March 29, 2024 All Articles

Meet the Speaker: Uma Avantsa, VP – India & APAC Operations, Vimeo

We are delighted that Uma will be speaking in Bengaluru this April as part of our Wellbeing at Work Summit India.

We caught up with her to find out how she’s feeling in the run up to the summit.

Hi Uma, we are thrilled you will be speaking at our Wellbeing at Work Summit India in April. Our first and most important question is, how are you doing today?

I am doing well. Thank you for asking. It warms my heart to think that someone cares enough to ask the question.

As a leader based in the region, what are the main challenges you are facing when it comes to employee wellbeing?

The challenges we face are multifold. 

The main challenge is to get the employees to be open about the issues they are facing. We are a fully remote team and we do not know the hardships faced by employees unless they tell us. 

As leaders in a remote work setup, maintaining team cohesion, and addressing feelings of isolation can be challenging. We think that through our policies and processes we have created a safe space for the employees to be open about their issues. But in reality, there is scepticism around the policies.

For example, we have one day of “Self care” leave every month and encourage employees to take it whenever they need. Even if no questions are asked around why someone is taking it, the utilisation rate is in single digits. Same can be said for the other support resources that we provide.

The other challenges are:

  • Creating the support system while keeping the business needs in mind. Technology is a high pressure work space. We face challenges in fostering a supportive and healthy workplace culture while still meeting demanding business targets.
  • Handling the Stigma around mental health. 
  • Mental health issues are often stigmatised in APAC cultures, leading to reluctance among employees to seek help or disclose their struggles. Addressing this stigma and promoting mental health awareness and support programs can be a challenge.

What strategies have you seen developing over the past 6 months, both internally and externally, that is moving the dial on wellbeing in the workplace?

  • Employers are leveraging technology to support employee wellbeing, such as implementing wellbeing apps, digital platforms for tracking health metrics, and AI-driven tools for personalised wellness recommendations. We are subscribed to a few.
  • Companies are encouraging community engagement activities both internally and externally. This could involve volunteering initiatives, community service projects, or partnerships with local organisations to foster a sense of purpose and connection among employees. It is easier if the company is in the realm of CSR. But even otherwise I see smaller companies making an effort in this direction.
  • Though we always had a DEI Leader at the top level, the initiatives are gaining momentum as organisations recognize the importance of creating inclusive workplaces for promoting employee wellbeing. This includes addressing systemic inequalities, promoting diversity in leadership, and fostering a culture of belonging.

Why is employee wellbeing so important to you personally?

Employee wellbeing should be important not only for me but for any leader who really cares about the business. The following are the main benefits of focusing on employee wellbeing, especially in a fully-remote workplace like ours:

  • increase in productivity: Employees who feel supported and cared for by their organisation are more engaged and have higher morale. They are able to focus better and contribute better to goals. 
  • increase in employee retention: Employees are more likely to stay with a company that values their health and happiness, reducing turnover costs and maintaining institutional knowledge
  • reduction in Healthcare and insurance costs due to unforeseen incidents give long term benefits to the company
  • attracting top talent though our empathetic policies which enhance brand image of the company

What are you most looking forward to about the Summit in April?

I hope that the Summit brings the wellbeing of employees into the spotlight so that organisations can include it in their priority list.

I am looking forward to sharing best practices on employee engagement and wellness policies with my peers in the industry. I hope to learn what others are doing better in terms of improving the workplace environment and how they are prioritising their employee wellbeing.

Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future in terms of engagement, health and well-being?

My vision for the future workplace revolves around creating an environment that prioritises employee engagement, health, and wellbeing as core components of organisational success. 

The workplace of the future will be built on a foundation of empathy, trust, and respect for employees. Organisations will prioritise creating a supportive and inclusive culture where employees feel valued, heard, and appreciated for their contributions. I can foresee that technology will play a central role in facilitating this. AI-driven digital platforms and tools will support wellness challenges and virtual team-building activities.

Overall, the workplace of the future will be characterised by a human-centric approach.

What areas do you think employers should be focused on over the next 12 months?

Mental health should be destigmatized and prioritised alongside physical health. Employers will have to provide access to mental health resources, counselling services, and mindfulness programs to support employees in managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

Organisations need to invest in continuous learning and development opportunities to help employees grow personally and professionally. This may involve providing access to online courses, skill-building workshops, mentorship programs, and career coaching to support employees in reaching their full potential.

Instead of striving for a strict work-life balance, the focus should shift towards work-life integration, where employees can seamlessly blend their personal and professional lives in a way that works for them.

How has your organisation been leading the way?

The organisations that I am associated with have implemented the following practices to ensure that employees feel supported:

  • fully remote work at all office locations which gives flexibility to the employees and helps in maintaining work-life integration
  • “Self care day” leave over and beyond the usual vacation policies
  • supportive resources such as wellness app, counselling sessions, etc
  • holistic mindfulness programs including yoga, meditation, team building activities, etc
  • Matching donation policy ensuring that the company is supportive of the causes that employees care about and volunteering opportunities which help de-stress and also support social causes

Uma will be speaking in Bengaluru as part of the Wellbeing at Work Summit India which takes place in Mumbai on 23rd April, Virtually on 24th April and in Bengaluru on 25th April. Further details on the Summit can be found here.

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