A stroke survivor’s guide to creating empathetic workplaces
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A stroke survivor’s guide to creating empathetic workplaces

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Given that many business executives and middle managers making decisions today are under a lot of stress, stroke survivor Sameer Bhide reminds us of 10 simple things that can help build more caring workplaces.

At the age of 47, author Sameer Bhide suffered a devastating hemorrhagic stroke that led to two brain surgeries and a month in a medically-induced coma. The cause was found to genetic and extremely rare; yet he is extremely grateful to have emerged a survivor from this ordeal.

Although Sameer’s MRIs and CAT scans are now normal, he still continues to struggle with dizziness, headaches, and instability in his balance. However, his vision, speech, and body strength have improved greatly due to many aggressive therapies—physical, occupational, speech, vestibular and vision in the United States, and in India, naturopathy and holistic treatments like acupuncture, energy healing, raga therapy (music), and various Ayurvedic treatments and practices such as yoga, meditation, vegetarian diet, and massages.

Prior to his stroke, Sameer worked for almost 24  years in different roles in management, technology consulting, and knowledge management and sales at Ernst & Young, Kana, Ellucian, Wilmerhale LLP, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), 3Pillar Global, and Grant Thornton LLP.

As he looks back at this experience, and takes stock of corporate environments today, he points out that the rules of engagement in interpersonal relationships, especially in a professional environment, seem to have changed. Once governed by strict HR policies and rigid corporate codes of conduct, the pandemic has forced businesses to adapt and reinvent their growth as well as employee engagement strategies.

The decreased in-person interactions and the overall VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment, has led to stressed professional relationships. Given this situation, it is natural for business executives, middle managers, and staff to react or take decisions based on insecurities and doubts.

Thus, stroke survivor, Sameer Bhide, has put together tips that have been proven to help him face his adversities. These tips, which are also documented in his memoir, One Fine Day, can help organisations create a harmonious working environment for their workforce during these challenging times.

1. Do not compare: Comparing your business strategies, processes and goals with competitors may be counterintuitive and cause more mental stress than be productive. Do not compare your work projects/assignments with others. Have faith and trust that your business will grow at its own pace and that is perfectly alright.

2. Take ownership: When making decisions about initiatives, new processes or technologies, it is important to take ownership of those decisions. Take as much feedback as possible – from within and outside your organisation, but treat all of it as mere inputs, as there would be many ideas and suggestions from various well-meaning people. In the end, you have to evaluate those and decide what is in the best interest of your company, clients, and employees.

3. Diversity in the workplace is enriching: Build and leverage a diverse workforce. People from varied ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, and genders, help bring different perspectives to challenges and problems. Diverse workforces also bring a rich mix of talents and skillsets which can benefit your company’s capabilities for problem-solving and driving innovation.

4. Take balanced decisions: During these times of volatility, it is easy to be driven by insecure or negative emotions. One needs to make a balanced choice between the heart and the mind, the practical and emotional approach, when taking decisions related to new projects or any other business decision.

5. Segregate independent and team projects: In today’s organisations, there are different types of assignments. However, not all may require team involvement. Sometimes, independently-executed projects work best when given to an able candidate. Learn to balance independent work culture and collaborative team projects, to ensure intelligent segregation of responsibility, minimise workload, and ensure efficient delivery of results.

6. Identify fatigue: It’s natural that many employees will be overwhelmed and will experience fatigue. It could be a by-product of the multi-tasking that they have been handling, in their personal and professional life. The fatigue, should not be taken personally. In fact, allow for a supportive and empathetic environment to help them deal with it without being pushed to a burning point.

7. Act from a place of empathy and drive the same: It is important to remember that each one of us has gone through multiple challenges in the past few months – the loss of a loved one, physical and mental health issues, health concerns of family members, financial strain, social isolation, business and employment uncertainty, and more. When working on a project, or a professional assignment, a person may not react amicably to a challenge, never assume anything. And act from a place of empathy.

8. Don’t play the victim: It is important to know that one has no choice but to play the hand you are dealt, not the hand you wish you had or think you deserve. In professional terms, it may mean the type of projects, budget constraints, expansion or career progression, etc. As they say, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. One cannot ‘play the victim’ beyond a certain time. It’s okay to pity yourself initially, but that has to stop quickly so one can slowly begin to accept the new reality and eventually the new normal.

9. Make life smoother: It helps to create a positive environment for co-workers. Sharing information, being transparent and encouraging a collaborative approach to tasks can help build trust and create a close-knit team of employees, who can bring varied skills and make a passionate attempt to every task.

10. Leverage technology: Lastly, nothing beats enhancing productivity and making tasks easy, by leveraging cutting-edge technologies like portals, digital platforms, remote desktops, audio/video conferencing, mobile-first platforms, simplified reporting tools etc.

The above can go a long way in ensuring your organisation not only survives the crisis but thrives in it.

Photo / 123RF

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