Sabre is a leading technology solutions provider to the nearly US$8 trillion travel industry. The technology and data-driven solutions help the airlines, hotel and travel agency customers grow their businesses and transform the traveler experience. Here, Jaya Jayakumar, VP and MD, Sabre GCC, Bangalore, tells us more regarding the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?
Jaya Jayakumar: The situation is unique and like most organizations we are facing into the challenges with the emphasis on safety and wellbeing of our employees’ and their families. All our employees are working from home and we have begun to engage in the new normal. As we continue to evaluate the evolving situation and align with our organization’s guidelines and state and central government advisories, we also have a plan to return to office in a staggered manner. We are mindful of physical distancing, sanitation of the workspaces and safety of everyone on the premises.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Jaya Jayakumar: Currently, all our employees are WFH. This allows flexibility to balance their personal and professional priorities. For example, if parents need to oversee their children’s online classes, they do have option of scheduling meetings at a more convenient time if their work is planned and completed. We encourage our employees to keep the team informed of their work schedules because it ensures better prioritization of tasks, improving employees’ productivity and managers’ resilience. It also factors in work hours that doesn’t spill over into employees’ personal time.
DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?
Jaya Jayakumar: WFH has always been an option for our employees even when we were working from the office. However, the WFH during lockdown has reinforced our view that our employees are even more productive and as committed when they were in the office. It has built more trust between the employees and managers and team dynamics has become stronger. Our teams have managed to be resilient and productive as well as found ways to stay engaged and involved. They have created interactive and fun ways to stay connected despite the social distancing while also including their families in the bonding through various collaboration tools. It has also shown us that we can WFH quite seamlessly.
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Jaya Jayakumar: This is a challenging time for everyone. Leading with empathy is what we believe will help immensely. Everyone is trying their best to contribute in ways to tide over this uncertain time. Therefore, it is important to be transparent about the situation and let your team members know that we might not have answers to all the questions but together, we’ll find out ways to work through these unprecedented situations.
Also, during uncertain times rumors, fear and fake news can get mindshare. A manager should be vigilant and communicate often to overcome these concerns. This we believe can go a long way in reassuring employees and maintaining their emotional health.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Jaya Jayakumar: We need to ensure our customers’ needs continue to be at the heart of every assignment we do and every decision we make. Sometimes, that might mean stepping up and doing more than what we would have done on usual days. Like we earlier mentioned, WFH also allows for flexibility that gives most employees control over their schedules. This leads to better work-life effectiveness.
DQ: What are the policy responses you would give to the MSMEs and SMEs?
Jaya Jayakumar: It’s a hard time for all businesses in the market. While we can’t comment on policies, we know that the government is doing its best to support businesses and revive the economy. We do feel that it is important to reassure businesses that this situation can tide over if stringent measures are taken to reduce discretionary expenses, revisit strategies and keep employees motivated throughout.
DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?
Jaya Jayakumar: Our site operations and technology teams have been working tirelessly to ensure business continuity by supporting our employees and then in turn, stakeholders. Subject matter experts are conducting virtual skill enhancement and training sessions to help employees adapt to the evolving environment and much needed knowledge/ skills. Crowdsourcing of ideas to better align work further is also helping us step up and deliver to the best of our capabilities.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Jaya Jayakumar: With WFH the new normal, the popularity of collaboration tools has been on rise. The rate of technology tools adoption has increased exponentially with everyone finding ways to use technology to the fullest. I believe, this will lead to a rise in flexible work schedules for employees and the reduced need to be present in physical offices in the future. This could also fuel the increased adoption of technologies like AR/VR and AI further advancing work, engagement and life experiences.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Jaya Jayakumar: We intend to continue serving our customers to the best of our abilities while we all adapt to the ‘new normal’. New strategies and approaches will have to be explored to find alternative solutions to some of the issues that might be staring at us. For example: frugal innovation can help us push through the economic downturn that may occur. Our employees are creative problem solvers and come up with solutions to problems that we might not have thought of. So, one of our strategies for future would be to involve our employees more actively in various initiatives by crowdsourcing ideas.