Former US President Barack Obama’s words come to mind as I write this post:
“When times get tough, we don’t give up. We get up.”
It is with a touch of humility and pride that I sincerely believe that T-Hub has followed this dictum in letter and spirit since the pandemic broke out in 2020. Right from the early days of COVID-19, when the world was shrouded in uncertainty, our organisation hastened to rise to the challenge of shouldering the responsibility of taking care of our employees. As the pandemic progressed, we lost no time in creating a robust support mechanism that extended aid to even our support staff, and, in some instances, our stakeholders, too. Like organisations the world-over, T-Hub, too, had to ensure that their employees’ physical and mental well-being and financial stability were prioritised and protected in this period of crisis.
Navigating the new reality that emerged in 2020 demanded proactiveness, creativity, courage and oodles of empathy.
Here, we take you through some of the most critical employee-centred initiatives that show we are in solidarity with our workforce and the innovation ecosystem at large, not just during these challenging times, but also beyond:
Creating an in-house COVID-19 task force
A group of highly motivated T-Hub employee volunteers called the ‘T-Hub Chargers’, rallied together to set up a support group to aid co-workers and their families who had tested COVID-19 positive. The HR department and the task force engaged with the affected families to provide medicines, food and groceries at all times. T-Hub’s Facilities team also delivered essential services to the homes of support staff members.
The company leveraged its resources and extensive network of contacts to provide oximeters, thermometers and other life-saving medical equipment to affected employees. An intra-organisation dashboard was designed to connect co-workers and monitor their well-being. This has emerged as a critical tool to track the health of employees and their families, and to share updates with the larger team regarding the same. Aside from this, we also created an intranet COVID-19 portal to spread awareness about the virus.
Among other initiatives, T-Hub created a video that was shared on YouTube, educating viewers on how the organisation is strictly following the government’s COVID-related hygiene and safety protocols in the workplace. We have also partnered with BlueSemi, a T-Hub startup, to use its innovative product, a contactless wireless thermal screening device that accurately measures body temperature.
Empowering the workforce to return to the physical workspace
Although offices have moved to the virtual world, I believe the time has come to gradually start opening the physical workplace to restore a culture of collaboration and brainstorming.
Some of my colleagues and I returned to the physical office in September 2020 to set an example to the larger team. While we are not insisting on people being in the offices, T-Hub’s leadership believes that since we operate in a dynamic innovation ecosystem, it is imperative for employees to start re-engaging with stakeholders on a day-to-day basis. Only then can the organisation flourish and overcome all the on-ground challenges associated with the pandemic.
The Telangana government also believes that the IT corridor should be reopened to support the long-term career goals of IT professionals and the extended workforce that depends on the sector for their livelihood.
Further, T-Hub’s world-class, state-of-the-art infrastructure caters to the unique needs of our employees and ecosystem partners, such as startups, corporates, SMEs, academia, mentors, freelancers and consultants. It is an integral part of our identity. We expect to have a fuller house by the time we move into our new premises, T-Hub Phase-2. It will be five times our current space and the world’s biggest innovation workspace. It will help us amplify our collaborative style of working in line with the original vision when T-Hub was launched.
T-Hub strictly follows government mandates and hygiene protocols to create a sanitised work environment for our employees to return to the office. We installed fumigation machines to deep-clean our premises to assure employees and business partners that our workstations are safe and secure for those who choose to work out of T-Hub.
Testing in-house for COVID-19
Since we run a shared workspace, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone in the office is COVID-19 negative and in fine fettle to work out of T-Hub’s facilities. The organisation encouraged employees to return to the office and assuaged their fear of contracting the virus by offering them free weekly in-house testing services. The service was also offered to the support staff.
Communicating with employees through webinars and townhalls
From the beginning of the pandemic, we have been proactive in extending as much support as possible through transparent and clear lines of communication with our employees.
For example, in the initial phase, T-Hub conducted several webinars promoting employee mental wellness at the workplace. Since our focus and priority is the mental and psychological well-being of our workforce, more support services in this space will be offered in the months ahead. We also continue to conduct informal weekly townhalls to understand how our employees and their families are coping with the stressful times.
Purchasing COVID-19 insurance cover for employees
With the arrival of the pandemic, organisations comprising less than 100 people (including T-Hub) have had to struggle to get group life insurance coverage for their employees. Unfortunately, insurers don’t find small corporate entities like us viable and have, therefore, been reluctant to renew group-term policies during the pandemic. Due to this challenge, despite being an organisation of our stature, we were unable to renew the group life insurance for our employees. However, since our employees’ well-being is our priority, we have opted to purchase life insurance cover for individual employees, spending three times the cost vis-à-vis the group insurance plan.
T-Hub’s employees are already a part of a group health insurance cover, and now the organisation has also purchased a special COVID-19 cover as an add-on. The policy covers self-quarantine, isolation and hospitalisation, among other pandemic-related health issues.
Organising vaccination drives
T-Hub conducted two vaccination drives called ‘Vaccithon’ that were open to employees and the extended ecosystem. It was a walk-in drive that was arranged within the T-Hub campus. Though our employees and others from the ecosystem had to pay for the vaccination, we bore the cost for the support staff and their families.
Changing work policies with the evolving times
It’s pertinent to mention here that before COVID-19, T-Hub didn’t support a work-from-home policy. An employee could opt for only one day per month to work from home. However, the pandemic dramatically transformed our work culture. Now, an employee can opt to work from home indefinitely after getting their manager’s approval.
Continuously communicating through the pandemic
It cannot be stressed enough that an organisation’s approach to creating its communication’s messaging during a crisis like the current one will firmly seal its reputation among stakeholders. Business leaders should craft an effective, authentic and inspiring communication strategy to demonstrate their support and empathy for their employees. We believe T-Hub has performed exceptionally well in this regard as we have consistently engaged with our workforce at a humane level and helped them confront the challenges and disruption arising out of the pandemic.
It has been our endeavor to build resilience in the ecosystem to emerge stronger on the other side. As our CEO, Ravi Narayan, mentioned in the early days of the pandemic, T-Hub should emerge as a beacon of hope in the dark times we’re living in. It’s my hope and belief that we have indeed been effective and compassionate communicators through the crisis.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that T-Hub’s leadership is focused on trying to reassure our employees—and the extended ecosystem stakeholders—that the organisation is always available to address any of their concerns arising out of the pandemic. We recognise that the people of T-Hub are its biggest asset whose interests have to be safeguarded at all times.
The past year has served as a lesson on how corporates—particularly their HR practitioners—can adapt to a crisis. HR leaders need to equip their employees with the skills necessary to navigate a transformed workplace that is adjusting to new policies and procedures.
The onus lies on organisations to build a high-trust culture that will create an empowering and enabling work environment, resulting in high productivity and employee satisfaction.
Let’s face it—the new normal is here to stay and is reflective of how the future of work will evolve in the long run. I urge organisations the world-over to adapt and thrive in the new, befuddling reality we occupy. That is the only way we can hope to get up again.