HR trends that shaped 2021- A year in Recap

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Highlights

2022: A year to look forward to

Has the new hybrid work culture affected the employees in anyway?

All IBM offices across India are open effective 1 December 2021 in a limited capacity, with only vaccinated employees being allowed entry to IBM Offices. Having said that, we have not held an expectation of every employee to come right back. Hybrid work is spurring the greatest re-thinking of work since the Industrial Revolution, and we are intentional with hybrid work. Our teams and their managers decide when it makes sense for them to come into the office to collaborate and co-create.

This is an extension of our work culture that was in place even before the recent disruptions. Our teams have always focused on outcomes, not activities, and this drives how work gets done. Now, even when employees come to work in the office, they spend only a few hours in meeting with colleagues and work for a particular outcome. There is no longer a scenario that anyone must come to the office just to do their everyday work.

What are the best practices being implemented to make employees comfortable?

We continue to take extensive preventive measures to ensure that we have a safe and secure environment for employees working from office. As part of this, IBM has redesigned its offices with an agile, collaborative & open approach to enable appropriate social distancing and safety protocols. On December 1, we also welcomed our employees to our offices across India in multiple ways. These included decorating the workplace (with rangoli, etc.), creating selfie booths, arranging live musical performances & karaoke, on spot feedback and conducting office-floor games.

Some of the other best practices that we follow, and which is crucial for the success of our hybrid work model, is to help create the right environment for employees to work effectively from home. We do this by extending benefits such as reimbursing telephone & broadband expenses, providing office supplies & backup power, and even donating office chairs.

What are the effective changes that are brought in place ever since Covid affected the working conditions?

The world has changed forever in the way we approach workplaces, and how work actually gets done. This is why IBM won't prescribe that our employees be in the office a certain number of days, and at home a certain number of days. Managers are designing what works best for their teams. We trust IBMers and managers to take the right call with respect to how they manage their work from office and home. Our work however would depend on client requirements as well. For example, IBMers supporting clients in essential services may have to work from client offices.

Another key change that we have institutionalized stems from us recognizing the fatigue in the industry among employees after working remotely for a prolonged period. "Mental Health Allies" is a new program created by in-house team of IBM occupational health and safety professionals for employees who want to help colleagues experiencing burnout or other mental health issues in a safe way by making them "mental health allies". The Mental Health Ally course does not cover diagnosis, nor do employees become therapists. It shows people how to dial back a crisis: spot warning signs, react empathetically, make people aware of resources, and create a psychologically safe work culture. Employees learn the limits of being an "ally" and not be a substitute for a qualified mental health professional.

What are the stipulated work norms authenticated by the organisation?

IBM's practices continue to be aligned with public health authority guidelines, IBM global policies & standards as well as local legal requirements. As conditions change, we will adjust. This may mean reverting to "work from home" if government guidance changes or if local clinical and population health data indicate community cases are accelerating again or changing IBM standards if advances in testing or treatment mean we can safely operate with increased flexibility.

Are the work norms more flexible after the Covid invasion in our daily lives?

Absolutely. As mentioned earlier, we are intentionally flexible to hybrid work. As the teams decide when to come to office, managers will become experts at work design, and intentional about their decisions.

We also bring this to life by continuing to follow the 'IBM Work From Home Pledge', the tenets of which are as below-

I pledge to be family sensitive.

♦ I pledge to support flexibility for personal needs.

♦ I pledge to support "Not Camera Ready" times.

♦ I pledge to be kind.

♦ I pledge to set boundaries and prevent video fatigue.

♦ I pledge to take care of myself.

♦ I pledge to frequently check in on people.

♦ I pledge to be connected.

(The author is a Vice President and Head of HR, IBM India/South Asia)

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