As we interview HR leaders around Asia on their big people-centric plans, this week's CHRO 4.0 shines the spotlight on Hwa Choo Lim, VP Human Resources, Equinix Asia-Pacific. She explains that while it may be impossible to have an entirely remote working environment, the implication of hybrid working is for companies to embrace a permanent flexible working arrangement.
Q What are some employee-centric trends you're grappling with in Asia, and how are you and your HR team responding?
Globally, everyone is being forced to adapt to the new normal environment, and businesses also have to adopt new policies and ways of working in the interest of public health and safety. At Equinix, this is no exception and the largest trend today is the need to support our largely remote workforce that values flexibility.
Being in Asia Pacific where COVID-19 infections were first discovered, Equinix has been monitoring the situation. By the time it was announced that this is officially a pandemic, we were ready to shift our workforce remotely, prioritising the safety of our employees while maintaining the smooth operation of our services at this challenging time.
With a short turnaround time, our business continuity plans were in place with the goal of ensuring seamless operations throughout this situation, including provisions for ensuring all data centres remain staffed and fully operational and that our International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centres are equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies. We also restricted access to our data centres for visitors, customers, customer contractors and non-critical Equinix employees, contractors and vendors for anything other than critical and essential work.
Not only that, integral to this remote style of working is the ability to easily and seamlessly interact with employees, customers, partners and prospects over video and calls – anywhere, anytime. At Equinix, we were quick in implementing collaboration tools as a virtual way forward for our employees, allowing them to resume business operations virtually.
Together with an increase in digitally savvy employees, combined with the impact of changing work patterns, we’re accelerating digital transformation both within Equinix, as well as for our external stakeholders.
Apart from providing the tools needed by our employees, we also introduced additional measures to ensure our employees in Asia Pacific feel safe, and for them – especially families with children and elderly – to have the appropriate flexibility needed at this time.
For instance, we have developed supplementary employee resources available through a dedicated COVID-19 response page on the corporate intranet and through a variety of ongoing communications including a global virtual company meeting, live and recorded webcasts, and team town halls.
We have further compiled resources for employees to manage stress and to engage in exercise while working remotely, including employee-led meditation, yoga classes, and other offerings.
Q Will the remote workplace replace the physical one? How should organisations pivot and what are the implications of this shift to hybrid working?
In the business that Equinix is in, it’s impossible to have an entirely remote working environment. With data centres worldwide experiencing a surge in demand generated by higher internet traffic, governments in Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, for example, have categorised data centre operators as essential workers.
Instead, for Equinix, we’re adopting a hybrid workplace environment where we identify personas of employees based on what their roles require – whether they can afford to work remotely or not. For instance, even though IBX staff have to be present at IBX facilities, Equinix has in place policies that minimises the number of people on site and restrict visits to IBX to critical work only. We also reduce the amount of time people spent in the IBX facilities.
The implication of hybrid working is for companies to embrace a permanent flexible working arrangement. Be it catering to individual employee’s needs or having to work remotely due to social-distancing, the future of work needs to be resilient to changes. As a result, adopting a flexible work model is likely to allow businesses to be more agile and more adaptable to future disruptions.
At Equinix, our teams have been quick in responding to these changes, and we have managed to keep productivity levels consistently high despite the ongoing disruptions.
Q What is your take on the most-needed and least-needed skills currently? What would you list as jobs that will thrive, and jobs that will disappear post the pandemic?
All skillsets are considered important. The most critical factor – regardless of the skills one has – is the mindset of resiliency and adaptability. Regardless of the industry anyone is in, our roles have evolved over time; the current pandemic has simply accelerated this evolution of our job roles.
Nobody could have predicted the current pandemic, we have to adapt to the current situation, evolve and build on our current skillsets to emerge stronger. As such, the most critical factor here is how we adapt to make ourselves, our skillsets, relevant in the current context.
Q On the lighter side, what's the funniest or weirdest myth you've heard about HR?
The myth: There are two schools of thought as to what HR does – (1) HR sides with employees, and (2) HR sides with the company.
The truth is HR is a neutral party that needs to keep employees’ best interests at heart and at the same time, ensure that the business is run smoothly. It’s about finding the right balance instead of choosing a side. Employees are a business’ most valuable asset, and HR is here to help the company attract, develop and motivate employees in order for the business to grow quickly and easily.
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