January 26, 2022 All Articles

Meet the Speaker: Natalja Kissina, HR VP – Gulf Countries, Schnieder Electric

We spoke with Natalja Kissina ahead of her involvement in the Wellbeing at Work Middle East Summit between 21-23 February live in Dubai to find out more on her passion for wellbeing in the workplace and how it is changing across the region.

We are thrilled that you will be speaking at our Wellbeing at Work Middle East Summit in February. Our first and most important question is, how are you doing today?

Natalja Kissina: I am doing great! Thank you for asking. I am thrilled to be representing Schneider Electric at the Wellbeing at Work Summit as the topics of wellbeing, mental health and employee satisfaction are all strong key threads that run through the fabric of the way we manage Human Resources at Schneider Electric locally and globally too.

As a leader based in the region, what are the main challenges your you are facing when it comes to employee wellbeing?
Natalja Kissina: Considering the ongoing pandemic and the new hybrid work environment across the globe, one of the key challenges we face is the human connection aspect. Working from home has meant that most employees only see and interact with their co-workers and managers through a screen, which can be very challenging as human beings are social creatures who thrive on face-to-face interaction. With this in mind, we ask our employees to come to the office 3 out of the 5 days so they can benefit from seeing their colleagues and be together in safe working environment where they can collaborate, discuss and connect in-person. We also organized a successful mental health run late last year to highlight the importance of exercise and being outdoors for our employees’ mental health.

To this end, another key challenge we face is promoting a more active culture in the workplace. Workloads and more online meetings mean that many employees across the region sit for long periods of time, which is not ideal. We try to encourage movement through our various runs and regular wellbeing sessions, covering mental health, yoga, meditation, and other key stress relief techniques.

What strategies have you seen developing in the region over the past 6-12 months during the pandemic to address health and wellbeing in the workplace?
Natalja Kissina: In the last 6- 12 months, I have seen a bigger push from many global and local companies in the region with regards to giving employees more flexibility with their work schedules. This is wonderful as it allows employees a better work-life balance and ensures that caregivers and parents – especially – can provide and care for their families and dependents and manage their work at the same time. After all, flexibility is not solely about location; it is also about a series of arrangements to boost productivity while fostering inclusion and diversity in the workplace and realising that each employee has unique needs and different personal responsibilities.

I have also seen an uptake in the number of employee wellbeing and health related events and conferences taking place, which means these topics are becoming a key priority in the region, which is great to see.

I also see a greater push for hybrid working plans by companies – both international and local – to ensure safety protocols are met and also to ensure employees can enjoy a mix of working environments where they feel the most comfortable, happy and most productive.

Why is employee wellbeing so important to you personally?
Natalja Kissina: For me personally, wellbeing is extremely important because employees who are happy and healthy create a positive and nurturing environment for the company to grow and succeed. It’s quite simple: when our employees are doing well, so are we because they are the foundation of everything we do. Moreover, in my experience I have seen that investing considerably in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, stronger employee engagement, reduced sickness-related absence and higher performance and productivity. But for this to be successful, employee wellbeing priorities must be integrated throughout an organisation. It should be embedded in its culture, leadership and people management strategy, which is exactly what we strive to achieve at Schneider Electric.

What are you most looking forward to about our event in February?
Natalja Kissina: I am looking forward to connecting with like-minded individuals from the industry to sit down together and start a conversation on how we can support and increase the wellbeing of our employees given the new hybrid working environment we find ourselves in. I am also looking forward to learning about the best practices followed by other key companies in the region and how we can implement similar practices at Schneider Electric in the Gulf and create a win-win situation for our people.

Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future, in terms of employee engagement, health and wellbeing?
Natalja Kissina: Well, I believe the workplace of the future is hybrid. In fact in 2021, Gartner Inc announced from its research findings that there is no going back to the work model that prevailed before the pandemic. Companies that give employees the freedom to work from home are more attractive to potential employees and are not restricted to the local job market. From a sustainability and cost perspective, there are also gains as firms as less burdened by office space and business travel overheads. This set up also translates into an organization that is eco-friendlier and more sustainable and has a lower carbon footprint.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly influenced all areas of employees personal and professional lives. What are the key learnings from this period and what are your tips for supporting each other through uncertainty?
Natalja Kissina: I think the pandemic has definitely affected us all in all aspects of our
lives whether that be in terms of health, travel, work and life in general. One key takeaway is definitely the potential for feelings of isolation and detachment when working predominately at home and on your own. Work gives us a sense of shared purpose and a connection with other people. No matter what industry you’re in, a workplace is a community. However, when team members are on their own at home, they start to feel more isolated. They can lose sight of the company vision and disengage from their workplace. Keeping this in mind, we made it a point at Schneider Electric to reach out to our employees during the pandemic through our internal communications channels and via regular monthly Gulf staff and wellbeing meetings to create a sense of togetherness and unity online.

Another key learning from this period is the importance of supporting our teams and management during these times by reaching out through regular calls and checking in on those we are working it. Globally, anxiety levels are at an all-time high, so we also learned how crucial it is to foster a culture where exercise, time with family and time in nature are balanced along with work commitments.

How has your organisation been leading the way over the last 12 months?
Natalja Kissina: In the past year, Schneider Electric has shined brightly in terms of employee wellbeing and fostering a healthy work culture. In October 2021 we won two Future Workplace Awards: Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Best Employee Support Strategy.

Meanwhile, at the Happiness@Work Awards in November 2021 we were winners in the Best Workplace Wellness Programme category for the private sector, which was an absolute honour and a testament to all the hard work and efforts our team has put into wellbeing and wellness for our employees.

These awards highlight our strong commitment to the happiness and wellbeing of our employees, and we hope these accolades are an inspiration for other companies to follow our lead and really walk the talk when it comes to these important topics.

More importantly, Schneider Electric was a very early adopter of the new work weekend in the UAE. We did this to support our UAE-based employees and ensure they were able to carry on with school commitments, have personal time and get enough time to spend with their families. We campaigned very strongly for this to happen so we could ensure a strong work-life balance for our employees and thus foster stronger wellbeing.

You can hear more from Natalja at the Wellbeing at Work Middle East Summit between 21-23 February live in Dubai and virtually. Further details can be found on the event website here.

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