Amity Institute Of Training & Development

Mental Health & Wellness at the Hybrid Workplace Read Time: 41 mins

Speaker: Major Pallavi Shivanna, Vice President HR at Fincare Small Finance Bank

Interviewed by: Mr Ashish Sahu, Vice President Training, Amity Institute of Training & Development

About Major Pallavi: Major Pallavi Shivanna brings in 23 years of cross-cultural experience in the defence and corporate sectors. Currently, she is working in Fincare Small Finance Bank in the capacity of VP-HR. She's an ex-army officer and worked in various capacities with different industries and she has travelled all across the country and abroad. She's a highly skilled professional in the areas of negotiations to budgeting, talent management system administration and recruitment. She's a strong Human Resource professional and a Post Graduate in HR from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. A University topper and recipient of Gold Medal for bachelor’s in psychology. She is a trainee in Psychotherapy for the last six years and is a very passionate human being about creating awareness on mental and emotional well-being.

Click below to watch the recorded conversation.

AITD: I welcome you all to experience a very interesting conversation with plenty of insights on a very important topic Mental Health & Wellness at Hybrid Workplace. We have our Guest this evening Major Pallavi Shivanna from Fincare Small Finance Bank.

Now employee well-being, employee happiness, employee engagement, employee experience and employee satisfaction, are some of the terms often used interchangeably. While they are related, they don't mean the same thing and the strategies around how to improve them can be significantly different. With the shift to remote work, working environments have also been disrupted. Many employees don't have adequate remote working conditions which may affect employee productivity levels also. Now mental health, a bigger enormous increase in stress, fear and uncertainty in the workplace has also been disrupted by the current pandemic. Now, finally, with social distancing and isolation, this pandemic has also had a huge impact on our stress levels, social well-being. Therefore, employee well-being has naturally become one of the main priorities of organizations across the world.

Based on this context, I just want to ask you, ‘Is employee wellness important? Why employee wellbeing is more important than ever before?’

Maj. Pallavi: Employee wellness is important. Yes, I completely agree. I would also like to take it one step forward, saying that it's not as important only as ever before not only now. And it’s been a continuous process. And, unfortunately, no other organization, or no individual, no society as such, recognize the importance of well-being, all-around well-being. So, well-being is, physical well-being is what everybody looks at it. But for a person to be well-being, it has to be all-rounded well beingness, emotional, mental, and physical. So, in the current scenario, if I look at the current relevant situation, the relevant scenario is what we are in, so there was a sudden shift that happened exactly 24 to 26 months back in March. So, I would like to give thumbs up and kudos to all the people who have braced through these last 26 months and wherever we are sitting here today. It is because of their resilience and because of their never-give-up attitude that we are sitting here today.

So, why it is important because people starting from children, middle-aged and working women, women working from home, men, all sectors of the people from different sectors of the society, different strata of society have braced through this in their ways. And I have seen in close circles how people have battled to manage things and how to prioritize and how to do it. This particular topic is still a stigma. So, that is the reason why I am saying it is very, very important not only today. Yesterday it was important, today it is important, it is important even tomorrow. And that is how it is evolving. And people had to really-really, why I am stressing this word ‘really’, worked hard to adjust to the current new normal. And it required a lot of change in the mindset, the dynamics change, both from the corporate, professional life as well as personal life. So that's what I would like to say about the importance of mental well-being.

AITD: Very rightly said and this subject is very close to your heart as you mentioned. And you are very passionate and pursuing psychotherapy for the last six years. And you are through in and throughout. This pandemic has given you a chance to take these things forward.

So, ‘what are the factors which impact employee’s well-being and what are the ways to support employee’s health and well-being generally and particularly, I mean in COVID-19 era which we are seeing all across?

Maj. Pallavi: As I said in the previous statement, I would like to not restrict to the COVID-19 era, because the subject itself is like that. So, only recently we are talking because of the COVID-19 in a way. Thanks to COVID, at least it has given a lot of lessons to all of us, and it has given a perspective to look at things in a different way for all of us. So, most important you asked, what are the factors that could impact the employee well-being. The most important factor is empathy. So, there was an article a few days back I was reading, ‘Is empathy very important in the recovery of well-being or getting back to the road of well-being’?

So, I will share the link, maybe you can just glance through it. So, I would like to just read one statement that I read a few days back. It was on LinkedIn. One of the employees had shared it; it was just a caption, what was shared by the employee. She said, my boss called me and said, “How are you feeling”? So, I didn't know how to answer. Just reflexively, I said, I am fine. Such an empathetic boss, I must say. She was like “no, start over, I am not fine, you are not fine, none of us is fine. And it's okay, let's have a real conversation, it's okay not to be okay”. So, then she again asked me “How are you? So, then I said I am super terrible”. See the shift from ‘I am fine’ to ‘super terrible’ and my boss finally concluded, “yeah now it is much better. So, you are being your real self rather than putting up a brave front and saying that things are fine”. Unfortunately, that is what is happening in the daily realm of running around, these daily chores are what we run around, we forget to acknowledge that we are not okay, and it is okay not to be okay. And that's a challenge. And I have braced through it.

I have personally gone through this journey of mental well-being so that’s the reason why I talk with conviction here. So, it is a topic which I have personally experienced. That’s what I would like to say; “empathy, an empathetic manager can make a lot of difference in any organization”. So, if I am calling my team members, I would say okay – tumhara number Kitna Hua, Kitna hiring Kia, tumhara Kitna sales login Kia.

Not once in a while do you call up your team members and ask them ‘how are you feeling, how are your family members, and it is very important not only the COVID, not only the work from home scenario, but it’s also very important to have a human connect’. So, when you have a human connection, a lot of things, your teammates, your employees share with you. Not looking forward to the solution, they just want to be heard. And we are all social beings, we cannot live in isolation. So, we would like to have ‘connect’.

And that is what is important in any organization. So, I always go back to my army days when I was in the army, for me to connect with my men, my seniors used to teach, you have to understand the pulse of your men whom you are commanding. So, then they will look up to you and they come and just to look up to you and they will do anything for you. So, for that, you need to build a rapport and you need to have that connection with them. And that is one thing that I have learnt in the army and I continue to do so.

Although many people say why do you have to connect with so many people or the team members that you are working with. I said for me to understand my team members, I would like to know them better as human beings, as people, not only just limited human resource in my team. For me, that is very, very important. So, I proudly say that in the last 15 years; whether I have worked in the corporate now, and before that nine years in the Army, even today, I still have people who connect up to me and they fall back when they need some advice or when they need some help. And that in itself is the biggest achievement. I feel good about it. So that's what I would like to say connect, human connection is very important.

AITD: So, what you said is, two very important things, what I could understand is – one is that you talked about ‘empathy’; yes, very, very important. And the second thing you talked about is ‘human resource’ and now it is more of a human asset which we call. And the third most important thing which you said, which we have seen, which has kept the flock together during this pandemic is the ‘communication’. Besides, formal communication is what we do day in, day out, if we are there to give support and well-being, I think that makes a lot of difference.

And, as I work with Amity and we have a family culture here. And our Founder, Dr Ashok K Chauhan who is such a busy person and he comes to know anything has gone wrong with my family were where in my son was admitted and he called up. So that makes a lot of difference and that's something and that belongingness is there in Amity. We have such a huge workforce and such a large organization, and his connection is so important.

And, one day I remember we had the celebration of Holi and he stood on the Dias and there were around 300 members who were gathered in the big hall. He said I will call everybody by name. And you won’t believe he called everybody by name and on one person he was little tentative, and somebody was prompting, and he said, ‘don’t prompt’, I know it’s just not coming to my mind. And, he said my target has increased from 500 to 700 and that’s amazing. That's amazing, it’s important. So, well-being is what you are saying, and I also feel that empathy is about how do we care. ‘Care’ is a word which is very very apt, and we need to care about our employees. And that’s what a lot of organisations have shown, and they have been able to flock together and dealt with pandemic quite nicely in such a difficult situation.

Maj. Pallavi: Yeah, in fact, I would like to add here what Fincare, the bank I am associated with currently, does. I don't think any of the other banks would have gone so many steps to take care of each affected staff across the bank. I know for sure because I have friends in different banks and different organizations, and they have been calling and asking what is it that you guys are doing. We have had support groups, COVID WhatsApp support groups as close as 300+ and in that including certain senior-level and above our MD was part of the group and he was personally monitoring it. And all the HR business partners, my CPO, my head of operations, admin head, are all part of that group. Daily for 14 days, morning and evening, the staff has to update what is their oximeter reading, which was sounding like for somebody who is visiting from outside, it was sounding frivolous.

But telling you the amount of support they got, the feedback, when they came back from hospital or recovery, is amazing. We have added even family members to the group in case the employee is not able to take the calls or message, at least you share. And we worked together as a team to run around literally, talking to people, finding the hospital beds, ventilators, oxygen, medicines. And it was amazing; it was like no other organization have done that, the amount of care and the empathy that was shown. I am proud of the way we handled the entire situation. And unfortunately, we had few fatal cases as well. But that was unfortunate because they had some comorbid issues. We did our best. And we also came up with a lot of COVID special COVID packages whether it is leave or whether it is a monetary benefit, and even people were admitted to hospitals that were not covered under the GMC. That additional money was taken care of by the company bank.

AITD: Yeah, absolutely, and this gives a feeling, as I was mentioning something which we also practice in Amity is feeling of self-belongingness. These are the times when that feeling comes naturally to you that yes that you belong to the bank and from top management, everybody cares. During this pandemic, we have seen it has become a ‘hybrid’ workplace where people are also working from home and sometimes office when things are bad and there's a lockdown, people are working from home. Then the lockdown opens, and some people start coming to the office.

So, what are the challenges faced by employees working from home because we see a lot of challenges day in and day out, what challenges people are facing working from home?

Maj. Pallavi: Everyone has their own set of challenges. This particular thing has nothing to do with gender. Just to give you an example, I do have neighbours who have small kids and incidentally, I have three boys, two are very young and one is elder. So, parents managing children at home and managing the meetings, it’s just like Murphy’s law they say.

When you are actually in a very serious or important meeting, something happens to the kid or you have to run around for some errands or something. So, that is quite a challenging thing. Even though I know my friends and colleagues have braced through it and they managed it. But the amount of stress what happened to them inside, they are not even able to identify it. And that is the very sad part here and it is also important.

One more point, the challenge is overwhelming. So, I can give my example; when last year or even at times when we were working from home and kids were there around, you have to toggle between the office work and the home chores or the homework. That is quite an overwhelming experience and at one point in time, I didn’t know where to draw the line because this is also important, and this is also important. How do I do a hard stop or hard cut? That is a challenge. These are all the challenges and how I do things to prioritize, how I do things to self-care and see how I can manage things around. These are the main challenges. Maybe as we progress, I have few more pointers to share. So, this is what is for this question.

AITD: So, what you said is right and one thing as you said, it's a realization most people have during this pandemic. And the biggest revelation is that how much a housewife goes through every day. I do respect my better half on this. She has quit her job just to take care of the kids. Unfortunately, I lost my father last year, she was taking care of him, but she had quit her job because of that. And the respect has gone multifold when I see she is all the time doing something or the other and not taking any rest. Everybody is asking for different things, somebody’s class is going on; somebody's office meeting is going on. So, all the more important and something which I will dwell upon and would ask you more, particularly you said the gender is not important but yes, it is important.

As you said to juggle around the housework as well as the office work, I think women, though they are much more resilient than men, that’s what I always felt, had a bigger share of taking more and more responsibility. As a woman, the challenges are much more. And there has been research by Mckinsey that women had to undergo a lot of challenges during this pandemic. So just wanted to know, being a woman, I just want you to throw some more light on the challenges that women faced during these pandemic times, working from home.

Maj. Pallavi: Okay, you want to talk about women working from home. I would like to take this question to the last if you are okay. Because there are some other aspects which I would also like to share.

AITD: Okay. One thing which I was going through, in fact, we were engaged with one of the public sector banks in India. And they were starting an Employee Assistance program and it was one of the biggest banks in the country. And then we realized that EAP or Employee Assistance Programmes are very common abroad and in India, very few organisations have adopted and practicing it. In fact, and there's a long way to go, I would say.

So, what do you think? The way we have been that banks and all organisations have embraced digital transformation and they have embraced to the extent that what was supposed to happen in the next 5-7 years, has accelerated and it has been done in 1-2 years, the same way EAP or Employee Assistance Program would also accelerate due to these unprecedented times?

Maj. Pallavi: Oh yes, I would like to say here. Yes, the organisations are recognizing the importance of EAP. So last year somewhere around July or August, we also entered a partnership with another organisation that provides online services for both emotional and physical well-being. It's called ‘Doc Online’. So, we partnered with them and it is purely on an app base thing. And an employee can add multiple family members. And, most importantly we ran through a lot of teasers before even making it live because talking about mental health, it’s still a stigma in our society. And if you have seen this movie of Shahrukh KhanDear Zindagi’, he is invited as one of the speakers and he mentions ‘jab ham logo ko pet dard hota hai, ham dawai le lete hai to dard theek ho jata hai, par jam hame dil mai dard hota hai to ham kya karte hai, thodi der mai theek ho jayega karke chhod dete hai”. And it’s not an okay thing to discuss you are not feeling okay, you are not feeling alright, that you are feeling sad or angry. So, that is where our management.

There was one organisation who came and gave a presentation to us and that is the time management, actually sat back and looked at it, we can also actually partner with it. So, I see there is a lot of traction happening in this field. And I also see a lot of people openly coming up and speaking about mental health and what is the importance of it and how it affects you as a person when it is affecting you as a person, me as a person for example. If it is affecting me as a person, it is affecting people at home for me; it is also affecting people at work for me. So, it has so much cascading effect around me. It is not only going to affect me. If I am having so much turmoil inside me, I am going to throw the tantrum to the outsiders who are immediately around me, my children, my family, or my colleagues.

And, it is very, very important that we bring in this aspect and see how we as an organization can help employees to recognize and take help. Last year what happened, even before getting empaneled with ‘Doc Online’, I am part of this group called SAATA volunteer group. SAATA is a South Asian Association of Transactional Analysis, I am doing my training through SAATA. TA is a framework that I am working there. We have a volunteer group. Last year, we literally collated the list of Pan India trainees who are there and made a list, give them telephone numbers and multiple languages and what time they are available, and we put it into the SAATA website.

So, the same thing. I took the liberty, took one step, and shared it with all our employees in case someone wants to reach out. I removed my name from that, because in the organization if they see my name, they may not feel comfortable calling me. So, that is the reason, I removed my name.

And, the same thing, when the second wave happened this March-April, the same volunteers again congregated, and we made a group and in that group; it was not to provide any solution. People were looking with a lot of research what they found. People were not looking for immediate resolution of a problem or solution. They were looking for someone to talk to. Because the last two months what happened in Bangalore or in and around places, we were not able to even step out. So, because of that, we created a group called ‘Listening Only’. They can just talk to you and they just listen unless and until it becomes like a very serious case.

So, otherwise, that went well. And as a trainee, if I have to say, it’s not that it does not affect me. So, I am listening to somebody. I am also taking a lot of input into my head and it is also affecting me. So, I also need an outlet to talk it out. So not because I am into training, into psychotherapy or hypnotherapy, I am also learning that morality as well, it doesn't affect me. No, it's not that. I am a human being too. I do a self-maintenance every month, I also go and share out my turmoil, what I go through and I do my maintenance. That’s what I would like to say, it’s very, very important.

I would just like to read out a one-liner that there was a report recently done in Europe on mental well-being by AXA where in 64% of the respondents said their stress level has increased post-pandemic. And 80% said that they had a state of mental stress due to lack of social contact, due to lack of financial stress and also due to a lot of job insecurity. So, these are the main three things which are going on. And if some organization is doing a survey and sharing the report, it means there is a need to give importance to the well-being, Emotional and Mental well-being.

AITD: Yeah, in fact, talking more about EAP when I was giving a presentation to a particular bank and talking to them regarding this, a couple of things came to my notice that what happens is, a couple of suicides which had taken place at that point of time and what has happened is that the official pressure has compounded because of family and home pressures. A lot of people were not able to take it and they took extreme steps. When we were doing some research on this and it was one thing which came out very strongly that the helpline is very important, the counselling is very important. In fact, at Amity also, we have a lot of stress on counselling and there is a counsellor attached to students.

And, for every small or big issue, there is a counsellor who is counselling them and resolving their issues which are very, very important. And for any bank for that matter, people would not like to get counselling from the internal people. They want somebody from outside because internal they have a fear that things may go out. There is a taboo. We don’t talk about mental health in the country even now and there's a stigma attached to it that if I start talking about my problems, people will say ‘yeh to pagal hai, iski dimagi halat theek nahi hai’. So, a lot of things, a lot of stigmas attached to it. We need somebody to listen to us may be some outsider doesn't know, who does want to know of my background what I am doing but just want to give them the solution.

So, from that perspective, I think if we have a helpline number, if there is somebody whom we can talk to, from that perspective, I think EAP is a fantastic programme, which all organisations should go through. And I was mentioning earlier, when this second wave came in April-May, being an organisation that is into higher education, into training. And we have so many students all across and our corporate clients. The first thing which came to my mind is how do we support the community. I mean we can't supply oxygen; we can't have a medical facility but what is there that we can do. Immediately, we started online yoga which is continuing even now. And there is something which people are not able to overcome grief, so we started the session on how to overcome grief, how to manage stress and how to navigate through challenges.

So, in all these programmes, Against All Odds, there was such a beautiful programme we started planning for all our corporate clients and people, they liked this programme because actually, it is the need of the hour. Somebody wanted that they should be listened to; I mean I can share my personal experience. I never had high BP and anxiety which I was also prone to for a short period. It just happened. I lost a dear friend of mine; my childhood friend and I just couldn’t take it. He was so young and within 2 days, he succumbed to his COVID illness and it was very difficult for me to get out of that. So, a lot of anxiety and things happened.

So, this is the time where we need the support of each other. And I think such programs are very, very important and it never used to be such a high priority earlier which I am sure every organisation has shown that resilience. Now they have this as a top priority. Business is down if we come back. We always talk about W shape recovery; V shape recovery keeps on changing but yes business will come back to normal. I think life and well-being is a very important topic and that’s the reason why we have you as an expert to enlighten us more about these. We have a lot of people, psychologists who are engaged day in and day out in helping out the community and students at large.

Maj. Pallavi: I talk all through my personal experience that is why it is very dear to me. I have seen that change; I have experienced the change within me.

AITD: One thing which I wanted to ask is that there is a certain shift to work remotely which destroyed the physical and psychological separation between home and office, compounded many everyday stresses, inflated some new, as you mentioned a couple of them.

How to manage work-life balance during these unprecedented times. What are the tips to manage work-life balance?

Maj. Pallavi: First and foremost, it is ‘self-care and ‘self-love’. When we talk about self-care and self-love, people say ‘how can you be so selfish? you can't be taking you first and then others. I say sorry, it's important for me to be contained, me to be healthy and happy for me to spread that to others. If I don't have food on my plate, I will just give an analogy of food on my plate, if I don't have food on my plate, how can I share half of the food with somebody else. So, if I am not contained within my cell, if I am not happy within myself, if I am not feeling whole and complete, I will not be able to deal with that similarly with others. So, it triggers down and boils down to the entire family or members. I am not saying that I have not been there. When too much stress was there, I had forgotten the boundary. And if I would not have done the self-maintenance, if I would have not done self-care, I would have taken out all those things on my children and I don't feel shame in expressing that and sharing it.

And, at one point in time, I realised what I am doing. I was not myself when I was not taking care of myself. I took a step back; I said something is not okay. It is important to identify that I need to take care of myself. And I went through my share of depression in life. It took a lot of courage for me to even stand up and recognise that I do need help. And it was okay, but I was the same, even though I am a psychology student, I have travelled the world. But for me to go and seek and share my problems with somebody else was a big, big challenge. But I am telling you, it makes a lot of difference and it is magic. The moment you stand up for yourself, the moment you love yourself, the moment you take care of yourself, things change. The entire dynamic changes.

Most importantly, the only tip I give is ‘Self-Care’ and ‘Self-Love’ and it all starts in the mind. And, the mind is very, very powerful and I have learned over a period how I can process the thoughts in my mind and make them happen. So, it all depends upon the input I am giving in to my mind for the output that I desire. If I have the desired output for example, if I have output here, I need to give appropriate input to my mind. So, if I go somewhere and say oh what if I fail, I am already giving a message to my mind for me to happen there as a failure. I have been there, I have done, personal experience I am talking. I have done my own, I have faulted, I have fallen, I have picked up and I have learned, and I am proud that I was able to take care of myself. This is the message I would like to give to everybody. And it is okay. You come first before anybody else. And that is what I would like to give, that is work-life balance. Then automatically things will fall into place.

AITD: Yes, I must think what you are saying. When we travel in a plane also the same thing is said ‘take care of yourself otherwise you will not be able to take care of others. So, it is very, very important. And it reminds me of when I was going through my set of challenges and I was talking to my boss and I said I need to stop. I meant I can't be like this because I have to take care of my family. He said, ‘why are challenging yourself and why do you think you have to stop’? Everybody comes across these things, take it as it comes.

And, what I realized is why this is my next question to you is, many times you don’t know what are the triggers which give you stress unless until we know ourselves better, we know what is affecting us and we first deal with our stressors and then we deal with other people. So, it's very, very important that we need to know and that is my next question, ‘How to recognize and release stress. The first important thing is we recognize, what are the stresses that are affecting us and then what are the ways to release it’?

Maj. Pallavi: I would like to extend this question not only to stress but also to depression as one of the main causes. So, the stress that is not addressed at the right time, then actually will get into depression and depression is I am telling it's not a bad word. So that is the first thing we need to accept. And when my normal behavior, when I am not feeling okay and it is very important to take a step back and sit, okay what is happening to me. And, then the first and foremost thing that will come is ‘identify’. I identify what is it that I am feeling. I am feeling miserable and feeling frustrated and feeling angry and sit and take a step back and allow myself to feel it.

What we generally do Is that I know I have friends around, I have people around in my circle. The moment they get angry, they immediately divert their attention to something else so that they don't have to deal with that. Have the courage to deal with then and there what is the feeling that you are going through. That is the identification, and then you are aware. Identification, awareness and vocalizing it.

I would like to read one thing. One of my friends; is doing her M.Phil. in Psychology. She had written in one of her statuses, I just loved it because this is for both men and women across genders. She has written ‘Love to all the men who were told to toughen up to suppress their emotions to play the role of the man of the house when they were children, love to the men who are working to heel the pain that society denies’. And I can resonate, I know many of my male colleagues, male friends who feel that ‘I am the man of the house’, how can I even feel sad, how can I feel upset, how can I be vulnerable, how can I sit and cry. Crying or the feeling does not come with gender, it is irrespective of gender. It was okay for Ashish to cry, it's okay for me to be strong, and it is okay for me to be a tough boss, not necessary that I am being a lady I need to be soft, I need to be very nurturing. No, not necessary.

15 days back, I don't remember the date exactly, a tennis player Naomi Osaka if you have read on the paper. I am so proud when I read so many people coming out in support of her even though the French authorities fined her. Another organization is into EAP; they said that we are going to fund that fine for her. And it was so important, such a prestigious ornament. She did not buzz at that. For her, it was not important. For her, her mental state, her state of mind is very, very important.

And most importantly, seek help and it’s okay to seek help. I keep talking to my elder teenager, he said “no, no I am okay, I am capable of managing myself.” I said, seeking help is being brave, it is courageous. It’s not a sign of weakness. Most people do think if I go and ask for help, it's a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign of weakness I would like to say that. Even three years back Sachin Tendulkar had written in an article on Sunday Times. He said ‘the previous night of a most important match, I never used to sleep because of anxiety. Even Rodger Federer has also openly expressed it. There has been an article on him as well in the previous one, not currently. Currently, only Osaka is the one who is talking about it.

And the most important thing, one thing I would like to say here is that ‘Develop the emotional vocabulary.’ We have vocabulary but do you know how are you feeling? To know the feeling, what you are feeling, it is important to develop an emotional vocabulary. So that is what I would like to say and seek help when you feel it’s okay to seek help.

AITD: So, coming to the question which you said, you will be taking late is, ‘How is prolong work from home affecting women and their mental health because there are a lot of my women colleagues and other people who like to know? Maybe you can support it.

Maj. Pallavi: Yeah. So, there are pluses as well as minuses in the current scenario; working from home or how it is affecting women. So, women are conditioned when they are growing up, always take a back step for your self-care or you never come first. This is the conditioning put in us when we are growing as girls. Whether it is cooking, whether household chores, this is a life skill, it is not limited to women. And I have seen my colleagues saying that I go and lock myself in the room so that no children, my spouse doesn’t come to disturb me. But as a working mom, I cannot do that. I cannot say that I am shutting my door and from morning till night, I am sitting in a room. It’s not possible.

And that is where the mindset has to change. Women are also individuals, woman is just a gender, man is just a gender. I am an individual first. So, I also aspire, I also have dreams to do well in life. It’s just that was I born as a woman; it cannot stop me from achieving what I want to achieve. So that mindset has to change and the expectations from any organization for a working mom. For example, you are my boss and you are sitting in a home, locked inside in one room and the type of expectations ‘muje yeh chahiye etc. list of things. But I, sitting here have to manage my children, have to manage my domestic chores, there is no help. I am not cribbing on something. These are the harsh realities that are there. The mindset has to change. It’s okay even for men to do the household chores, it’s a life skill.

And, I have been through so much stress and I was sitting and working and taking care of children and in one place, physically I could not move too much. And I ended up putting on so much weight. And it’s important for women, that’s why this question again boils down back to ‘self-care and ‘self-love’. It’s not that I am biased against men. I said we all are individuals and at the end of the day, everyone takes care of themselves. That is the idea.

So, it's important to teach our boys, especially moms who have boys at home to take care of household chores. Don’t teach only your girls the household chores and it’s okay if your daughter doesn't want to learn cooking and if your boys want to learn cooking, perfectly fine. So, that mindset has to change. Women need not have to do too much multitasking. And it’s okay to step back, sit and relax, things will happen on their own. It's only the mindset that women have to change.

Unless and until I decide how I want to be treated, you cannot treat me the way you want to treat me because I am allowing you to treat me the way you are treating me. It’s a two-way process. And the positive aspect of work from home is a lot of women who have taken a break for their maternity or XYZ reason, sabbatical, we all have this opportunity to return to our career.

And that is one good thing which has happened, and they have got an opportunity to contribute to the GDP of the country. This is what the Tata Sons Chairman Mr Chandrasekharan has said two days back, ‘this is the new norm, this is the new normal, this is how it is going to be, we are not going to revert to the pre-COVID times at all. Technology and digital automation have enabled us so much in such a way that women can get back to their career, and it has accelerated the Country or in general, the working workspace 10 years, one decade further. I know there is always a silver lining in the dark cloud; it all depends on how I look at it.

AITD: Right, and what you said is very, very important is that it’s not about the gender of women or men. One has to take responsibility equally. Only then it is like two wheels or two sides of the same coin. Only then things will work and actually, it has made a big realization to people. And, during this lockdown, I have not made much progress but my kids, my son he has started making round rotis and he has learned cooking, lot of things, new learnings have taken place.

So, as you already mentioned that and this is another question to you is, ‘What are the positive sides of the new normal, one you have already talked about, we have been discussing about gender equality at home and take more responsibility. What other positives you think which has come out from this new norm?

Maj. Pallavi: As I said, about working women getting back to work. And also, there's a lot of automation and the digital technology has improved in such away. What was not possible, maybe 12-16 months back, is possible today. And, it has changed the way we look at the workspace and it has given the flexibility like a hybrid workspace that is the topic as you said, the hybrid workspace has allowed people to work from anywhere, not necessary that we have to sit in one place and work, but yes there has to be connected, there has to be communication, the contact and also the most important thing from the infra or the cost perspective, is the reduction in the operating costs.

There is one AT&T which is a telework company. So, they did a survey and they said it has helped them work from home, or the hybrid workspaces help them reduce 30 million US dollars in real estate costs. That's a positive aspect. So, it’s a very, very important pro of the hybrid workplace. And also redefining the collaboration. So, the collaboration, what used to happen earlier in the boardrooms, it happens sitting in my home, you are sitting in your office or sitting at your home. It was not possible earlier. So, I have not thought that I would sit and give a talk like this, you are sitting in Delhi, I am sitting in Bangalore. It is used to be there earlier; I am not denying that it was not there, but it has become more important now. And, also, the employee prioritization by the organization.

So, all the managers have started doing this skip-level meeting, for example, I do a skip level meeting with one down and understand, talk to them. Earlier it was not happening. These are the positive outcomes of the new normal, what I can say, and the most important thing is people have learned the life skills as I was mentioning. So that is what is the positive outcome of this.

AITD: Yeah, as you have already mentioned about a lot of cost-saving is taking place in terms of real estate. And there's something called traffic stress. There is huge stress we encounter and here in Delhi couple of times, I missed my flights. I can vouch for that. Yeah, that's again big stress.

So, it has been a very interesting discussion so far and we will take some questions from the audience. I will request the audience to give their questions in the chat. I already have one question from one of the faculty members.

Q. As banking being a tedious job both mentally and physically, what interventions women have adopted for stress management for themselves and family?

Maj. Pallavi: I would not say it’s a tedious job. It all depends upon how smartly and how you are prioritizing your way and how you do it. Yes, the initial few months have been challenging for our even women colleagues as well even in our organization. But, throughout times there have been managers who understand and who have been talking to them. I call my team members not only that I call them. I also ask, how are they doing, how are they feeling, how is the family member doing. So there have been instances where the team members, family members succumbed to COVID.

So, just talking to them and asking them, these are the interventions which need to be written in books. This is again coming from the human connection, the empathy. And, if at all we were going to the office earlier and then we used to talk it out in person. But now it is all virtual. What is an organization, we can do and understand? these skip-level meetings And, one more thing, most importantly the intervention since you asked, I will tell you, we started this ‘silent hour’ in our organization, not to call people between 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm because all the time, lunchtime, dinner time, everything was getting overlapped between work and life. And I used to get up in the middle of 3’o clock and go and have lunch or something. So, that is why we started this ‘silent hour’ and we started following that so that nobody gives a call between 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm that is the time for them. And we also started sharing posters on ‘after 9 pm no calls. Earlier it used to be 6 pm, 7 pm but we have been into corporate, so after 9 pm no calls.

And, also, we started stressing, specifically, not only for women, to across everyone that during your free time, sit and spend time with your children, help them in their homework, do some activities with them. These are the things that we actually started promoting and I also had the ‘Kaizala’ app that we have; it's a Microsoft app, a mobile app. And we use it extensively for collaboration and communication, internal communication in our bank. And we used to have these engagement activities, physical engagement activities.

But then when there was no physical meeting, we thought how we go about it. So, a lot of people brainstormed and said that let’s do an activity on Kaizala. So, we created a group called ‘Chalo Kuch Karoo Na’. Every day our engagement team is to share what are the dos and don’ts they should follow from the COVID perspective and what are the activities they can do with their family. We started even awarding people sharing their yoga tapes and there were cooking competitions we were doing.

And, we also had painting competitions for the children. And last year without an exam, many children got promoted. So, from our side we also gave a certificate to all the people, kids of staff who got promoted, we did that as well. So, there were a lot of engagement activities on a virtual platform that we carried out. And that is what kept our men and women, staff engaged and all in the Centre.

AITD: There are a lot of examples you gave about yourself. It has been a very, very interesting, insightful session and due to the paucity of time maybe we will talk to you again, we will invite you again for these discussions.

Maj. Pallavi: There is a list of questions that are getting popped up in the chat. So, just to summarize, I would like to say one thing for them. I can control things what is happening inside me. I cannot control what is happening outside. So, I would like to say for people who have asked questions here, introspect and see what it is you need to change. Are you reacting or are you responding? And the mind is very powerful and make use of it. So, I cannot change things what is outside of me. It starts with me and ends with me. And that is ‘my walk the talk’, I always keep saying to my family, my children, and my colleagues. So that is where I would like to sum it up.

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Moderated by: Ashish Sahu

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