How tech companies can keep human touch alive in times of uncertainity

Interswitch East Africa Regional Head for Human Capital and Administration Stella Odembo. [File, Standard]

The days of business as usual are long gone and ‘business unusual’ is the new normal. In this age characterised by uncertainties, the world business environment is changing so fast.

Looking at the past two years, businesses have had to rethink the requirements for success and competitiveness.

With the pandemic hitting economies hard, the technology industry implemented a raft of measures, some that could have been regarded as blessings in disguise while others slowed down the gradual economic growth and business goals.

Firms have faced countless risks - from those associated with work-from-home models including cyber security, retention and fears of other rival organisations just discovering the digital space poaching your best talents. Demand for technology staff was and still is at an all-time high.

Disruptions in global supply chains, cash-flow challenges, inaccurate reporting and an unclear measure of productivity and assessment also made up the list of high risks for businesses during and after Covid.

Biggest assets

This has shaken firms to the core. Like every other firm, we adopted the work-from-home model during Covid and resolved to front our staff to drive innovation and turn things around.

Because they are our biggest assets, we invested in them massively. Having begun practising flexible working pre-pandemic, we had gained valuable lessons and experience in this.

The often-overlooked aspect is the gap in the physical connection between employees and how it can impact overall company performance and the individual’s well-being.

Even post-pandemic, most firms that entrenched the flexible work model have not yet gotten right the aspect of keeping the human touch alive.

Whilst working from home, we have seen growing concerns and fears of job security and mental stability among our staff members due to uncertainties of stable cash flows and diminishing clientele.

This dims the morale and motivation to work - negatively impacting productivity and work efficiency.

A study by Buffer in 2021 also shares this sentiment.

It revealed that while up to 70 per cent of employees are happy with working from home, 20 per cent cite an inability to successfully collaborate with team members for proper task management.

Increased isolation is also a concern as there are prolonged hours of lone time that eventually see employees overworking.

As a practitioner championing work-life balance, we decided to do things differently.

To ensure business resilience and continuity, we encouraged staff members to reinvent ways of going about the murky changes in the sector and workplace.

Key among the ways have been to take on the ownership of key defining roles and do so responsibly.

Health awareness

For management, we set up periodic physical staff get-togethers and online sessions - financial health, health awareness and motivational talks sessions aimed at guiding teams on ways to achieve this balance.

We also started ‘HE & SHE’ sessions where we get experts to talk to staff on areas affecting them - both at home, in the community and at work.

To help them go through this challenge and others like possible anxiety and depression, we introduced them to social breaks that take them off their normal routine.

We also make it mandatory for our medical providers to provide a list of therapists or counsellors that staff can talk to.

We encouraged line managers to have one-on-one sessions with staff focusing on their well-being.

Coaching and mentorship sessions for staff interested in the same also proved helpful, with a counsellor hotline, where staff in distress can call can be linked to an online counsellor.

At Interswitch, we are trying to make counselling a part of our culture.

This has helped make the staff members feel valuable, see us as a caring employer and ensured better decision-making. It also improved talent retention and productivity. We have grown our professionalism to take our customers forward.

-The writer is the Regional Head for Human Capital and Administration at Interswitch East Africa