Sun Life ASCI's comeback strategy centred on its people’s safety and wellbeing




Author: Rajeev Bhardwaj, Chief Human Resources Officer, ASC




June 11, 2020

Sun Life ASCI's comeback strategy centred on its people’s safety and wellbeing

"For us, safety and wellbeing of our people is paramount and should we see a consistent drop in the number of local cases, we would be looking at staggered activation of floors and workstations with 25 percent occupancy at most initially," writes Rajeev Bhardwaj, CHRO, Sun Life ASC India.

Covid-19, as an epidemic, is unique in how it has affected both the economy and people’s mindsets at large. As per the latest FICCI survey on Covid impact on business, 42 percent companies estimate that businesses will come back to a normal pace in three months, 47 percent companies estimate a time period of six months will be required for this and around 6 percent said it would take them more than a year. At the same time, it is equally critical for businesses to adapt to the new normal swiftly and try bringing back employees and clients into the fold of this re-aligned ecosystem. 
During the last few weeks, the conversation has revolved around Business Continuity and Enablement and the upcoming few weeks would definitely be focused on bringing both people and business back into the regularized cycles of sustenance and then growth. 
Employee safety is paramount 
It is imperative that as businesses look to resume operating back from office buildings in a phased manner, we look at both the physical and emotional aspects of people. At Sun Life (Asia Service Centre India), for example, our comeback strategy is centred on our people’s safety and wellbeing with logistics and infrastructure around it. 
Strategically, we will continue to keep close watch on both government directives and spread of the virus, to determine when we open our office premises. For us, safety and wellbeing of our people is paramount and should we see a consistent drop in the number of local cases, we would be looking at staggered activation of floors and workstations with 25 percent occupancy at most initially. 
We will prioritize those who cannot afford working from home due to personal constraints and those whose roles require being onsite as the first ones who would be working back from office premises. For an IT/ITeS organization, technology roles can be managed with flexible arrangement to a large extent, along with support functions like HR, Marketing, Quality or IT support. 
Shift of thoughts 
In an industry that does operate 24x7, commute is a key factor, and hence public Vs company managed transport would be an important aspect to evaluate. Planning out and rostering multiple work shifts is a critical decision since it affects social distancing norms and we will need to avoid crowding in common areas like lifts, washrooms and pantry areas. 
It is non-negotiable that as office premises open, measures are being taken for social distancing and maintaining hygiene. We have planned to provide our people with facemasks, transport with only two people in the cab, seats clearly demarcated, along with the maintenance of a daily health checklist. Thermal guns, sanitizers, gloves will become a norm at the workplace for all organizations. 
At the same time, we need to consider the emotional state of employees, who would be the early batches to return to the office premises. This particular pandemic has not been easy on any of us, with spending most of our time indoors, under the fear of contracting the virus and worrying about our family members and ourselves. 
Transparency is the key 
Organizations have to responsibly keep people informed about their strategies, remind them about health and safety standards and keep a keen eye on people’s mental wellbeing. At ASCI, we launched an Employee Assistance programme focused on mental wellness and our people and their families could reach a professional for any support they may need. 
We also partnered with our insurers and ran several sessions by professional doctors and psychologists educating people of their physical and emotional wellness. As responsible organizations, we should avoid expecting mothers, new fathers, and employees with a frontline health worker living in the same household, for a large part of this year. 
Looking into the future 
Today, as we look at a new workplace environment and business ecosystem developing, we need to be mindful of what ‘normalcy’ will be for the next few months. Some industries like travel, hospitality, leisure, restaurants and real estate will take longer than other industries to reboot. But it’s critical that small and medium enterprises in the area of manufacturing and services are supported by both clients and government to kick start their businesses again. Startups that have the ability to adapt to newer shorter product cycles will survive better. 
Organizations that have kept digital transition at the centre of their business will have an edge over those who have taken longer to adapt. This crisis is also a place for opportunity where we can relook at how our talent working models can evolve. It has definitely accelerated the gig workforce conversation and companies can look at hiring talent, location being agnostic and skill being prioritized. 
New work hour models, delivery measures will be considered while employing talent instead of following the conventional 9 to 5 office scenario. In the long term, organizations that take care of their people’s wellbeing and drive for more engagement during such times will have their employees contribute back with their loyalty, new ideas, consistent effort that can sustain businesses of the future.

About Sun Life Asia Service Centre

Sun Life Asia Service Centre (ASC) in India provides Business Processing, IT, and Investment Research shared services to Sun Life's global businesses. The 24*7 centres also offer contact centre and enterprise infrastructure to Sun Life’s businesses. ASC India and ASC Philippines work in perfect harmony to support Clients through all stages of Client and software life cycle for Sun Life in Canada, the US, and Asia. Over the years, the ASC has achieved scale and operational maturity by integrating closely with Sun Life’s corporate functions. The centres support Individual Insurance & Wealth, Group Benefits, Group Retirement Services, Document Services and Client Solutions services for Sun Life.

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