Developing and supporting the ideal culture for hybrid working

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mohit Joshi, President, Infosys, Renate Wagner, Member of the Board of Management, Allianz SE

The COVID-19 pandemic changed work culture forever. Organizations now understand that an employee-centric work model is a key differentiator in the battle to attract the best talent. Finding balance in a disrupted environment is tough — but with change comes growth opportunity — for employees and for businesses.

Flexible working is a central part of this solution. One of the hardest things to achieve within hybrid working environments, however, is a shared sense of purpose and culture across teams and the company. Learning and well-being are critical to succeeding here – as Allianz and Infosys have found over the past two years.

Both companies were already moving toward more flexible working before the pandemic, but, like many other things, the pace accelerated when COVID-19 struck.

Allianz is one of the largest financial services firms globally, with over 155,000 employees worldwide. During the pandemic, the company looked beyond quick one-time fixes and launched a set of global standards that modelled flexible, collaborative and productive ‘Ways of Working’ (WOW) that were to become an integral part of the company’s culture.

Essential elements for hybrid working

With hybrid working central to the new model, core pillars include digital tools, organization and culture, health and well-being and learning. It’s these last two that we focus on here.

On learning, Allianz empowers its people to successfully navigate the challenges and capitalise on the greatest strengths for hybrid working through the WOW Moments. This is a set of training modules supported by e-learning and workshops for individuals, teams and leaders to build the right hybrid habits. These modules focus on nine milestone moments in the employee lifecycle — onboarding, leveraging tech, staying well and healthy, leading hybrid teams and more.

To keep a culture inclusive of lifelong learning and skillsets fit for the future, Allianz requires leaders to complete a training program that includes 45 learning hours a year. Plus, all employees are encouraged to spend one hour of their working week learning.

Prioritising health and wellbeing in a hybrid working environment

Regarding health and well-being, Allianz employees globally are offered a wide set of services, including free 24/7 professional mental health assistance. Daily live mindfulness sessions are offered in multiple languages and a global meeting etiquette helps employees set better boundaries, including the right to disconnect through dedicated focus times when no meetings occur and short breaks between back-to-back calls.

Additional engagement opportunities include a global mental health podcasts series titled, How are you really doing? and Global Health Talks that feature internal and external speakers, ranging from doctors to CEOs to National Geographic Adventurers.

The strength and resilience of Allianz is in the hearts and minds of its people. One of the best ways it can care for tomorrow and for all its team members is by creating an environment where everyone can contribute their full range of skills and creativity for the best outcomes for customers.

Optimising virtual working

A similar approach was taken by Infosys, a global leader in IT services and consulting with an employee base of 260,000 across 125 delivery centres. Even before the pandemic, its employees were well-versed in remote learning, upskilling and collaborating with clients and colleagues.

For instance, the company’s virtual learning platform, Wingspan, was well established internally and had already been adopted by several clients. And, the business had consolidated its virtual work through the latest Microsoft Teams platform.

Similar to Allianz, the company already had well-being initiatives and new programmes to bring colleagues together, while retaining some flexibility in work location. But the pandemic kick-started a new way of thinking for Infosys about shared purpose. While focusing on protecting and supporting its employees, it also looked to support external communities through such difficult times.

Supporting the wider community

In India, the firm worked with local hospitals to rapidly vaccinate all its employees and their families and joined six Indian states to set up oxygen plants to support patients across the country.

Infosys’ community engagement strategy puts an emphasis on education and learning. It has launched a learning programme Infosys Springboard with a target to empower 10 million educators, students and aspiring professionals with digital skills.

Shared purpose and community engagement have always been core to Infosys’ cultural DNA, but the pandemic elevated this to a new level, making it a guiding element that motivated its teams across the globe to support each other and its clients through those tough times.

As the pandemic subsides and the debate around workplace locations and strategies intensifies, Allianz and Infosys sense the most important element may not be where you work — but why you work and how supported you feel as a team member and colleague.

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