COVID-19 calls for companies to relook at people policies to assist employees
COVID-19 is going to be the strongest change element to revolutionize the workplace in over two decades. Things have certainly changed both for employers and employees. Employers had to bring transformation by default – the shift to virtual working, virtual skilling, and virtual management, but now they need to continue it by design. Will hybrid be the future is the main question of the hour?
In the last 400 days, the government has introduced various reforms and companies have also re-looked at their people's policies to suit the current situation. However the pandemic is still not over and especially with COVID impacting more severely than the first wave, many companies, irrespective of sectors, need to be cognizant of their employee's welfare and safety. Currently, more than 60% of the workforce is operating virtually or in hybrid models and the pandemic is expected to run into a third wave as well. With this, companies may have to rebuild/re-adjust certain policies.
Industries like IT/ITes, BPO, KPO, BFSI, Telecom; both in Tier 1 and Tier 2/3 towns have already initiated the process of setting up new policies and structures for their employees. Expandingmany policies outlines such as that of Work from Home Policy, Employee Medical & Insurance Policy, Compensation (Fixed & Variable) policy, to consider homes of employees as a workplace was the first move that was addressed. What was and continues to be the major challenge is to bring a definite line between working and non-working hours as the ‘location' of work continues to be the same.
From a global perspective, some of the interesting changes that have happened are that companies have considered globally are:
- Roll out full monetary and medical support to employees
- Intermittent work timings for employees
- Rapid investment into technology and digital up-gradation
- Extension of work from home through the calendar year
Keeping this in mind, here are some of the larger areas where companies need to be observant:
- Employee wellness (mental and physical well-being): Companies are hiring various specialists and counselors to help employees manage stress anxiety and disorders arising out of Covid and work from home.
- Up-skilling of employees: There is an emergence of new e-learning platforms to help candidates hone their skills and develop digital skills
- Working hours and leave policies: Flexible timing, long week offs, leave policies are being tweaked to manage the regular households and also during families getting infected or affected.
- Employee safety-related policies (including POSH): This policy was always there but now has more visibility as employees working remotely also get covered under the POSH act
- Revisiting existing insurance coverage and monetary aid and support to employees: Insurance companies and re-insurance companies are revisiting their policy as the claims have risen dramatically and all of them have started re-aligning their policies, riders, and premium value
- Revisiting medical policies: Companies have come all out to extend the medical checks, claims, and services for their employees and their extended families. They are renegotiating with hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic centers to provide a packaged offering for their employees.
Employers today need to agile, adaptable, and flexible with their policies. This will not only help in improving overall productivity but also help to maintain morale and avoid burnout and attrition during the current uncertain times.
All of the changes that companies are considering or need to consider will lead to a high focus on employee safety, security, health & care, flexibility in the job location and timing, regulatory and statutory compliance, simplifying laws, creating redressal cells, and creating good governance in the organization. This in turn would entail companies maintaining high policy adherence which has been more of a case globally than in India. Employees and employers will be more process-centric and will thus avoid heavy penalties and jail terms which generally happen due to non-compliance.