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The pandemic: Work Environment
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The pandemic: Work Environment

Industry-specific challenges such as pandemics and altered work arrangements continue presenting a challenge. What should future professionals be aware of? Chandana Chandra reports at the XLRI conclave 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly changed how we work. Many of us have changed to working from home and millions have lost their jobs. The future looks uncertain with the arrival of omicron (another variant of coronavirus). We don’t know when work will resume as normal or how the virus will impact the future of work. Human resources (HR), however, will play a crucial role in this uncertain future. A virtual HR conclave, called Kronos 21, was held by the XLRI Xavier School of Management Jamshedpur. It discussed how work, the workplace, and human resources have changed in the current pandemic. The conclave was designed to provide a platform for academics and HR professionals to share their experiences and insights on the constantly changing dynamics of the industry with students and HR managers.

Anita Sarkar (chairperson, human resource management area, XLRI), gave a welcome address titled Redefining the Role of Human Resource for the Future. She stated that the pandemic taught us many lessons but also raised many questions. What will the future look like for the employee-employer relationship in a hybrid arrangement?

Transitioning to a digitalised workplace is difficult because traditional office work has changed. However, it is possible to maintain inclusivity and include everyone in the work environment from afar.

A year and a quarter ago, Covid-19 struck like a shockwave. It forced us to think again and redefined our options. Deepa Narayan is the vice-president of employee satisfaction at Salesforce, an American cloud-based company that offers software solutions based in San Francisco. She said that many of us are discussing how we can be optimistic while being grounded with realities in a world that has changed. We came up with the principle of life-first, which focuses on survival and mutual help. She added that we will have business performance to drive, but we must also listen to our people’s feelings about driving business. She stressed the need for leaders who can combine courage and compassion in the new era.

Covid-19 has pushed the workplace into private living spaces, resulting in dramatic changes in life.

Susan Mathew, HR head India, LinkedIn, the American business-and-employment-oriented online service company, agreed that HR professionals had a hard time guiding their companies and employees when work shifted to homes. She stated that it was difficult for HR professionals to adapt to tasks, learn skills, and understand technology. For us, the remote workplace is not our office. The industry was experiencing a crisis in which both workers and leaders had to learn how to convert their home into a workspace and bring the same work feel into that space.

This is where the HR professionals in large corporate houses play a crucial role. An HR team is responsible for determining how work gets done, motivating and incentivizing workers, and how to adapt to a new workplace virtual or real. Keep the differences in your mind, no matter if employees work in a virtual or physical workplace. Customers don’t care about both the digital and physical aspects. They want quality products. Abhijit Bhaduri is a leadership and personal branding coach. Bhaduri is the founder and CEO Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates. He was speaking on Careers in a Hybrid Corporate World.

According to Suresh Narayanan (chairman and managing director of Nestle India Ltd.), the pandemic has thrown us into a world where there is acute uncertainty and the social and economic fabric are rapidly being destroyed. He stated, “In addition to the unpredictability,” that many corporate workers are used to planning for three to five decades in advance. However, in this current scenario, we can’t predict the future. We don’t know what the future holds.

He believes that this has forced everyone into a rethinking of their business models, with new propositions, services, and opportunities to expand an organisation’s footprint with new engagements. He said that leadership must demonstrate agility and anticipation in a post pandemic world. Narayanan ended his allegory with a parable. He stated, “The ability of an agile leader after a pandemic is to be able to change the tires of a vehicle while on the move.” Business leaders don’t have the luxury of being able to stop and look at new business models while waiting for an evaluation.

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