Flexible Work Options | A Take by Niraj Parihar, EVP and India Head of Insights & Data GBL

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In conversation with Niraj Parihar, EVP and India Head of Insights & Data GBL, Capgemini India

We live in a society where gender roles have become more egalitarian and where women contribute increasingly to family economic well-being. Men are also much more involved in their home lives than men in the past, spending more time with their children and contributing more to the work of caring for their homes and families.

Our colleague Satinder Kaur met Niraj Parihar for an interview on how he has been championing flexibility at work to achieve his personal and professional goals and encouraging colleagues in his team to use the Flexi Options Policy, as and when required.

Hi Niraj, how are you and how are things at work and life.

I am doing great! I am excited about all the quality initiatives we have launched this year for our colleagues; the Flexi Options Policy is one of them. On the personal front – our son is getting ready for college, something that requires time and commitment back home and so this topic is very timely!

As you mentioned, we have formally launched the Flexi Options Policy to support our colleagues in achieving both personal and professional goals. There are some apprehensions with regard to availing the flexi options.

Like: Will there be eyebrows raised in office when I need to work from home to care for a sick child? Will peers’ question to why they see me at office only 4 days in a week, while rest of team is doing overtime at office on a time-bound deliverables?

Capgemini has one of the greatest cultures in the industry. Our teams are known for their collaboration, solidarity, and comradery. I believe these fundamentally strong values play a very positive role in supporting initiatives like flexibility at workplace. In work places, our teams have always stood for one another and I do not see why the teams would not welcome a colleague’s need to go part or flexi time. On the contrary, I believe a formal Flexi policy is a great vehicle for the leaders and teams to extend their support to the team members and their families in their time of need. Flexi policy is a conduit for us to extend our professional support to our colleagues’ personal situations and helping them succeed both professionally and personally.

In my 9+ years of working at Capgemini, I have been blessed with leaders, peers and teams who have supported in my own needs of spending time with my family, some time for weeks. I attribute my success at Capgemini to knowing that the organization will stand for me and with me in the times of my personal needs, and I constantly draw confidence and energy from that inspiration.

What are you doing to identify and tackle unconscious biases to building inclusion in your team?

It has been my constant endeavor to learn about and address unconscious biases within the teams. For something like Flexi working, we would need to bust the myths like flexible colleagues are less committed than full-timers to developing others; or that the flexibility is for women colleagues only. I like to address these by being a role model myself, providing mentoring on the floors and drive a culture that proactively identifies options like Flexi to enable high performances in our colleagues. We recently fully supported one of our leaders to take time out for a few months to take care of personal priorities. There is a constant mentoring through several initiatives that we have started in the unit – Monday Morning Leadership, Inspire and Engage, Career Counsellor are some examples of those.

Finally, we are encouraging our leads to keep the option of Flexi handy while assessing team members’ performance and address potential bottleneck through Flexi options. There needs to be an open and visible dialogue about the work-family challenges that you face. Being able to engage in a dialogue with people manager about family and personal issues makes a significant difference to colleagues with family responsibilities.

What are you doing to create a culture where performance trumps presence?

I believe the best way to promote performance over presence is to treat virtual presence as physical presence. It is that belief that a voice over phone or presence over skype is as real as the physical presence. As we develop this culture, the biases start fading away to give way to true merit, activities and deliverables irrespective of physical presence. In many ways, our colleagues availing Flexi policy also have a great responsibility to prove that the model works and a dialogue around that responsibility works very well.

Flexibility is a team sport. It’s about speaking up and sharing our personal goals. It’s also about encouraging our teams and peers to take the time they need and support each other.

How are you encouraging a shift from a culture of work-life policies to a culture of work-life in practice?

There are countless examples of us providing the Flexi support to our colleagues in need. I personally have been active in the betterment and expansion of Crèche at Hyderabad office – over the years so that more and more of our new parents can continue to keep working normal hours. Several of our leads have provided undeterred support by allowing team members to work from home for extended periods when their spouse, kids, parents or friends needed support from them.

It is very common for our team members to frequently go beyond the call of duty to spend long hours to meet our business commitments. At times they do it week after week and month after month and may have compromised a few personal priorities in the process. It is only fair that we reciprocate through options of Flexi to the betterment of our colleagues.

It is my belief that the professional and personal success is deeply connected with each other. Investment in one brings rewards in other, personal joy and elation are major boosters for professional success and growth.

Thank you Niraj.

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