Looking ahead

Health, Safety and Wellbeing December 16, 2020

By Meera Achan, HR Manager – Middle East

Rather than looking back on 2020 as a year of lows, I hope that we can instead view it as a year of resilience, discovery, coming together and kindness.

As RSK’s Human Resources Manager for the Middle East, I get to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds, every day. One thing that struck me the most throughout the coronavirus pandemic, is the spirit of goodwill exhibited by the vast majority of those people. At RSK we pride ourselves on being a ‘family’ and this has been reflected in the way we have supported one another through the challenging times. This culture was in evidence when, in the midst of the pandemic, RSK produced a video showcasing acts of kindness by employees.

It is truly remarkable the speed with which organisations such as ours adapted to the evolving situation; and when I mention institutions, I mean people – how ‘we’ led, managed, reinvented and delivered. Offices shifted to our homes, laptops and monitors encroached our dining tables, but work continued. We started multitasking, managing home and office side by side. Personal meetings were replaced by virtual ones, making us wonder about the time, money and effort we spent all these years commuting, stressing and most importantly polluting the environment. The air became cleaner, trees greener and we started hearing the bird songs again. Technology, despite all its banes, opened up a new world of possibilities. Frontline workers and unsung heroes were finally recognised by many.

The most luxurious item – time – became affordable to many of us. We used the spare time to connect with people, talk about opportunities, share knowledge or simply check on one another. Team meetings turned colourful as we tried to bring a smile to each other’s faces, be it dressing in the same colour or wearing fancy hats or sharing a virtual coffee. RSK’s ‘Happy virtual holidays’ e-card is demonstrative of this refusal to sacrifice the fun we can have together just because we cannot do it in person. For once, it was ok to be stuck abroad, as long as you had your laptop and internet. It made us think about the way we hire and function, do we really need to invest in physical spaces if the work can be carried out remotely with the same efficiency? The carefully crafted business plans were covered under the tarp and ingenious ideas were put to test. We discovered new skills and dusted off old ones. Taboos were shed as we started discussing our mental health more openly, prompting efforts from governments and organisations to invest more in the mental health and wellbeing of their people.

It quickly became apparent at the onset of the pandemic itself that a strong support network was going to be more important than ever. From day one, the RSK leadership team embraced this as a key concern. Despite the challenges faced by the HR team and the business as a whole, the personal wellbeing of employees remained top priority. HR Director Zoe Brunswick drew on her personal challenges to reach out to employees, asking colleagues to share pictures of their mental health ‘lifelines’. The resulting montage symbolises us all standing together though we can’t physically be together right now – our RSK family.

Of course, it has not all been plain sailing. For those who have weathered it the worst, this includes lives lost, businesses shutting their doors and the mental and physical effects on those who have survived. We must not undermine the terrible impact this has had on so many. But what was incredible was that we were all in it, albeit in different boats, experiencing it at the same time – the same storm. There was no discrimination. Never in our lifetimes, have the human race (at least most of it) ever been unified in an experience like this. We became more empathetic, thinking about others, finding ways to help and share. The spotlight truly fell on the incredible ability of people to learn, adapt and grow. For once, people paused and took in the power of the cosmos, reflected on what they value the most and made room for it.

As a People Champion, I am excited to be serving a bunch of re-invigorated individuals hopeful about the new year. I will definitely be tapping into the hidden strengths they discovered this year and guiding them to the endless opportunities that await them. So what if the Olympics had to be put off or the new car didn’t materialise, this has well and truly been a year of incredible learnings and counting our blessings. I’m grateful for 2020 and here’s to 2021!

Wishing everyone a peaceful and joyful holiday season!!