Abhay Singh, Senior Director - HR, Applied Materials India

Abhay Singh joined Applied Materials in 2008 and has spent 10 years in his role as the HR head for the India Applied Operations. As Senior Director for HR, he oversees all the HR functions and provides HR strategic direction towards the success of the India operations. He has a total of 25 years of rich HR experience in blue chip companies such as Motorola, Intel & Dell. In these organizations, he has most predominantly been in leadership roles heading the HR functions which include Staffing, Compensation & Benefits (C&B) & HR Generalist. He is a graduate from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) where in 1993 he completed his post-graduation in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations (PMIR). 

 

When the pandemic struck in 2020, workplace culture in India had already been changing. The changes were minimal but constant – workforce demographics were continually altering, objectives were shifting, and technology and digital collaboration tools had begun to play a more proactive role throughout the office. These are just a few of the factors that were reshaping India’s workplace dynamics.

The sudden shift to working from home created new issues that needed to be mitigated quickly to keep businesses running during a period of crisis and uncertainty. Since then, workplaces have become more resilient in the face of adversity and transformation and are therefore better prepared to sustain into the future.

Now we need to look back at the past two years and understand the dynamics of how India’s workplace culture has evolved. This can provide insight into the practices that should continue for the betterment of workplaces in the country.

How has the adoption of a hybrid model been beneficial?

Before the emergence of a new variant of COVID, companies had slowly started opening their office doors and encouraging their workforce to start working from offices again. The shift back had to be gradual, taking into consideration that working from home for nearly a year had fundamentally changed people’s outlook towards their work. Most companies have now embraced a hybrid work culture, wherein the paradigms of remote work and office hours have been merged.

Even though the parameters of a hybrid work model are still evolving, if done right, it can bring numerous benefits to companies and employees. The flexibility of this model can also help bridge the gap between people’s personal and professional lives, which can help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Encouraging work-life balance has always been key in the effort to support the mental health of employees and the pandemic has placed renewed attention on this topic in the workplace. A focus on mental health enables employees to feel like intrinsic parts of the team, which directly impacts the morale and culture of an organization. A hybrid model can help foster deeper working relations while also potentially reducing the possibility of burnout for employees.

While hybrid modes of working are increasingly being adopted, a well-managed workplace that embraces flexibility and digitalization and focuses on employee satisfaction is critical. Companies that can attract top talent and retain motivated and engaged employees through an evolved workplace will benefit greatly in the future.

Will the hybrid model of working be the future of the corporate ecosystem in the near future?

The new normal, as we know it now, will inevitably evolve. The constantly transforming workplace is likely to be hybrid, flexible, and more productive with an emphasis on collaboration and employee engagement. In the big picture, a flexible workplace also aids companies in dealing with challenging situations like the one brought on by the pandemic. It enables organizations to better navigate through uncertainty by having processes and tools in place to deal with business disruptions.

However, this new model is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Hybrid working must be adjusted according to the needs of a company at any given time. Furthermore, having a specialized strategy that is matched to the requirements and goals of a company is critical. Therefore, when assessing the effectiveness of a hybrid model one must take into consideration a company’s specific goals and desired outcomes.

What challenges did companies face when shifting from the traditional model of working to a hybrid model?

As pointed out earlier, a hybrid model needs to be implemented carefully for the right results. When the processes and policies for a flexible workplace are not laid out according to the needs of the company, it could have adverse effects. A workplace’s culture is sensitive to any sort of disruption, and a hybrid work model can be a considerable one.

One challenge the company face when shifting to a hybrid work model is ensuring that they are effectively supporting the needs of both remote and on-site workers. In particular, workplace procedures and practices need to be taken into account. For instance, all meeting rooms should be connected to video conferencing so that remote workers can see and engage with everyone in the room and be part of the conversation no matter where they choose to work from. Along similar lines, meeting invites should always include video conferencing links and employees should be instructed on how to plan meetings and events to accommodate both remote and in-person attendees. This includes using digital collaboration tools to support meetings and create seamless experiences for all workers.

Furthermore, ongoing guidance and support should be provided to help employees adjust to the new way of working. It’s crucial to always be adaptable and flexible. Companies must play a proactive role in shaping the workplace culture so that employees feel a sense of belonging and are motivated and engaged no matter where they are working from.

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