#SAMBANDHSTORIES BINDU VISWANATH AT TRELLEBORG INDIA

Date: 
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

#Sambandh Stories is a series of short interviews with our members or collaboration partners on different topics of interest.

The below interview is of Bindu Viswanath, Director of Human Resources at Trelleborg India.

COVID-19 had thrown us all in to a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) situation and how has this made you re-define what is essential and non-essential for you?

What is a must and what can wait? The answer defines what is essential and non-essential during this unprecedented period. On a broader note, from food, clothing and shelter, which defined essentials for a human being in earlier centuries, probably got redefined to ‘Food, Internet and Hygiene’. Possessions and activities, which we considered essential and important has taken a back seat and the vacant positions have been replaced with fresh ones.

At the workplace, health & safety has become the foremost priority and predominates all scenarios ensuring the precautionary measures are in place. Everybody is following a comprehensive hygienic routine—washing hands frequently, frequent usage of hand sanitizers, carrying sanitizers, and maintaining social distancing at workplace all the time.

Travel, which was one of the inseparable ingredients of our business is now being diminished to non-essential, unless very urgent. New channels to keep customer relationship, an irreplaceable element in business, are emerging.

The working from home practise has blurred the line between work and leisure. Since there is limited social life with the outside world, many are working for longer hours nearing the edge of burnout. When you are “ONLINE”, expectation in terms of responding to mails or calls or messages spikes up. In an urge to become a “model employee”, people end up taking more stress affecting work life balance.

The crisis has illustrated the significance of internet and digital platforms to stay connected, share information and explore avenues of doing business. Activities that we enjoyed most and were important to us in our earlier “normal “life like the festivities, celebrations, vacations, time with friends has become extrinsic requirements. Essentially, the “new normal” practices define the essentials and non-essentials for us! In a nutshell- we have learnt to achieve more from less.

 

COVID-19 has transformed our regular rhythms of personal and professional lives, how have you seen this impact you, your colleagues and your organisation?

The biggest learning for us is being adaptable and being resilient during this crisis. Remote working was a new experience for many. Key challenges they faced included setting up a remote office desk, attending calls for longer duration, getting used to headphones for longer hours, learning how to manage a team remotely, segregating family and workhours and so on. The nine hours working days was replaced by a bigger work slot of 24/7! They embraced this change and post the initial teething problems, things got settled.

Employee engagement played a key role which was effectively channelized through interactive mailers and activities through online platforms guaranteeing the participation of family members as well. Online games, life during COVID time movies, social service activities, technical webinars for customers were some activities organised to engage people.

In families with both partners working, ‘Sharing became Caring ‘. Friends and families united in online platforms, sharing their experiences with the message that “we are all in this together”. We are social beings and we have a strong innate tendency to be with other people. Being in regular touch with friends and relatives is an excellent way to address loneliness and depression. The pandemic has surely enhanced our way of communication and collaboration impeccably, whether it’s in professional life or personal life.

Significance of contributing to the society and needy people around us is another self-realisation which emerged in this period. Rather than accruing wealth, using it for the right purpose, serving the people around us, became a pure bliss for many. Many employees were actively engaged in such social service activities through different mediums. Stepping out of their comfort zone, risking their life was not easy, but the purpose motivated them in doing so. Trelleborg has partnered with Akshayapatra in providing ration to the needy in and around Bangalore and we are working closely Hand in Hand to extend our support to the society.

For business, being adaptable means, being creative, using new technology platforms, exercising agility, and using every opportunity that came. Earlier, the sales engineers were meeting customers in person, it was easy to communicate, to build trust and rapport with the customer. In the new normal, were travel is highly restricted, how do you build relationship with a prospective customer whom you haven’t met over a Teams Call? Managers had to explore ways and means to supervise team with zero physical interaction. These are the transformations which the business needs to oversee. Being online is no more an option for people as well as business, it is mandatory. Essentially businesses are considering ways and means in meeting customer needs, also re-evaluate the way of doing business.

Our lives have undergone a lot of transformations during this pandemic phase. We realised the importance of many things around us which were not so significant earlier. So, it becomes even more important to cherish and value these things in this “New Normal Era”!

 

As you are navigating the parameters of opening your offices as per the government guidelines, what are your top priorities with regards to worker well-being in Trelleborg?

Without an iota of doubt, employee’s Safety and Security is of utmost importance in this scenario. Seamless coordination and a well-defined communication plan at all levels is very crucial in these unprecedented times. It’s not only about what we do, how we communicate and pass this message to each and every employee in the organisation, really matters. Sometime, this could be complicated for Organisations working from different locations, time zones, culture. How did we address this? At global level, a country coordinator was nominated to represent their country. These country coordinators had virtual joint meetings to share the country specific status, challenges faced, employee’s well-being, which guided us in taking uniform safety measures across countries, adhering to instructions from local government. This was an avenue to showcase “We are all in this together, lets support each other in all possible means”.

Trelleborg in India operates from 5 different premises. Out of these five premises, 3 are manufacturing  plants and 2 are Sales /IT offices. The three Trelleborg manufacturing  plants in Bangalore has started operations by end of April, functioning with reasonable capacity. All other employees belonging to other business units were operating from home till mid of May. Since the plant started operations well in advance, it helped us to implement all the safety and security measures directed by Government.

The local COVID Action Force Team including representatives from all business units took up the task of implementing safety measures in all Trelleborg Premises.

Return to work is planned in such a way, which will help us to test the security and safety systems in place. The ramping up is done in a slow pace. Some of the specific steps to build confidence in employees included inspection of all facilities by management team and addressing all the queries of employees. Our techies developed an application which helps to capture the temperature of employees and their entry timing. Usage of biometrics is not recommended for attendance purpose, the output from the application is used. Employees and visitors coming to Trelleborg premise has to submit an online declaration ensuring that they are not coming from a high-risk zone and they don’t have any health issues. Multiple virtual townhalls were organised to boost the confidence level of employees by answering their queries. Since wearing masks has become compulsory, Trelleborg is providing reusable masks to all our employees and contract staffs on a regular basis. Handsfree sanitizer dispensers are put in use at all our premises. The pandemic has pushed us into maintaining social distancing, which is comparatively easier in workspace than in canteen during meal hours. With a limited seating capacity and specific meal hours, it is really challenging to come up with measures ensuring social distancing in cafeteria and canteen. Staggered timings, limiting items in the menu, altering buffet model to serving model helped to reduce the touch points has helped.

We will have a lot of things to reflect over when we emerge from this catastrophe. Let’s hope and wish we all come out triumphantly in this battle.

Thank you Bindu!

 

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