Jai Maroo, Executive Director steers the Organization Transformation & Excellence portfolio at Shemaroo Entertainment. With a commitment to value creation, he has catalysed Shemaroo’s digital expansion across platforms such as Mobile, Internet, and OTT. He has a strong technical foundation, having completed his Masters in Computer Science and Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A.
When the world went into a lockdown last year to stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus and the disease were new and not much was known about it in the beginning. This led to a lot of stress with misperceptions causing fear among people. At the workplace too, even as business moved to a work-from-home model to ensure business continuity, the challenge was to ensure that the stress faced by the employees was handled with care and empathy and it is here that our Winning Trait of ‘Putting Others First’ helped us immensely.
Psychological Impact of the Lockdown
As the lockdown impacted the economy, the media was full of stories of layoffs that caused anxiety amongst workers across businesses. Adding to this was the apprehension caused by deaths among family and friends, the distress coupled with uncertainty about symptoms, the unavailability of screening and tests and shortage of vaccines and treatments.
As the lockdowns eased and businesses opened up, employees faced a dual stress due to fear of catching COVID infection when commuting or at the workplace and also due to the restriction on mobility that led to staff pressures with higher work demands on the staff who could reach the workplace. The restriction of public life due to lockdown had an impact on people’s social lives.
All these factors contributed to the deterioration of work-life balance, with negative effects on mental health and physical health. The fallout of this social isolation and an “always-on” mentality was the risk of contributing to burnout. At many times, the stress led to frustration and anger that affected work and output. It was therefore necessary to ensure that all these issues were addressed in a timely and proper manner.
Caring for Employee’s Mental Health
The pillar of a successful business is employee-centricity. We realised that addressing workplace stress and anxiety requires a multi-pronged approach. From providing mental and emotional health support to addressing challenges that employees face that contribute to stress and anxiety, it is a collaborative process that requires understanding the resources that would be most helpful to them. Organisations must prioritise their employees and tackle these issues by ensuring financial stability, staying connected with employees and their families, and looking after their physical and mental health.
Ensuring Financial Security
To set employees’ minds at rest about any possible financial impact, we stood by our Winning Trait of ‘Commitment’ to our employees and did not implement any salary cuts across all employees despite the prevailing economic conditions. We ensured mid-year promotions and performance-linked incentive payouts and even made Diwali special for employees with a bonus payout. We rolled out the annual increments as scheduled in April 2021. A company-paid COVID Insurance policy was rolled out, protecting employees from any possible financial burden caused by COVID.
Staying Connected through Technology
We embraced technology to stay connected with our employees through the lockdown despite geographical separation. We had regular virtual “chai sessions”, shared special moments with employees’ families, and celebrated important occasions together virtually. To keep the children engaged, employees were provided access to quality virtual educational resources – books, games, lessons, recipes, quizzes, virtual visits to some of the best museums and zoos around the world, and even links to learn new languages.
Focusing on Mental & Physical Fitness
Realizing the criticality of physical and mental health through these stressful times, we conducted virtual fitness sessions and guided meditation sessions. Health tips were frequently shared with employees, and they were encouraged to set up a well-being plan. A three-month-long organization-wide fitness challenge was conducted to help employees sustain their fitness journey. Additional COVID-specific leave was rolled out to give employees adequate time to recover in case they were affected. A vaccination drive was organized to cover all employees and their family members, providing vital access to vaccinations at a time when slots were otherwise difficult to arrange.
Work-Life balance for WFH
To help people adjust and function in the new paradigm, employees were guided on setting up ergonomic workspaces and avoiding video calling fatigue. To break the working day and understanding the demands of work from home, an hour’s time of 1-2 PM was set aside for employees to attend to responsibilities at home, with meetings being discouraged across the organization.
Ready for the New Normal
With the learnings from the pandemic year, businesses can look forward to meeting the post-COVID challenges at the workplace with confidence, even as they prepare to return with offices revamped to follow COVID safety protocols!