The new commonplace, for a better planet!

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Essentials. Social Distancing. Remote. Mental health. Mindfulness. Pandemic. Zoom. WFH. Second Wave. Lockdown. Quarantine. The New world.

Undoubtedly words that topped the charts in 2020 and probably will continue to do in 2021. I’m mindful that it’s a grim situation out-there, so this is not an attempt to dissuade any positive thoughts. On the other hand, just want to share how communication professionals took centre-stage with their leadership teams to enhance, rather better, the engagement with employees.

Recently heard – Tara Davis, Director of Internal Communications, American Psychological Association – on the Internal Comms Pro, Podcast (Google podcast). Her chat revolved around the interesting initiatives designed by the association to enhance remote work engagement strategies.

And this is what motivated me to speak to few voices in the fraternity and understand how employee care is evolving, because it’s here to stay.

“Internal communications witnessed a paradigm shift, where staying connected with employees is now of utmost importance. It’s all about people-to-people connect and not about just informing them anymore. As a society we are not attuned to working from home, hence it was critical for us to empathise and listen. We initiated listening to our employees through a weekly wellness survey. This helped us to relook and change our internal policies, in order to figure-out what works for our employees. For instance, it bought to fore the concern around ergonomics – chairs at home that aren’t suited to work for 8 hours or flexible desks – which got us thinking on how do we help them to make this better”, shared Pooja Sabharwal, Head Communications, India at Paypal India (during a recent PRPOI panel discussion).

Every organisation today is mindful and understands the need to spread cheer and happiness, but some are also looking at this time to deep-dive for a better nudge.

Just like Nucleus PR, understood that this 24X7 work culture will need some conscious effort to draw boundaries between personal and professional space, especially educating clients (who themselves have been anxious). Tarunjeet Rattan, Managing Partner, Nucleus PR, explains, “Probably darker times call for better solutions. We began looking inwards, even more seriously, and felt the need to get onboard a mental health counsellor – an individual who would positively contribute to my team’s mental health. Sometimes founders and managing partners are not enough. The usual nuggets of fun and happiness continue as a ritual for us, but its now a constant endeavour to keep checking on our teams, more than ever. Last year, in December, we celebrated our business anniversary through a care package for each team member, which was curated with inputs from our mental counsellor. And did they love it or what”!

Infact sometimes, few acts of kindness come in even smaller packages, but go a long way in creating impact.

“Daily team calls on Microsoft Teams to stay meaningfully connected, where every call has an element of fun and serious work. Ensuring there is enough knowledge sharing and competency enhancement through various online courses and PRClub membership for the team. Empathy and trust are now in the forefront, while basics like no work calls during lunch or after 7pm, got more emphasis. With 2020 playing a havoc, we had to bring about smooth functioning through simple tasks such as technology upgrade, a creative desk and softwares system team sent to the design individual homes, alongwith office chairs shipped to our employee households. These might seem easy and simple initiatives, but deep-down needed a lot of understanding on how we as a brand could contribute towards our employees and we are glad to have done this”, expresses Sujit Patil, VP and Head, Corporate Brand and Communications, Godrej.

When you grow mindful for your employees, it’s not just a drop in the ocean, instead something that one practices every day and probably with everybody. The kind gesture by Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick to respond to my questions, really early on a Monday morning, got me thinking how leaders today are working hard with all their might to beat the Covid-blues! “We announced an allowance of 250 dollars, for all to buy a new office desk and chair (unanimously across markets and all levels). Ensured there are ‘comp-offs’ if any team member has worked on weekends. We now have – Gratitude days – like a thank you day and taking time off from all electronic devices and relaxing those overworked mind cells! Family fun days have been enjoyable and, in a way, great method to excite employees and thank their families for the support to work tirelessly”, shared Valerie, as the best practices ongoing at Weber Shandwick.

Amidst so much change, when companies seriously attempt to create an honest ‘feedback culture’, its immensely commendable. And this is what Abhishek Gulyani, H+K Strategies India shared. “At our monthly catch-ups, we told our team members to ask me anything related to work and I tried responding to each of them. We now ensure to ask for feedback – focused purely on constructive feedback for the organisation. H+K Tales, which is getting the entire group together, to give a sense of belonging and collaboration and that we are all in it together. Other practices like – Virtual Thursday Breakfast across METIA region; Friday Breakfast sessions in India; H+K learning, sessions with marketing & communication professionals – these and many more grateful activities that ensured we stay dedicated and motivated. Interestingly our focus was on ideas over hierarchies, collaborate more and most importantly work with empathy”, beautifully put forth by Abhishek.

Hope these examples help you look inwards in your companies, help your teams better and remember that these practices and initiatives have to be long term. Nothing better ever comes out from a short-sighted plan!

(PS: These examples just highlight how communication professionals and their organisations are focusing on employee betterment. In no way does it undermine the efforts by others, not mentioned here, in the article. These teams are doing much more than what has been shared. The objective is to share simple ideas, approached differently).

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pooja Trehan
Pooja Trehan, VP, Communications & Public Policy.

Building brands through story-telling is what keeps me going! Having spent 18years in this industry, I am far more excited to experiment on what's next to unlearn. Worked with industries across FMCG, Oil & Gas, Technology, Fashion, Telecom, Media House, F&B and now Sports, my curiosity to craft a narrative only gets deeper. Marathons, Black Coffee, learning about Scotch and Malts, reading everything i can, travelling, are few of other personal passions that I happily pursue.

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