Leading With Self-care: Bhumika Srivastava on How Airseva Is Supporting Employee Well-being Right Now

“In times like these, it’s important for employees and teams to stay connected.”

Kate Kultsevych /  Shutterstock
Kate Kultsevych / Shutterstock

Bhumika Srivastava serves as Head Employee Experience, bringing over 20 years of HR experience to the team. Prior to joining Airseva – An Airbnb Company, she managed the Human Resources function in industries like e-commerce and Tech & Product. Some of her past organizations are Snapdeal, Tesco, Yahoo, Adobe and Newgen. Her areas of expertise include Talent Designing & Development, Recruiting, Total Rewards and Learning & Development. She currently leads Diversity & Belonging, Workplace, Security, Internal Communications and also all core HR functions. 

She is an active contributor in child and women empowerment and is an avid traveller.

1. How do you encourage self-care among employees in your organisation in these troubled times?

We, at Airseva, were prompt in deciding to ask our team members to work from home soon after the first wave of COVID-19 hit. We’ve encouraged them to engage in activities like yoga, mindfulness, workout, conscious eating etc. that takes care of their physical, social as well as emotional well-being. During  lockdown, various virtual engagement, initiatives focussed on ensuring all aspects of wellbeing  were planned & executed. We created many effective communication channels and increased communication that focussed on social conduct, building immunity, prevention and precautionary action to help navigate through the Coronavirus pandemic with minimum repercussions. 

2. How do you motivate and generate positivity in a Work-from-Home environment?

The first priority for the organisation was to make sure that the transition to work from home was as seamless as possible. From ensuring employees are enabled to continue supporting our Host & Guest community to leveraging all possible channels to create more efficient communication. We created a Task Force to transition to work from home set up and tend to all aspects of working remotely. Enabled WFH for 900+ members within 72 hours before country wide lockdown was announced in March.

Motivation/employee morale

  • To mitigate lack of motivation, anxiety and uncertainty that our employees were facing, we organised various fireside chats on  topics like “Importance of mental health in unprecedented times”, “ How to build emotional resilience”, “BuildBelonging”.
  • Curated wellbeing sessions (Ergonomics, Financial & Tax Planning, Meditation & Nutrition) alongside fun engagement activities like Airshares, Best WFH photo contest helped drive and maintain a virtual positive environment even in remote set up. 
  • We encourage team members to utilise our Employee Assistance program to help them deal with anything on their mind or any apprehension they might have.
  • Coffee chats with leadership team on a biweekly basis
  • Empower (an innovation platform) tool for employees to submit their ideas to innovate, solve critical business challenges and stakeholder or people related problems and collaborate with cross functional teams to execute their idea

WFH benefits

We designed customised WFH benefits for all our team members which included:

  • Home office support allowance
  • Additional time off to reset, recharge or spend time with family
  • Time off for Covid-19 related reasons
  • Covid insurance for self & family
  • Well-Being leaves to provide extended weekend
  • No meeting Fridays
  • Sessions with employee assistance programs

Stay remotely connected

 In times like these it’s important for employees and teams to stay connected, although virtually. It gives them a feeling of belonging. We are after all social beings. We introduced group activities which required our employees to collaborate and organised town halls, coffee sessions, family day. Fireside chats at company and function levels, where leaders used the opportunity to not just address common areas of concern but also for general well-being of our employees. We continued virtual connections through our affinity groups- [email protected], Lean-in. 

Learn & upskill

Employees were showing a keen interest to invest their time in learning and development. We felt it was a good time to help them expand their knowledge base, upskill or even reskill. Our learning team came up with curated sessions, webinars, learning nudges  to support teams suitable for this time and aligned with organisation’s priorities and also tied up with Udemy which offered fun and engaging content on a wide variety of topics. This helped in expanding opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere.

Listen to employees, know their pulse

We curated and launched a work from home employee survey in early stages of remote working. This gave us a real sense of what our people are feeling and gave us an opportunity to work upon areas that concern them. This survey has been running as a quarterly pulse survey since then.

We believe that communication is the most important aspect when a situation like work-from-home comes into the picture where people miss that sense of ‘connectedness’ and ‘belongingness’. We have time and again made sure, through virtual activities, WFH benefits and several formal/informal sessions that we stand by each other’s side like a family. While the sessions help generate positivity, empathetic communication helped us keep our employees motivated to achieve their goals.  

3. Tell us about your personal efforts to inculcate healthy living in general.

For me the wellbeing of my emotional & mental health is as important as my physical well being.  Prior to the lockdown, I used to love my swimming sessions , but with the limited options during the lockdown, I reconnected with an old forgotten passion of mine, yoga & meditation. What started as a challenge, to switch off and connect with myself for even 5 minutes, I’m very proud to say that with continued dedication , my mornings now comprise an hour of meditation & yoga. It’s truly a blessing to have found that small little part of inner peace. Apart from this, I’ve always been very pro local, I make sure to buy my veggies from local organic farms, eat clean and healthy, thanks to the lockdown my consumption of junk & outside food has considerably reduced and i feel so much fitter! I make sure to take my vitamins , kaadhas (a homemade drink that has medicinal properties and can help cure/ prevent cough or cold). 

Also i have made it a routine to switch off completely from all electronic gadgets an hour before my sleep and dedicate 15 – 30 mins to reading and a bit of meditation to drift into a good sleep.

4. What is your corporate mantra for wellness?

We’ve always been a very employee centric organisation. Majority of  our initiatives are employee-led or designed keeping them in mind. So this time it was no different, within a month of remote working we designed and introduced ‘We Care’ that met all the needs ( social, physical, emotional and financial ) wellbeing of our team. Sessions by experts from their respective fields were very well received by our members. Increased communication and reiteration of available resources like Konterra, an employee assistance program, connecting sessions with leadership, more opportunities for conversations, helped us maintain a positive work environment even in remote working conditions. We have made multiple mental and physical health apps available to our employees which motivated the team to stay active and healthy in these unprecedented times.

5. When was the last time you felt burned out? What did you do?

Honestly life was quite hectic and stressful pre covid times as well. However being able to indulge in recreational activities and mingling with friends and family took that burden off. But with lockdown in place and all of us confined to our homes, whist juggling to make remote working as seamless as possible was extremely taxing. The transition was a new thing for each of us and we struggled coming to terms with the new reality. 

To overcome this anxiety and restlessness organising and planning the workday was one of the most important steps. Initial days were all spent on Zoom attending meetings leaving me with very little time to unwind or just gather my thoughts. Having time blocked on the calendar for lunches and breaks is something I recommend and encourage teams to follow as well. Having a clear distinction between work hours and non work hours is crucial. 

When the situation improved a bit, I started going for walks downstairs ensuring 0 contact, those 30-45 mins of open air ( not necessarily fresh air) did wonders to my mind and body.

6. Describe 3 self-care routines common among team members.  

Being a part of the Employee Experience team that is essentially responsible for the wellbeing of the whole organisation, I will admit we did put the company needs over ours in the initial days of WFH. But when we felt the team was settled in the new way of working, the team and I made very conscious efforts to prioritise our own well being. Some of them were:

-Prioritising our work and better management of our calendars. The team which was meeting everyday , decided to organise the work and meet twice a week instead. As a result we all were working more efficiently in reducing the screen time. Also blocking time on calendars for lunch breaks has really helped.

-Weekends are for self! Indulge in a hobby, spend time with family or just kick back and unwind. It’s a rule in the team, unless it’s something very very critical it can wait till Monday.

-Say what you want but those watercooler talks with teammates are really needed for work to have a good working environment! The team met with no work agendas to basically just connect , check on each other and involve in some light fun games.

Besides these we have also encouraged members to utilise their earned leaves and take a break when work gets too much. Our engagement sessions too reiterated on the importance of keeping work fun!

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