No One-Size-Fits-All: Is Vaccination An End To Hybrid Work Model At Vistara?

While speaking about calling employees back to office, Deepa Chadha, SVP-HR & Corporate Affairs, Vistara states, “Scores of our colleagues have worked tirelessly and bravely through the pandemic, in their commitment of service to people. At Vistara, our hybrid working model involves having 50 per cent of our corporate office colleagues working from the office at a given time”


In an exclusive interaction, Deepa Chadha, SVP-HR & Corporate Affairs, Vistara opened up about their process of getting employees fully vaccinated. Chadha repeatedly emphasised that inviting employees back to the office is not resulting in attrition at Vistara as employees do understand the practical need of aviation. Additionally, She states that organisations will require to develop and adapt to different working models in order to suffice their business needs. 

1. Should workplaces enforce a COVID vaccine policy before employees can return to the office?

The entire world is collectively fighting a common, global crisis. Each one of us has a responsibility towards each other and the only known way for us to come out of it is through vaccination, which has visibly helped control the spread of the virus around the world. Vistara is a modern, progressive organization, and we believe in the power of effective communication. With respect to vaccination, it has significantly helped us to encourage our colleagues across the network to get vaccinated. Moreover, in a deep-rooted service-oriented culture, our colleagues carry a strong sense of responsibility towards the safety of customers as well as for themselves and hence the majority of our workforce chose to get vaccinated voluntarily. Towards this, On March 31, 2021, Vistara decided to reimburse the cost of vaccination to any employee who got vaccinated on their own irrespective of the cost, type of vaccine taken and place where taken. 

Focused communication initiatives were carried out to bust myths about vaccination and educate employees on Do’s & Don’ts related to vaccination under our campaign - #VforVaccine. Local Covid task forces were empowered to reach out to different hospitals and government bodies to create tie-ups for vaccination. They also supported airport vaccination drives for employees of Vistara and our partner companies, along with their family members. Vistara also organised a week-long vaccination drive at its Corporate Office in Gurugram and also leveraged drives organised by other Tata Group companies in different cities. We had also explored associations with vaccination centres, hospitals and various authorities to enable vaccination for our employees. 

2. As the world prepares to bounce back to normalcy, many organizations including Vistara have adopted a hybrid working model. Can you explain what that means for Vistara employees?

The hybrid working model is adopted for those colleagues that do not have customer-facing roles, which is a small percentage of the workforce. majority of the Vistara staff is in operational roles, such as cabin crew, pilots, ground services professionals, engineers, technicians, etc. and therefore it is impossible for them to work from home. Scores of our colleagues have worked tirelessly and bravely through the pandemic, in their commitment of service to people. At Vistara, our hybrid working model involves having 50 per cent of our corporate office colleagues working from  office at a given time. Our corporate office workforce has been divided into two teams, and each team works from office on a rotational weekly basis.

3. What have been some challenges with respect to a hybrid workplace set up at Vistara?

Our challenges mainly come from the nature of the industry we operate in. An airline simply cannot work from home. When most of our workforce is made of frontline staff, it becomes difficult to strike a balance between working modes for them and for the rest of the colleagues who have desk jobs. But we have been able to do well these last few months. Initially, a natural apprehension was about the lack of coordination and communication between our teams. But technology came to the rescue and we also realised that the pandemic had brought people closer and made us all a lot more empathetic towards each other. All of us recognised that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach and that we need to act with responsibility, collectively.

4. With attrition levels rising because of companies asking their employees to commence working from office, how do you justify this act? What is the way going forward? How should organisations control this ongoing attrition menace due to employers forcing the employees to come to the office to work? Will vaccination compulsion within organisations, instil a drop rate amongst people going for their first or second dose?

Things are very different for any airline – our colleagues are passionately engaged in serving customers or enabling our teams to do so. Therefore, attrition because of shift back to working from office is not common in aviation. Our people understand the nature of the industry very well and are mature individuals who choose to work in this very dynamic environment and act with great responsibility. So, this issue is not really one for airlines, in my view. At Vistara, we have rolled out a vaccination policy to encourage employees to get vaccinated. In this policy, all employees are being encouraged to take their first jab latest by 01 October 2021 and the second one by 01 January 2021, with exemptions for employees with a valid medical reason for not getting vaccinated. Those who do not take the vaccines without any valid reason will be required to carry an RT-PCR / RAT Negative test report, not older than 7 days for their visits to the office. Efforts are being made to inform employees about the policy, its applications & implications so that no hardships are caused to employees while implementation of policy. Vistara would continue to facilitate all employees who are willing to get vaccinated.

5. Do you think vaccines have the potential to end the hybrid work model a few years down the line?

Vaccination is the only known answer to the pandemic and the way to get back to a normal covid-free environment. With respect to the work model, I think we will witness different organizations taking different approaches, depending on what works for them and their employees.

6. Will remote work productivity be just a fleeting crisis phenomenon in times to come?

We have seen people adapting to the crisis quickly. While there was a disruption in the work environment when the entire workforce had to work remotely, we witnessed that the work productivity was at par with what it would have been in a normal working environment. Even as we move forward and if the remote working model stays, we are confident that employees understand their roles and responsibility and will continue to remain productive and adaptive.


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