions to keep their employees motivated. Here are some ways in which companies are engaging in team building as amidst work-from-home regime.

Caring About People as Individuals Increases Team Spirit

Simply paying the employees on time is not enough. Companies need to go the extra mile to make employees feel that they matter even in remote working.

Tannisha Avarrsekar, founder of Lokatantra, says that "We have made sure that if any employee feels sick, we sponsor their Covid-19 test. Even as everyone is working from home, it is still important to make employees feel cared for. Though getting their COVID tests done is not much, it still goes on to show that the company cares about them as individuals."

Since teams cannot be built physically during the pandemic, it is important for the leaders of each team to make their employees feel cared for.

"Once we started practicing this, many of our employees gave us positive feedback," Avarrsekar added.

The pandemic is increasing one-on-one equations between team leaders and employees and the connection that each team member builds with their team leader increases loyalty and motivation to work for the company. Caring about employees at individual level can give them a sense of belonging.

Getting Employees to Interact With Each Other Across Departments Motivates Them

In remote work setting, it is important to expose employees to different fields and new trends across the industry. Harsh Karamchandani, co-founder at Edunify says "Since we are a company focused on learning, we also try to inculcate that in our employee practices. We get employees from different departments to interact with each other informally over the course of one week and share their learnings and experiences. This makes employees feel like they are learning in the workspace and it keeps them motivated."

Interacting with the same peers in the workspace can get monotonous and also reduce their motivation. It is important to make them realise the ethos of the company even when there is no physical interaction to inculcate team spirit in them.

In the workspace, it is easy to remind employees about the ethos of the firm, however, it can be challenging to bring the same ethos at each employee's home. The gap in employee's understanding of brand ethos while working virtually from home is something companies need to close.

Involving Employees in the Long Term Goals of the Company Makes Them Feel Included

While interacting with employees virtually, it is important for team leaders to discuss the long-term roadmap of the company. Companies in the travel and hospitality sector in particular have been affected by the pandemic because of travel restrictions. It may be especially challenging for such companies to keep their employees motivated.

According to Smit Desai, co-founder of outdoor trekking company Hikerwolf, "Our mission was to get other people excited about outdoors and make them realise the value of exploring places away from the city, of lying down under the stars. Our employees understood those values. However, now since there are no outdoor activities happening, we do zoom meetings and involve the employees in discussions about the future of outdoor travel. We also put up beautiful pictures of places and admire locations which we could have potential future trips to. This makes employees feel pumped and gets the conversation started."

By indulging employees in conversations relating to company's future, employers can help take away the former's focus from seemingly bleak future and motivate them for brighter times to come. Overall, involving employees in the long term planning of the firm makes them feel involved in company ethos.

Mustafa Sheikh, founder of Charity Bread says "Since we are a charity, it has always been important to make our volunteers feel included in the brand ethos. If they don't believe in the mission, they will not dedicate their time to social work. When the pandemic started, it was difficult to make employees feel motivated. We realised that sharing more about the impact of collective action and the plans for the future of the firm helps to motivate them. They feel like they are a part of something bigger."

Physical Team Trips in Green Zones are Still a Reality

There are many places in India which still fall into a green zone. As unreal as this sounds, there are still team building day trips being organised in these areas. Vidur Kapur, General Manager at The Rokeby Manor Mussoorie says, "We go for a biking trip while maintaining social distancing norms in the hills often. Since everyone is on their individual bikes, it is safe. Even the women who work here are bike riders and they love to be a part of these day trips. Our biking trips play a role in breaking gender norms for the team and empowering women".

However, Kapur highlights that there used to be many overnight camping trips organised for team building which have now come to a halt.

The pandemic has caused our idea of "normal" to change. Leadership at companies feel challenged to evolve to virtual workspaces and maintain employee motivation. This contributes towards team building as employees feel motivated to work for firms which care about their personal development.

Vidhi Bubna

Freelance Writer

Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who writes about a wide variety of topics. She starts every morning reading current affairs and likes to keep up with new trends worldwide. She is also a trekking enthusiast and hopes to move to the Himalayas someday. 
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