COVID-19 is bringing about a radical transformation to the workplace- the way we work, and the way we even think about work. With a huge proportion of the global workforce now operating remotely, organizations are rethinking everything from the physical workplace to the technology to social interaction to the definition of productivity. What does the new normal look like? How will the employee experience of employees be different in the post-COVID workplace compared to before?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Emrana Sheikh, Head HR – India & South Asia at Johnson & Johnson, shares what the new normal will look like at Johnson & Johnson.
What are some of the changes which J&J has introduced in the workplace as lockdown comes to an end?
Keeping safety at the top of the priority list, we are revisiting our ways of working to ensure we remain socially connected while physically distant to curtail the spread of the virus. Enhanced cleaning, ample availability of self-cleaning supplies, physical barriers, and floor markings along with signage in local dialects have already been implemented to prompt the workforce to remain alert and protected – and these have been effective thus far. Additionally, they will be required to undergo highly localized mandatory training before their return to work.
What percentage of the workforce has been brought back to the office? How was that decided?
To help our workforce safely and seamlessly transition back to the office, we are in the process of planning a three-phase approach by strictly following the guidelines issued by the Indian Government and in alignment with our global workplace policies. The three phases will be guided by external factors (reduction in new cases, availability of testing for acute illness, healthcare system capacity, the status of public infrastructure, etc.), as well as internal factors (facilities readiness, training, employee/customer sentiment) on a localized basis.
In the first phase, we will continue with our manufacturing operations to meet the needs of our consumer demands for essential goods. On-site staffing in this phase will be up to 15% of capacity.
In the second phase, we will focus on managing the movement of our salesforces, subject to urgent requirements. This will increase on-site staffing up to 30% and expand return to workplace activities with protections. Subject to the effectiveness of the second phase, the third phase will include our teams at the corporate offices, who have been asked to work from home until the end of May, or until further notice. Here, we expect on-site staffing to reflect up to 65% of its capacity. This approach has been planned to ensure the workforce maintains social distancing and adheres to healthy workplace norms during this pandemic. The situation will be reviewed periodically to make the required changes as necessary.
How will HR ensure that people working from home do not miss out on the same employee experience as the office?
As many of our employees continue to work from home, technology will continue to help us stay connected and keep engagement and productivity levels high. Teams are encouraged to continue structured daily check-ins for work-related matters, as well as facilitate informal social interactions like coffee breaks, virtually. As an organization that’s committed to build the world’s healthiest workforce, we have continued with our sessions though virtually including 7 min workout apps, yoga/gym/dance sessions + health expert sessions + nutrition guidance.
We continue to offer EAP assistance to those that need sessions. Leaders are also engaged heavily in communicating with their teams. Town halls through webcast for all employees to tune in continue.
Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) now take online sessions and engagement activities to ensure that all members are able to participate and benefit from our culture of diversity & inclusion. Just as we have in the last two months, we look forward to maintaining social and cultural synergy across the organization despite the physical distance on other Employee Lifecycle processes, they continue to deliver positive Employee Experience leveraging from the Digital Transformation journey that we already have been on, even before the pandemic.
What are some of the HR policies that have been tweaked at J&J writ the post-COVID workplace?
With careful consideration to the needs of families and working parents at Johnson & Johnson, we introduced Care Giver Leave for two months to help employees manage their work-life integration and transition into new ways of working. Our flexible working norms continue to remain applicable and available to all those who may want to balance their personal and professional needs.
Recently, we announced 22nd May as the day where all our offices across the globe will be closed for business to enable an extra recharge day.
So, we continue to review the changing context and needs of our employees, stay committed to demonstrating our care through our policies.
On a larger policy framework, we continue to revisit and reinvent our policies to maintain focus on our strong organizational culture as well as diversity & inclusion, which are our pillars. This includes the recent launch of same-gender partner Mediclaim benefits, as well as inclusion in other family benefits like Holiday Plan, Relocation policy, Refundable Medical Advance & Adoption Leave for our employees who are proud members of the LGBTQ+ community.
What are some of the challenges that J&J is facing while the majority workforce operates from home?
It's been a challenging time for organizations around the world and Johnson & Johnson is no different. In fact, as a global healthcare company, we have been at the forefront of worldwide efforts to tackle the pandemic in multiple capacities, which includes the development of a vaccine and manufacturing of essential goods. So, our teams in India and across the region have been working relentlessly, often putting in more hours than usual. Since flexible working provisions were already in place at J&J, the transition into this lockdown was seamless for many. However, there is a percentage of the workforce for whom a less structured work environment has been unusual – especially now when we’re surrounded by health concerns and rising uncertainties that keep us preoccupied and distracted.
So, to ensure that employees can maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid the feelings of burnout or isolation, we have expanded access to global mental health, mindfulness and resiliency tools where they can access tools and counseling resources for emotional or mental health support.
They are also encouraged to take paid time off or opt to flexi working hours to rest and rejuvenate. It is a complicated time for everyone, so we remain mindful of providing emotional support and communicating with a sense of compassion.
What are some of the trends that will become the norm in the post-COVID workplace in the coming six months? How will the employee experience of employees be different in the post-COVID workplace compared to before?
Heightened safety measures, social distancing requirements, logistical boundaries, rotational shifts, and staggered work hours are results of the pandemic that have compelled organizations to reevaluate the fundamentals of workplace operations. At the same time, this will bring about a transformational opportunity for the workforce to be more agile, for managers to advance creative productivity initiatives and for organizations to leverage digitization to its maximum potential. This is indeed the time where new norms will redefine productivity, technology will leap-frog, outside-the-box thinking will get defined in a manner that we couldn’t have imagined prior to this experience.
Purposeful organizations will be able to retain high morale despite the external context and its time when we need to over-communicate to have all employees’ passion to come alive to deliver that purpose. As a purpose-led organization, Johnson & Johnson is keeping patients and consumers at the core of our business continuity with extreme measures of employee care. We will continue to transform with evolving needs our operations to deliver the purpose that we are meant for.