How to Promote Work-Life Flexibility

A Q&A with Senior HR & Talent Acquisition Associate, Goutami Patra 

Goutami Patra, Sr HR & Talent Associate

In our post-pandemic world, now more than ever, workers are looking for companies that complement their lifestyle rather than the other way around. Gone are the days of the standard 9-5 at the office. Instead, we see hybrid working models taking over the corporate world – and KMK is here for it. Work-life flexibility is the notion that employees should be able to both work and manage their personal lives at the same time. This means making time for doctor’s appointments or to pick the kids up from school without fear of suffering the consequences at work or being perceived as unproductive. KMK recognizes that this balance is not always easy to maintain, but we encourage our employees to embrace a flexible mindset and open channels of communication to make sure their needs are being met both at work and at home.

This month, we sat down with Goutami Patra, Sr. HR & Talent Acquisition Associate in our India office, for a casual discussion on what aspects of culture are most vital to KMKers for fostering engagement as they transition to a new reality that includes more remote and hybrid work.

Q: COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of workplace culture. What steps did KMK take to redefine work-life balance during the pandemic?

GP: The first initiative we took was to keep the work-from-home option open for 95% of our employees; it’s up to them to decide where they want to work, and there is no change to salary if they choose to work from home. For the other 5%, we have introduced hybrid working models in which employees are free to schedule their calendars as they see fit.

We’ve learned that most of our female employees feel quite comfortable in this hybrid setting as it encourages them to commit for the long term and helps us achieve our goal of having a 50/50 gender split in the workforce.

The second initiative was to adjust our Indian employee’s working hours, as they had shared their concerns about adverse effects on their health. We worked with our US managers to schedule Indian work hours for the second shift and as a result, they now work until 10:00 or 11:00 (PM) IST. This allows them to keep their biological clocks in check, and we’ve also instituted a shift allowance program to monetarily reward employees who work in the more difficult shifts.

Q: Don’t you think the monetary incentive will result in employees working more hours to get the reward, therefore having an adverse effect on their health?

GP: No – we’ve made it very clear that putting in longer hours will not result in higher appraisal scores or salaries. To enforce this, we closely monitor employees’ working hours to make sure they don’t exceed the standard eight hours and if we notice that a particular employee is frequently doing overtime, we’ll speak with their manager to find out why it’s happening and help them to adjust their workloads if needed.

Q: How do you believe that KMK’s leave policies promote favorable work-life balance among employees?

GP: To ensure employee productivity, leaves are inevitable. Every year we offer 30 leaves that are divided into 24 privileged leaves and 6 sick leaves. Further, we strictly adhere to the maternity leave policy and offer 26 weeks of leave in the event of a loss or pregnancy termination.

We also have weekends off, and anyone who works overtime on a holiday is fully entitled to compensated leave. Given the interdependence of personal and professional lives, we’ve made sure to provide our employees with appropriate time off so they can keep their creativity and mental health as top priority.

Q: An empowered workforce is a key to successful organization – what actions are KMK taking for their employees’ development?

GP: We are running educational and training sponsorship programs for all employees, where they are free to opt into any course. If employees take professional certification programs to sharpen their analytical skills, we pay for it if they pass. Regarding on-the-job training, we hire interns for 3 to 6 months and train them to become familiar with our industry dynamics while paying them a monthly stipend. If they require additional time for improvement, we are flexible in that aspect as well.

In addition, our employees constantly organize Lunch & Learn events to share their client learning experiences with the rest of the company. I believe that it’s a very good step to make sure that all our employees are well-versed in pharmaceutical trends.

Q: Being an HR manager means you need to be in constant connection with the whole organization. Do you think that remote settings are a barrier to effective communication?

GP: Honestly, neither I nor any of the staff has ever felt that working remotely is an obstacle to efficient communication. Reporting managers have regular catch-up calls with BUs and their teams. Our president, Dani Heywood, also organizes a monthly town hall virtual meeting so that every employee is aware of what is going on in the company. Also, the HR department schedules frequent conversations with each department to get their input on how we can improve our organization.

Moreover, to foster a sense of community, the US and India teams regularly have online lunches and dinners, which are again sponsored by the company. And a monthly trivia night is also something that is very much liked by the employees.

Q: Recently, we’ve been listed as a supporter of the UN Human Rights Office’s Standard of Conduct to help businesses combat discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. How do you think an emphasis on diversity and inclusion benefits employees as well as businesses?

GP: These activities, in my opinion, cultivate a sense of inclusion and empathy among employees for everyone, not just LGBTQ+ people. It teaches them to respect people’s uniqueness and choices without being judgmental and fosters an environment where people don’t have to try harder to fit in or disguise their true selves. In a nutshell, employees evolve as human beings while learning to accept diversity with open minds.