As we adapt to the new normal of working from home, companies are laying out new sets of rules to ease the work life of their employees. On similar lines, Lenovo India has rolled out new directives that bar any online meetings/zoom calls post 6.30 in the evening.
The intent is to have clear guidelines in place to ensure that employees are not expected to be on calls 24 hours a day.
“We do understand that the working time has increased, and this blurring of personal and official time has stressed out our employees. We are trying to move ahead and build a culture where an employee will not only work but also find time to balance things at home,” says Rohit Sandal, CHRO, Lenovo India.
As far as possible, Sandal continues, “We are not going to schedule any meeting between 1-2 p.m. As children are getting home schooled, working parents need to fix their meals and they deserve these breaks too, so that they can manage things at home as well.”
There is more. To ease some stress mid-week, Lenovo has decided that there will be no meetings on Wednesdays until 2 o’clock in the afternoon. “Employees can spend the time planning and ideating for the next week, and moreover, use the extra time to catch up on email or do other work-related tasks that otherwise tend to be neglected,” he adds.
“When lockdown began, we felt the need to engage with our employees. From meetings to personal conversations, it was of utmost importance to reach out to all employees, as frequently as possible.”
In the past few months of lockdown and the pandemic, no employee has availed any leave or holidays, for obvious reasons. Realising the importance of taking time off, Lenovo has been encouraging its employees to take at least five days off every quarter.
“Only four months are left for the year to end and we literally want our employees to take some time off. During that time, we expect them to be far away from their laptops as well,” Sandal explains.
In another simple yet efficient measure, to ensure that the employees feel safe during these troubling times, Lenovo has beefed up its medical insurance plan, especially for COVID. The Company has ensured that the medical insurance policy will now cover the benefits for COVID-19.
“If any employee or his/her family member contracts the infection or needs any medical assistance, we will bear the expenses without the employees having to touch their personal finances,” explains the CHRO.
As ‘work from home’ is relatively new to most of us, handling both personal and professional life can be daunting at times. Therefore, while bringing out several initiatives for the employees, keeping their sanity alive was another matter of concern for the management at Lenovo.
For employees struggling with relationships or work-related issues, and yearning to pour their heart out, the IT company initiated a counselling service, both for employees and their family members. This allows them to talk to the counsellors, and the details are kept confidential.
“Never really thought that working from home can be so stressful. Now we realise that working from office, which had a fixed routine, was more manageable and less stressful,” points out Sandal
The IT company did not lag in terms of engaging its employees as well as their children, and family members.
In Sandal’s words, “When lockdown began, we felt the need to engage with our employees. From meetings to personal conversations, it was of utmost importance to reach out to all employees, as frequently as possible.”
Therefore, the Company made a very detailed engagement plan for its employees. From zumba, yoga and fitness training sessions, to playing antakshari and bingo, it included a whole range of activities to engage the staff.
Sandal felt that it is not just the employees who are confined to their homes, their families too are going through the same ordeal. Therefore, the Company made sure that the activities planned for the employees involved their families and children too.
With this intent, several contests were organised, such as ‘Who sent the best picture’ and fancy dress competitions for the children over the weekends. The winners were later given Amazon vouchers.
While conversing, Sandal informed us that the Company has a tool whereby the engagement index of the organisation is measured and even tracked on a monthly basis. The engagement level in June was 4.36 on a scale of 5, which has been the highest in the last 12 months.
Clearly, despite not being able to meet face to face, the Company was able to connect and engage with its employees very strongly.
At a time when many companies have frozen mass hiring or continuing with lateral hiring, Lenovo has taken it slow.
According to Sandal, “Hiring has been slow and we have taken on close to eight people in June. With so much uncertainty, there is no doubt that everyone wants to wait and watch for the clear picture.”
Just like many IT companies, Lenovo also has a robust campus-hiring programme. Earlier, between December and February, it had hired 16 management trainees who were supposed to be onboarded in April. However, amidst the pandemic, it managed to honour its commitments and onboarded many new joinees.
When asked about hiring for critical roles, Sandal says, “At Lenovo, we believe that the load shouldered by each employee is fairly high, and likewise, every role is critical to us. We don’t classify roles into critical and non-critical ones.”
Being a global company, Lenovo has a large presence in Asia, and therefore, it felt the impact of the outbreak a couple of months before the pandemic engulfed India.
However, with effect from March 14, almost a week before the Government had announced a lockdown, the IT firm had shut its offices.
“Work from home was not such a big deal for us as we had a fairly well-established flexible- working policy, and everyone in our office was prepared for it. However, the employees working in the contact centres, solving customer issues, were in need of laptops and monitors. Therefore, we had to act quickly and arrange for gadgets which could be assembled at home,” the CHRO claims.
Towards the end of May, the Government had allowed it to restart production at the manufacturing plant in Pondicherry. However, things did not go as planned. As most of the staff in Pondicherry hails from Tamil Nadu and there were a whole lot of border restrictions, many employees were unable to join back.
The Company had assured these employees that their jobs are safe and they can rejoin once things are back to normal. The Pondicherry manufacturing plant has about 150 permanent employees, and the total strength can go up to 250 workers on the plant floor at a given point in time. The number of contractual workers can vary depending on the load,” explains Sandal.
Even with 1100 employees working in the corporate office, the Company has not opted for any cost-cutting measures, such as layoffs.
Sandal believes that reducing the headcount is a very short-term solution, because after about a year, companies will have to hire for these very same positions. He is of the opinion that downsizing should only be resorted to if it is a matter of survival for the organisation. Otherwise, shrinking the workforce does not really help the business in any way, except to “lose goodwill and adversely impact the overall mood of the organisation.”