NatWest’s HR Head On Maintaining Work-Life Equilibrium In WFH

Although remote working may have offered a break from the hectic daily commute, digital fatigue and increased screen times have introduced many issues in balancing work and life. Talking on the same lines, Maneesh Menda, Head - HR, NatWest Group India highlighted how companies are supporting employees and also shared the strategies to build a healthier workforce mentally and physically


While work from home becoming a norm with the sturdy support of remote collaborations and digitisation, the workforce witness the merging lines of work and life under one roof. Around 57 per cent of Indian employees feel overworked as digital intensity increases, a report revealed. Facing burnout and working beyond limited hours, almost 82 per cent of employees in India have expressed their eagerness to return to their offices and go back to the way of working they did pre-pandemic. 

To address the issue, HR leaders are required to take the centre stage. In an exclusive interaction, Maneesh Menda, NatWest Group discussed the numerous reasons leading to the problem and how the company is addressing the diverse issues of employees on an individual level. NatWest’s Menda highlighted their initiatives to keep the workforce intact and how are they prioritising employee care in a collective manner to establish a genuine culture of warmth and togetherness. Along with creating a conducive work environment empowered by policies, creating the right ‘work culture’ is also crucial for every organisation.

Work-Life Balance is a myth. What do you think? How the balancing of work-life has changed in the hybrid work model?

Undoubtedly, work-life and personal life balance has become challenging with “work from home” and “work for home”. In the past, there was a boundary between work life and personal life, unlike now, where managing the two has become quite tiring. Earlier, engaging in office work in your personal time would be seen as an intrusion into their private lives. 

The challenge that we have seen over the past year is the disappearance of the physical time boundary. In addition to the organisational aspects, it also requires strong self-discipline and support from employers to ensure the perfect equilibrium.

Additionally, both work and personal chores must be aligned in a way that provides flexibility to take care of work and home responsibilities, and as well our wellbeing.  For increased responsibilities, such as that of a carer, working from home should not come at the cost of wellness. I still believe that work-life balance can be achieved by those who are self-disciplined and have the support of their employer.

Recently, during one of the panel discussions, you stated, "The best employee would be somebody who can find the right balance between personal and work commitments in this virtual work setting." Is this now a new skill that employers would like to see and prefer in potential candidates?

An ideal employee is someone who practices self-care, self-discipline and can plan and execute his work and personal life priorities pretty well. These are some essential characteristics and skills that all employers would like to see in their potential and existing employees that speaks volumes about them and who knows how to strike a perfect balance in their lives.

How are you ensuring the right balance for your employees? Talk about initiatives and approaches at NatWest group to support employees?

At NatWest, we have always had a very robust support mechanism and conducive policies in place to ensure our colleagues feel supported in maintaining the work-home life equilibrium. 

Work-life balance not only boosts retention but also augments productivity. Flexibility, enhanced focus on leave utilisation, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are some of the ongoing initiatives.

Additionally, numerous need-of-the-hour initiatives were also launched, like special pandemic leaves which covered COVID leaves, paid care leaves, and focussed wellbeing support sessions to name a few.

Around 57 per cent of Indian employees feel overworked as digital intensity increases. How are you helping your employees to cope with this?

Along with creating a conducive work environment empowered by policies, creating the right ‘work culture’ is also crucial for us. A genuine orientation to build a culture and understanding that employees can be committed and take personal time off, work hard without overworking is something we have continuously focused on.

  • Leaders set the tone – Lead by example. In spite of being overwhelmingly occupied during the day, we abstain from sharing or responding to emails during off-hours, or on weekends and holidays.
  • Emphasize the importance of unplugging – We emphasise personal life being equally important as work life, and consistently encourage employees to utilise leaves and plan time-off during the year.
  • Consistent focus and support on wellbeing – To help colleagues cope with any stress, we conduct sessions for Line Managers on how to support team members through challenging times. We also equip managers to spot signs of anxiety and stress among colleagues.

How have these changes impacted the participation and performance of women employees?

We feel that in most households where both partners are working, the entire pandemic situation coupled with the ‘work from home’ concept has impacted all. I, personally, have learnt new life skills and taken a liking to cook! However, there are also families where women have to take on the responsibility of home and childcare more than the others with limited house help and home-schooling. It is important that they feel supported so that they can work stress-free. Similarly, single parents and colleagues with elderly care responsibilities have as well benefited from flexible working arrangements, which has enabled them to contribute effectively to work and home. By providing flexibility, we have been able to support colleagues deliver their best.

What technologies are you using in order to monitor performance? How technology is helping HRs to manage talent and outcomes?

Performance management is not a one-time or yearly activity and needs a continued focus throughout the year to ensure colleagues are supported and guided in the right direction with appropriate feedback throughout the year. At NatWest, we have regular check-in conversations with colleagues. We also have effective tools enabling quarterly check-ins to ensure performance guidance and management is a continuous activity. We continue to leverage technology platforms to monitor performance to drive the right outcomes.

What do you foresee, challenges or opportunities in the hybrid work model?

In my view, there is a certain overlap of what most would call a challenge and the opportunity of remote working, which is ‘maintaining the equilibrium’. If we are disciplined enough to maintain that and are able to set boundaries between both, then it becomes an opportunity to be able to continue being productive at work from home, while simultaneously enabling a smooth work for home culture. Colleagues who spend a significant amount of time commuting will immensely benefit from the work from home set-up, which will allow them to use their spare time on wellness.


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