The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated profound changes in the way we live and work. With restricted movement and the mandated social distancing norms, companies need to be agile and adapt to newer models of working. As part of essential services, we had to quickly adapt and continue business as usual.Extending the benefit of working from a safe and comfortable environment, Sunita Rath, Chief People Officer at Aegon Life shared detailed insights with BW People Journalists and on how and why the management devised this leverage as a policy in the organisation. Why has Aegon Life Insurance decided to shift to WFA model?Aegon Life has been at the forefront of digitization in Insurance. To further strengthen our Digital DNA and to provide more freedom/ convenience as well as dynamism to our employees, we introduced the “Work from Anywhere” (WFA) policy on April 1st, 2021. This new workplace flexibility is our investment towards employee well-being and productivity. At Aegon Life, we prioritised the health and safety of our employees. By embracing the WFA model, we continue with business as usual without compromising on employee safety or productivity.Another benefit for Aegon Life is that as a digital life insurer, the kind of talent we seek is spread across the country. With the WFA policy in place, we now have access to pan-India talent, since we are also able to “hire from anywhere”. More and more, such flexibility is going to be a key differentiator that top talent will seek, from their employers.2. How is Aegon life working towards to achieve a successful work-life balance among employees?We have always been conscious of the importance of achieving a successful work-life balance. Sometimes, remote working can blur the boundaries between work-life and personal-life. This can have an impact on an individual’s mental well-being, especially in the backdrop of the current environment. So, we took special care to introduce measures within our WFA framework to that support employees in achieving an optimal work-life balance. These include: We at Aegon Life have devised a structured approach to work, with clearly defined outcomes and timelines. In that context, productivity management is a matter of tracking those outcomes against the pre-defined expectations/timelines. The flexibility we provide through our Core Working Hours policy, allows employees to plan their work for each day as per their convenience, thereby increasing their effectiveness and productivity. The focus has shifted from tracking efforts to assessing desired outcomes on an ongoing basis.This is a new way of managing employees for our supervisors and there are challenges particularly in inducting/coaching new employees – something that was much more easily accomplished in a face-to-face working environment. However, there is positive intent and willingness to adapt, and I am happy to share that all of us are coping up well enough with collaborative learning. We are nevertheless working on a learning framework to help build proficiency in doing these things effectively in a WFA environment.4. Emotional Well-being is need of the hour. How is Aegon Life working towards achieving this balance among employees?Each of our employees has access to an online mental health and emotional wellness coach to support their mental and emotional well-being. This is an initiative that provides expert guidance from 1000+ experts with complete privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity on a range of issues including Stress, COVID-19 Anxiety, Career, Relationships, Confidence and much more. Additionally, we have organized a series of trainings and webinars on topics like DIY Relaxation, Parenting during Work from Home, Importance of Normalizing Emotional Wellness, and others, in a bid to help our employees deal with the unique challenges that working from home can bring.Further, recognising the challenges that one can face while working from home, employees have been requested “not to be apologetic” for inevitable disturbances (stemming from being at home) during official meetings/calls.5. Amidst hurdles like lack of communication, difficulty inmaintaining company culture, how is Aegon Life Insurance dealing with the challenges of WFA? We are a ‘People First’ organization. Our culture is driven by our people and WFA does not dilute this in any way. Having said that, we understand that culture is an intangible quality that is acquired through osmosis as employees interact with colleagues at the office.One of the key pillars of our culture is “Openness” and it presupposes clear, adequate communication. From that perspective, we have focused on creating clear communication channels that allow two-way communications between employees and the leadership team, through various structured platforms. We also encourage frequent formal and informal interactions, and virtual meetups (with the camera on to the extent possible!), flexibility in schedules, one-on-one meetings with managers, etc. We have a cross functional “people committee”, comprising of volunteers and enthusiasts, to drive various employee communication and engagement initiatives including celebrations and CSR. There is also an internal newsletter in the works, to highlight developments and achievements in different departments, communicate about various initiatives, and keep employees up to speed and connected.Another key pillar of our culture is “Appreciation”, which we believe should be a way of life for all in our organisation. Therefore, we do all that we can to support our employees’ best efforts to contribute, stay productive, and find happiness and fulfilment in their jobs. We try to ensure that all our employees always feel connected to each other and any good work or right behaviour is promptly recognised.6. While hiring in a WFA environment skill set requirement is also different as training and development techniques are different. How is Aegon life Insurance hiring and training?Inevitably, the hiring and onboarding process is now completely digital. Interviews and selection processes are fully online. We have a structured onboarding process which includes an online induction session where we update the new hires on their roles, our business, and key policies. IT assets are seamlessly delivered and remotely activated for all new joiners. Further, we also arrange for role-specific trainings by using interactive training courses that are user-friendly and include games, videos, and quizzes to boost engagement. These training courses are shared through a user-friendly mobile app.7. The model opens up cybersecurity threat door in many ways, what are the security steps taken by Aegon Life Insurance?Remote work increases cyber security risks across the globe, irrespective of the industry type. We have a robust information security (InfoSec) policy with appropriate tools and protocols to maintain security for all user devices. The technologies supporting remote work have become mission-critical, as business continuity is contingent upon these. Even more importantly, we constantly strive to build a culture of security among our employees and to train them in the best practices in this field. Maturity of all the three pillars namely People, Process and Technology from an InfoSec perspective have been well taken care of reducing the risk of any potential breach.
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