Our Human Resource Team: A Story of Remote Working

We have been working from home for a little over two months now and it’s been going pretty well so far. Individually, all team members are doing their best to maintain the same level of efficiency and productivity that they have been ensuring at the office premises. But who is making sure we don’t forget each other’s faces? Who is the glue holding us all together?

It is, of course, our resolute HR team!

Being an organization of 300+, we were afraid that we won’t recognize each other by the time we came out of our homes. Our HR team, however, is making sure that doesn’t happen.

Be it updating sessions with different teams or non-work activities, they are leaving no stone unturned to come up with new ideas every week to help us stay connected, practice teamwork, and of course, feel as positive and normal as we can, in this dire situation.

Individuals who stay alone or away from their family can relate how lonely and boring it can get in a circumstance where you are forbidden from stepping out. While practicing physical social distancing is one of the key highlights of the pandemic, our HRs keep reminding us time and again how it shouldn’t prevent us from indulging in virtual socializing. From activities like online quizzes, charades, Pictionary, to anything fun that can be executed from home, it’s difficult to feel that we’re away from our colleagues!

In one such attempt of virtual socializing, we approached Ruchi Bhatt (our HR Manager) and Barkha Budhori (our Employee Engagement Coordinator) to share their side of the coin. Read on to find out how they are coping with the general state of affairs while keeping the team motivated.

Beginning of the work-from-home era

Ruchi: When WFH was announced for us, the lockdown was yet to be imposed, so I could work from office for a week. Since we were getting a hint that the situation could be long-term, I brought some laptops back home in case someone’s infrastructure gave away. I used the buffer time to prepare soft copies of all important documents that were to be circulated across teams, individuals, and new-joiners.

Barkha: I wasn’t mentally prepared for this at all! This is very new to me and I had no initial idea on how to manage remote working.

Managing office work and housework

Ruchi: I’m more or less sticking to the same routine I have been following all along — waking up early, walking my dogs, preparing food for everyone, cleaning the house, etc. I wrap up all house chores by 10:30 am and then log in to work. I do take short breaks in between to have a snack.

Barkha: I admit I’m not one of those people who love working out, and I’ll never be excited to get out of bed early. But it’s different now. I wake up early, whip up some breakfast, prepare for lunch, check my mail, and try to respond to the more important ones before starting my work for the day.

Keeping the team in sync

Ruchi: Both of us are following the same strategy. We have divided the whole Coditas workforce into groups. Barkha is responsible for starting the meetups. She keeps bringing various ideas to the table on how the team can be engaged virtually. Of course, it requires her to do a fair bit of homework. In the case of individual issues, folks can directly contact me via mail or message. We keep organizing meet-ups for teams to communicate collective queries.

Barkha: We are trying to utilize applications like Hangouts, Zoom, and WhatsApp as much as possible to address concerns, as well as for engagement activities. Since we cannot come together physically, I enjoy conducting weekly engagement events. Thanks to technology, we can at least see each other through video conferencing!

Challenges of being remote

Ruchi: As an HR, not being able to talk to people face to face is a real concern for me, especially if someone is joining or leaving the organization. Both are emotional moments for an individual and I regret not being present physically. Thanks to video calling technology, we are being able to make up for it to some extent. Also, it is more difficult to understand if things are okay with a team member unless and until he/she approaches us.

Barkha: Communication is definitely an issue, not being able to catch up with everyone, individually. At the office, we could go up to someone and enquire about their well-being and concerns. We can’t make such things out in virtual group meetings. Then there are issues like power cuts, internet connectivity failure, and the absence of proper work set-ups for some people. It is hectic to juggle office work as well as housework within the same span of time. Prioritizing and pre-planning tasks are helping. I am planning the team meet-ups a week prior and staying committed to my set goals.

Working from home: Yay or nay?

Ruchi: I like it. It’s easier for me to maintain a work-life balance. After coming back from the office, we feel too exhausted to do anything else, majorly due to commuting. Right now I can manage a little better. If I am logging out at 6:30, I’m home right then!

Barkha: I am a lazy person, to be honest, and hence I am loving WFH. I am happy to be getting those extra hours as well as energy which previously went into commuting. I’m investing that time for more productive things like learning how to cook, learning a new language (Spanish, for now), indulging myself in watching movies, picking up on long-lost hobbies like singing, dancing, painting, and acting. 

But at the same time, communication has limited itself. I don’t find emails as the most suitable way of communication for every circumstance. Sometimes it is more effective to help someone personally but that’s not possible now. Everyone has a different schedule at home and hence we cannot expect 100% participation in every event. Physical movement has lessened and that’s so not healthy.

Following a routine isn’t just about waking up to an alarm. My internal clock has also been affected. There is an overall change in mood due to the current situation. Sleep patterns too, probably. I like WFH but at the same time, not so much.

Key takeaways from the experience

Ruchi: We need to be ready for any kind of situation. We never imagined facing a crunch in the supply of essentials. In the pre-COVID-19 era, we had the luxury to decide on meals at the last hour because we knew we could just go out and get the ingredients. Now, we have to plan everything well in advance or else end up standing in a long queue outside a shop again and again. And, we have to make the best of whatever is available. We cannot afford to be choosy right now. By the way, thanks to being home all the time, I got to make friends with people in my society whom I had never met before!

Barkha: I miss junk food. The pandemic made me realize how everything is interconnected. We really have to be “atma nirbhar” (self-sufficient). We have to learn how to take care of ourselves without being too dependent on someone, especially those who live alone. More importantly, we have to be mentally prepared for anything and everything, given the situation the world is in. I miss my family. I am not liking the fact that I have to deal with everything alone. Now is the time we connect with and support each other mentally or otherwise, as much as we can.

In conclusion to our virtual meet, Ruchi and Barkha advise all the HR professionals to set a goal for themselves which will help them stay active during this uncalled-for period. They should pre-plan work as far as possible and stay connected with team members. It is essential that everyone is both physically and emotionally fit once they go back to their regular lives.

The entire scenario may seem boring right now, but most of us will miss these days when they are gone. It’s the time we needed to figure out our lives, to pursue old or new hobbies, and of course, to stay motivated.

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