Deepshikha Dharmaraj, CEO at Genesis BCW, sheds light on new workplace norms to safeguard employees in the post-pandemic era
The current economic crisis has also pushed employers into inspecting the employee experience. Personal factors rather than external factors supersede what matters for organizations and employees alike. Moving forward in our conversation with the agencies’ heads regarding reopening of agencies and firms, e4m next spoke to Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer at Genesis BCW where she shed light on norms the professionals are adapting to and how they will provide safety and care to the employees.
Professionals have now adapted to the hybrid working model. Do you think it will be easy to go back to the same routine as offices are now reopening?
Last year, we all hit reset in terms of the working model. Back then, it was a sudden shift and we didn’t know how long it would last. However, professionals across the board have shown resilience in adapting to the new ways of working. The return to the office in this hybrid model will be another adjustment. We need to realize that things can’t go back to the way they were. There is definitely inertia that we will need to break through, both at the organization's as well as the employees’ end. We have to remind people of the joys of working in an office—team connect, better collaboration, learning, face-to-face social and cultural mingling and more. In our case, it’s also about doing media rounds—the media is back in the office, after all, and they don't want to meet online anymore. Hybrid working, therefore, now needs to be seen as the norm. This time the change is not so sudden, so we can discuss and come to solutions that work well for everyone.
During the pandemic, the agencies and corporates have recruited many young talents to their organizations. Do you think they are prepared for joining physically?
I think in every organization—and certainly in ours—this conversation has already happened during recruitment. Unless specifically discussed, when the hiring is done for a particular location, it is expected that the person will join whenever the office opens there. That is what they agree to when they come on board. Of course, it is still early days, so I am eager to see how this will pan out.
How have businesses and firms adapted to the changed norms due to the pandemic?
The pandemic has brought employee welfare and engagement up front and centre forcompanies. Whether it was from the point of view of physical health or mental health,motivation or connectivity issues, productivity or responsiveness, the last 18 months havebeen about constant focus on employees.Digital acceleration is the other major trend, ofcourse. Not just in the work we do for ourclients, but also in the way we work—ourprocesses, operations, and so on.Overall, I thinkbusinesses and firms have been resilientand responsive to the rapid changes. There has also been much greater empathy all across.We knew that our clientswere facing several challenges at their end, and on their part, they were sensitive to ours. There has been a greater sense of partnership and collaboration as well.
Post-pandemic, what are the employees’ demands? What perks are you able to provide them?
Flexible and hybrid working was already built into our systems, even before the pandemic, so for us, that’s not really new. What we are seeing, though, as I mentioned before, many people are now working from different locations. So they are looking at that kind of flexibility now. People with small kids or caregivers want to continue to work from home and we understand that completely. The pandemic has also given people time to reflect on their priorities and where they see their careers going. In many cases, they want to redefine what they want to do next. Where possible we are giving people the opportunities to explore those options.
How will you take care of the employees who recovered from covid-19 disease?
We have been supporting our people in four ways: medical support, emotional support, logistical support and financial support. On the medical front, they have access to doctors, medicines, equipment like concentrators and hospital connects. We have also helped our people get vaccinated. Emotional support is both, in terms of mental health as well as giving them additional COVID leaves to look after their health as well as family care leave. Financial support has been critical. We have helped them with loans as well as insurance. And finally, logistical support, which was seen the most during the second wave. Our COVIDEmergency Support Team help people get oxygen cylinders, ambulance services and more.
What do you think are some of the changes that the communication industry will be undergoing in the times to come?
On the people front, hybrid working will continue to be the way of life. In some cases, roles will need to be redefined in terms of where hybrid is possible and where it is not. We will also need to see the percentage of time we want people to be in office—we have to look at it in terms of time, not the number of days. On the client front, I know that communication has been one of the most critical needs of businesses and our clients have really leaned on us to engage with their different stakeholders. As I always say, public relations is the only marketing discipline that touches all the stakeholders of a company, and that is why the industry’s role has been critical. This has been across services—whether it is digital, creative content, public affairs, crisis management, employee communications or healthcare communications. Purpose-led creativity has been the differentiator and that is the approach that we have been helping clients to take.
The article was first published in the Exchange4media