Tina Vinod

How can teams relook at their “Ways of Working” in this new normal | Tina Vinod | Head-Diversity, Equity & Inclusion| ThoughtWorks

Tina VinodIt’s often quoted, ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ I believe it’s not without reason because the last ‘pandemic-hit’ year disrupted our lives in more ways than one and forced us to re-examine everything including our ways of working. Organizations, leaders and employees were left questioning old practices and innovating new ones.

ThoughtWorks’ rapid global growth brings with it the need to adapt and sustain the progressive work culture that we have become known for.

Last year proved to be a testing time, and sustaining and growing our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts required massive doses of ingenuity, resourcefulness and empathy.

Especially, considering we are a global software delivery and consulting company with clients across the globe – we needed to evolve our DEI efforts and approach keeping several dynamic social and cultural factors in mind.

After last year’s months of imposed lockdown, we really wanted to understand how our employees were doing. These were stressful times and we needed to know exactly how to support our employees.

We ran a global Wellness and Covid Pulse Check survey and the inputs clearly indicated that our ‘ways of working’ needed an overhaul. We needed to address a rise in asynchronous communication, extended screen time, prolonged work hours, a lack of the team’s work-life balance and engagement, and a difficulty in connecting with other/new people. Our observation led us to recognize conventional work-related social norms had no choice but to be revisited.

This inspired a few employees to come together and partner with the ThoughtWorks DEI team to design the ‘Inclusive Team – Social Contract’ (ITSC).

This exercise is designed to help teams and individuals arrive at an aspirational set of behaviours and social norms or inclusive ways of working. These norms would address the concerns that have been shared above. The norms would cover everything from schedules to team culture to trust to communication practices and norms of engagement

We view the ITSC as an exercise for the entire team. As a whole, they have to come up with a set of inclusive social norms and practices. The exercise should cover key aspects like –

Building a culture of trust  Schedules & Meetings Communication Practices Norms of engagement
Supporting each other, feedback, empathy & cultivation Best practices, personal boundaries and context Tools, patterns and best practices.  Inclusive, welcoming, respectful & fun

Our guidance is, this exercise does not become a task to be checked off but a ‘social contract’ that the team proactively revisits as and when needed – eg. when new members join the team, or when a new project starts. Ideally, every new employee should be on-boarded with this Inclusive Teams Social Contract.

COVID-19 has disrupted our reality unlike any other global-scale event. What’s in our control as inclusive and diverse employees, and organizations is to adapt and evolve. We have the opportunity to reflect, regroup and reassess to create a more equitable and empowered future for all.