COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon
Rajiv Tewari,Founder, Journos.in
Employees want the flexi work option: Do the Bosses Agree?
Based on an interaction with Ashish Bajaj, COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon. The ability to work flexibly informally, receiving paid parental leave, differential time slots & work from home when needed, have begun to figure as one of the big attractions for employees world-wide. Companies have begun to respond by increasingly introducing flexi time work policies. ‘Time for me’, is a very attractive value proposition for the millennial workers while choosing a company.
According to a recent study by JobsBuzz published in the Economic Times, 30% of the employees reported that they are allowed to work from home at least twice a week. In a similar study in 2014 only 10% employees had reported that they are allowed to work from home. The trend is catching up in India yet there are a large number of managers who are not so confident about flexi work policies. Though most agree that a flexi option is good for employee motivation but there are negatives too. Distraction by family members is quoted as one of the biggest negative as it disturbs the workers from concentrating on office work. Another reason is that most of the Indian bosses as well as the workers are not very process oriented due to environmental constraints as well as the habit of communicating verbally.
General perception is that flexi policies work best in the IT Sector. I met Ashish Bajaj, COO & Co- Founder of Round Ark Ltd, to find out about his experiences& perspective. Round Ark is a reputed MNC in the digital marketing space with offices in UK & India. It is currently working with several corporate giants as well as start-ups to explore the business opportunities available in the digital world. Here are the excerpts of my interaction with Ashish:
"Situation in the IT industry is not much different from the other sectors due to the habit of most of the Indians to talk rather than write. Bosses as well as the employees, in most of the organizations, are more comfortable with face to face interactions" said Ashish. At the same time, the employees at Round Ark work very differently while interacting with their clients and colleagues located in different parts of the world, so it’s really a question of preference and not the ability to adapt to new ways of working.
The success of flexi policies depends a lot on disciplined bosses and employees who are well conditioned to follow processes and systems. Robust written communication protocols based on emails and online collaborative tools are the key to productive work specially for those who work from remote locations on a full time or part time basis. Companies where flexi work policies have worked very efficiently have invested a lot of time and attention in training their employees and their bosses before implementation. Studies have also brought out the fact that flexi time does not work with all kinds of employees. Flexi policies need a qualifier so that only those who show higher productivity are allowed the privilege to work from remote locations. At the end of the day, output can not be compromised for the sake of implementing flexi work policies.
Round Ark Ltd does not have a formal written down flexi work policy but it is very much there in practice. The bosses allow the employees to work from home or come late to the office on a case to case basis. Indians are notorious about arriving to office late but at the same time they stay late at the work place and go out of their way to help their colleagues when there is a need to ensure that work does not suffer. If an employee has an urgent need, due to personal issues, others always come forward to take over the extra work load and help out. Flexi work policies, in India, may need a mix of informal and formal protocols.
A lot of Round Ark employees commute long distances to reach their office in Gurgaon. Ashish himself takes about one and half hours to reach his office from Noida. Given the condition of traffic on Delhi NCR roads, many a time it is simply not possible to adhere to strict timings at work. There are many employees who are from single unit families and some have ailing parents at home. The Round Ark leadership understands these challenges and encourages its employees to have a work life balance with full support from their bosses. Flexi timing, leaves with pay and work from home are allowed on a case to case basis. "Instead of a formal flexi work policy what is needed is a lot of compassion and the ability to give enough comfort to the employees so that they can share their personal life challenges with their bosses to keep them aware" said Ashish
I entirely agreed with Ashish’s point of view and was reminded of my own experience as a bossin a large organization which did not have a flexi work policy and believed in strict work time protocols. These protocols were necessary as the organization was in the healthcare sector with a 24 x7 interface with its clients. I found that one of our very competent team members had begun to falter on performance parameters and looked quite depressed. This person was in the top management team so we had frequent interactions. In one of the informal meetings with this colleague of mine, I discovered to my horror that she had a one year old kid at home who had several medical issues and her mother in law was too sick to be able to help. She wanted to take care of her son but at the same time did not wish to leave the job. Her job mostly involved interfacing with the journalists over phone and emails with occasional offline meetings. I talked to the CEO and explained how the work would not suffer if she was allowed flexi timings and also allowed to work from home when needed. Given her high performance rate, the CEO immediately agreed and in fact told me that we should have a similar policy for all the areas where work would not suffer and the employees would be able to deliver better results.
I think, the bosses would happily agree if flexi policies make business sense. In India, an informal system may work better in the initial stages for many companies as long as the top management keeps a personal touch with the employees. A formal system can always follow once the organization is ready to implement it with a robust monitoring system in place.
Founder of Fortune Architect
Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC
Respected HR Leader
CHRO, LANCO INFRATECH LIMITED
Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers
Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International & CharityWorld.com
Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi
Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant
Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International
Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies
COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon
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