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in.harmony is a consultancy offering customized Diversity and Inclusion, Employee Wellness and Counseling solutions to
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Just like every individual is different, so is every organization. Within a sector, one of the differentiating factors of organizations is their culture

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Gender Sensitisation

An organization can effectively leverage its gender diversity only when the genders understand each other’s language

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Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace: POSH

Creating and enabling a work environment that is fair and harassment free

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Series of workshops aimed at helping women re-awaken to their inner power!

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Recognizing and addressing the dilemmas and concerns of new and returning mothers and their supervisors

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Managing work-life balance, Singlehood- Living a safe and engaged life, Positive networking, Influencing skills

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Counseling is a process of helping people deal with problems which impact their life

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Freedom to Come Out

Freedom to Come Out

Sunitha is a beautiful, bright, young engineer working in an IT company in Chennai. She was born and brought up in a small town of Andhra Pradesh. As she turned 25 years, her family eagerly started planning her marriage and looking for a suitable match.

A well-wisher brought Sagar's proposal to Sunitha's family. Sagar is handsome, smart, an engineer cum MBA from one of India's premium management institutes and works in an MNC in Bengaluru. His parents were also settled in Andhra Pradesh.

Sunitha and Sagar met each other in the presence of family members and agreed to get married. A grand engagement ceremony was conducted in Sunitha's hometown and every family living in that town attended this.

The wedding was scheduled to take place 3 months later. In this period, Sunitha and Sagar met in chaperoned environments a few times. Both their families were conservative and ensured that some family member or the other accompanied them when they went out together.

On a Sunday morning, 2 weeks before the wedding, Sagar called Sunitha and told her that he couldn't get married to her. He told her that he was in love with a man and couldn't imagine a life with Sunitha. Saying this he disconnected the call.

Sunitha was shell-shocked. She tried to call Sagar but he refused to answer her calls. She sent him a message and he started giving details of his homosexuality via message. He told her that he didn't have the courage to tell his parents and so, had gone along with the marriage plans. He had contemplated ending his homosexual relationship and starting a future with her. However, as the wedding date got closer, he felt claustrophobic and knew that he couldn't go ahead with the marriage. He told her that he was on anti-depression pills due to the stress and guilt he was feeling ever since their wedding had been announced. He also expressed his regret for hurting her.

Sunitha didn't know how to handle this news. She had really liked Sagar and had been dreaming about a life together. She was heartbroken and kept thinking about the fact that at no time in their limited interaction had she seen any signs of Sagar being homosexual. Ofcourse, her experience with the LGBT community was negligible.

She was consumed with worry for her parents. She was concerned about their embarrassment and the reaction of the people of her village who, she knew, would enjoy gossiping about her situation.

She messaged Sagar about her predicament and pleaded him to re-consider his decision. She expressed her desire to marry him inspite of his homosexuality so that her family is saved from the shame and embarrassment of a wedding being called off. Sagar, however, was firm about his decision. He explained to her that what she was considering was a short-term solution. In the long term, both of them, and their respective families would be hurt even more deeply.

Reluctantly, Sunitha broke the news to her parents and family members. As anticipated, they were livid, upset, embarrassed, confused and immensely concerned about the future of their daughter.

Sagar's parents were equally shocked by the news. The families decided to meet in person with both Sagar and Sunitha also being present. In the meeting, Sagar reluctantly admitted about his homosexuality to his family members. He told them that he had been keeping it a secret for the last 4 years.

Sagar's parents were aghast and speechless. Such a thing was unheard of in their family. His mother started beating him up. She started cursing her bad luck and also talking aloud about where she had gone wrong in her parenting to drive Sagar towards becoming a homosexual. Close family members who were present started commenting on Sagar's upbringing, the family's bad luck, and various pujas that would have to be done to ward-off the evil called homosexuality.

Sunitha and Sagar's case is not unique. Such scenarios play out in many families in India. Both Sunitha and Sagar were justified in their respective emotions and reactions. Here, Sagar had the courage to come out to Sunitha and to call off the wedding. In many cases, the girl or boy realizes the sexual orientation of their spouse only after the marriage, when things get even more complicated.

Homosexuality is a taboo in the largely conservative Indian society. Most families look at homosexuality as a disease or an attack of an evil force. This is an unknown space and many don't even want to make an effort to understand this world even for their own child's sake. A reason why people like Sagar hide their sexual orientation and are compelled to live a pseudo life. This is also the reason why girls like Sunitha become unknown victims.

What goes unnoticed is the amount of stress and energy drain experienced by a homosexual individual in the process of hiding their sexual orientation. If they are allowed the freedom to express themselves, this energy can be channelised to achieve a lot for themselves and the society.

Being a homosexual is not an illness. It is a natural sexual orientation of a person and needs to be respected. In India, the awareness about LGBT is limited. Efforts to increase awareness and help homosexuals come out in the society and at workplaces is restricted by the existence of Sec 377 which criminalises homosexual relationships and all non-missionary position sexual acts.

I have come across many progressive organizations taking proactive measures to create an inclusive environment for their LGBT employees. They have official LGBT networks and policies supporting same sex relationships. However, inspite of their best efforts very few employees come out voluntarily. The existence of Sec377 and the social stigma associated with homosexuality in India prevents many employees to come out freely. In my view, scrapping of Sec 377 will go a long way in creating a healthy environment for people from the LGBT community to live a free and dignified life.

Being a diversity and inclusion consultancy, in.harmony has a deep understanding about the concerns of the LGBTQI community. We are also conscious about the talent pool existing within this community and work towards giving them opportunities through appropriate recruitment and training support.

We work with corporates to increase awareness about LGBTQI issues and help them create an inclusive environment for the LGBT community through organization specific diagnostic studies, policy changes, recruitment and sensitization programs.

If you resonate with the incident or have your own experience to share or have thoughts on how to create an inclusive work environment for the LGBTQI community, please post your comments. It will not only help my learning process but may also be beneficial for someone struggling with similar issues.

About the author :
Anupama Easwaran is the founder of in.harmony, a diversity & inclusion consultancy. She is a management graduate and counsellor with 20 years of work experience in employee wellness, business development, client servicing, training, marketing, brand & event management. She is a fitness enthusiast, has diverse interests like reading, acting, and painting and firmly believes in living life to the fullest.

Last minute Tax Planning Tips!

Last minute Tax Planning Tips!

The 31st March deadline for completing your tax saving investments is hardly few days away and many taxpayers are running around to make investments for minimising their tax liability. Salaried taxpayers often end up paying more taxes than they are supposed to; reasons could be a lack of time for doing their tax planning or lack of knowledge about various tax rules or financial products to invest in. Let’s follow some important tips before you make your last minute investments:-

Follow Basics: Since we are talking about last minute tax planning, it means that you must not have done your financial planning which is the foundation of creating a sound investment portfolio & optimising tax savings. You may not achieve your financial goals if there is no financial plan along with a risk of paying more taxes. It is also highly impractical to get your financial planning done in 7 - 10 days because it needs some time. So, what should you do then?Staying to basics when you don’t know much about anything always helps, so do not invest in any financial instrument which you do not understand. Stay away from products which make you pay regularly for the next 15-20 years; you may get in to a trap by many so called financial planners which gets mushroomed during the last few days, they are nothing but the sales agents, beware of them and follow basics. Optimise the limit of Rs. 1,50,000/- U/S 80C!As you must be aware that the limit of investments which you can make under section 80C is Rs. 150000/-. One should not miss optimising this benefit because whatever you invest will make your tax liability lower and thereby gives you more in hand.For example, Manoj whose income is Rs 800,000 and he invest only half of the available Rs 150,000 limit; then he will be paying an additional tax of approximately Rs. 15,000 [i.e. Rs. 75,000*20% tax rate based on his tax slab of 20%] as opposed to an individual who has the same income but had made full investment u/s 80C.
Know all the options as available u/s 80C:Many times people invest in only Insurance or PPF and do not optimise the other avenues to cover up their tax savings; let us see some of the main options as available under 80C:-Investment related Options:- PFPPFNational Saving CertificatePremium on your life insurance policies5 Year FDs with banks or Post OfficeMutual Fund ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Schemes)

Expenses related Options:-Tuition fees paid for children\'s education (maximum 2 children)Principal component of home loan repaymentStamp Duty and Registration Charges of your houseOne should always optimise the benefits in terms of investing in the list of items as mentioned above or in case they are paying tuition fees for their kids or EMIs for their house then their net investments they need to make elsewhere comes down by the said amount of fees or principal of home loan.
Mutual Funds/ ELSS; the best choice:One of the best investment option as available in the market is Mutual Funds ELSS which apart from giving higher returns on your investments, also gives tax saving u/s 80C. One should not miss on investing in ELSS as apart from their returns, these are also low on charges, very transparent, provides higher liquidity and to top it all, the returns of mutual funds are completely tax free plus there is no obligation to continue ELSS investments for next few years unlike other investment options.
Opt for PPF investment!Similar to a Mutual Fund ELSS investment, you can also put your money in your PPF account especially when you do not have time to plan as these two investments will never go wrong.  Open a PPF account online of if you already have one then invest the remaining amount as left to cover 80C limit, though it is not the best practice to invest in any option without thorough financial planning but if there is no time left then you can opt for either of these option. Stay alert from fraudulent agents or Misselling!Since it is the year end, many salespersons being disguised as financial planners have to achieve their targets and they may push you in to buying various financial products which may become a bottleneck for you at a later stage or may be for the next 15-20 years, so stay alert and don’t rush in to investing in to any product without understanding.
Life beyond 80C!Apart from covering your investment/expenses limit u/s 80C, you should also look life beyond 80C as there are various other means and options to save in taxes. Let us see some of the options you can avail tax benefits by investing or availing of them as follows:-
Home loan: Principal you pay on your home loan gets covered under section 80C but interest on your home loan is available as a deduction up to Rs. 2,00,000/- under Section 24.Donations: In case you have paid some amount of money as a donation/charity to certain funds or organisations then the same is eligible for deduction as prescribed u/s 80G.HRA: Those who are staying on rent should submit their rent receipts to their employers to avail HRA benefits.Interest on Education loan: If you are paying towards an education loan as availed for pursuing higher education then the entire interest on that loan will be eligible for deduction u/s 80E. You can take this loan either for yourself, spouse or your child.Health Policy: The amount of medical premium you pay for your health insurance is allowed as a deduction up to Rs 25,000/- subject to certain conditions as per section 80D, plus an additional deduction is also available for the premium you pay for a policy of your parents.Reimbursement of Medical expenses: Up to Rs. 15,000/- will be reimbursed by your employer in a year.LTA: if your CTC has LTA component then you can claim it twice in a block of four years for your travel in India.
Important Note:Since we are talking about investing in the last few days i.e. before March end, then it is very likely that those who are falling under this category cannot submit their investment proofs to their employers now. The time line to submit investment proofs is already over in January or February but you still do not have to loose hope as you can still claim your excess tax paid by filing your tax returns in July and claiming a tax refund. The key is to invest sensibly as mentioned above and make your financial planning a priority for next year to plan your taxes better.So stay alert, stay smart, Happy Year ending!About the author:Rishabh Parakh is a Chartered Accountant & Chief Gardener of Money Plant Consultancy, a leading Tax & Investment Advisory Services Provider in Mumbai & Pune.

My take on the movie Tamasha: An Employee Engagement programme would have helped!

My take on the movie Tamasha: An Employee Engagement programme would have helped!

It’s not like me to really write a movie review. And this piece of writing is not intended to be so, either. It is not so much about the presentation style of the movie, but the concept presented in it. For those of you who have not yet watched the movie, I would not want this to be a spoiler for you. Do watch it first. Of course, I do hope that you will come back to read the perspective that I present here and leave behind your own comments too!

So, a bit of a background about the movie, the way I experienced it:

Starts off with scenes of a little boy, who lives in stories and for stories. He is filled with his own stories and sees characters he has heard or read about everywhere he goes. An endearing little kid, I must add here. He grows up only to be introduced to the harsh reality that stories cannot fetch him a livelihood. The stories are forcefully stolen away from him or rather he just buries them somewhere deep inside. As this kid grows up, he adopts the façade of someone with little imagination. (I don’t know why more often than not, the kid has to be a ‘he’). Goes on a vacation to this romantic place called Corsica in France, and finally, in what probably has been years, allows his free spirit to express itself in complete abandonment and in its full glory. He meets a girl, who falls in love with this free spirit.

Back in city life, he puts his mask back on. The girl searches for the free-spirit which unfortunately, has lost itself in the concept of ‘right thing to do’. Unable to find it, she decides to walk away, simultaneously and somewhat unintentionally, triggering the free spirit to knock and to be let free. The knocking soon turns in to a full-blown banging. And here starts the journey to find or rather re-discover oneself. Of course, the self emerges, the lost stories come alive again, the free-spirit reinstates itself and happily ever after ending with a passionate kiss. 

I liked it. It made me reflect and think about life. A movie that can make me do that, I always like.

My perspective on the movie: Was all about extremes

Extreme personalities reflected during the vacation and city life. Extreme steps that the protagonist takes in finding himself; quitting his job or rather being fired in an unceremonious manner, a bolting realisation that hits him during a single conversation driving him to take the final plunge and finally the extreme come back of his free-spirit.

Of course, as a movie, a depiction of such extremes is critical, to get the adrenaline of the audience pumping and to drive a deep emotional engagement of anyone watching. In the extremes, lies the inspiration.
But does a movie always have to be about inspirations? Can it not sometimes be solution oriented, I wondered, as I watched the protagonist move between the extreme?

Facets of personality show up: I mean, in real life, I have never really met anyone who has caged himself or herself into such tight boxes of personality; one for the vacation times and the exact opposite in city life. This kind of ‘in-boxing’ oneself does not quite happen I think and is neither water tight. Facets of personality do get reflected in real life. I think that a person with imagination cannot keep that hidden for too long. In some forum, it would show up. Humour shows up. Imagination shows up. As does anger or any other emotion for that matter.

Transition is never over-night: In a desperate attempt to find himself, the protagonist pushes an old story-teller to predict the ending of his own life. Hearing the statement, ‘you are a coward’, a sudden eureka moment of realisation, followed with a decision. In real life, for anyone struggling with the concept of finding one’s true self, one’s purpose or mission, it is never a eureka moment. Rather, it would be a continuous engagement with self. And this engagement needs to be conducted with an openness of the heart and the mind.

As I watched the protagonist go through these motions, I could not help but think of how a robust Employee Engagement programme in his organisation would have helped him! Might seem a bit tangent or far-fetched, but extremely practical in my view. Many research studies have already established that an engaged employee is a productive one and therefore contributes immensely to the organisation’s growth.

1) An EAP or a Counselling Service: The protagonist was going through a major emotional crisis. There were so many pent-up issues and emotions he was experiencing; a break-up, a desperate desire to break away and run for life, anger and many others. Talking to a counsellor would have been very useful. Talking through the issues to a neutral person would have helped him gain clarity at one level. At the other, it would have helped him to just release emotions and re-kindle the dreams that he had suppressed for years.

2) Manager Support Programmes: His boss had appropriately identified stress in his team member. However, the manner in which it was dealt with was inappropriate. He was not only quick to attribute it to the break-up but also tells his team member that there was no reason to be so heart-broken. Initially, he does attempt at being understanding but gives up soon. Through the Manager Support Programme, the supervisor could have in turn also spoken to a counsellor or any other neutral party on helping the team member through this situation, rather than asking him to sweep it under the carpet.

3) Flexible Working Arrangements / Policies: An option of this kind would have allowed the protagonist to have many options- appraisals being done purely on achieving deliverables, project based work options, altering the work arrangement in a manner that allows the individual to have a parallel career if they so wish, offering a year-long sabbatical....an organisation keen to create a truly engaged workforce may have other creative options for its employees.

4) Expressing Compassion & Empathy: Post the break-up, his team invites him to hang out in the evening. He hides his hurt under the garb of being relieved. A compassionate person would have seen through this put-on behaviour. Rather than partaking with his put-on behaviour, expressing empathy may have avoided him from falling off the cliff.

5) Various On-going Sessions: Communication on the importance of better relationships, recognizing that an individual brings to work not only the skills but also his or her entire self, sessions on emotional intelligence and many other similar initiatives could make a big difference.

In fact, I think the options could be many. We would love hear from all of you on how you think an organisation’s employee engagement or wellness programmes could have helped.

Deepa Agarwal holds a Masters Degree in Economics and is currently pursuing a Diploma in Counseling from the TISS. She has worked in areas of Research, Learning and Development, Diversity and Employee Wellness and brings with her a unique blend of experience and insight from the corporate and academic sectors. She is also penning her first fiction!

Quantity & Quality of Time: Can Fathers Have Both

Quantity & Quality of Time: Can Fathers Have Both

In Part I, I had shared some findings from a research that in.harmony had conducted in understanding Indian fathers working in India, their views on parenting especially with respect to the amount of time they spent with their children.

Our research showed that all 100 fathers who were interviewed wanted to spend more time with their children. We also saw that the role of Indian men as the main breadwinner is deeply etched in the Indian society. Taking early retirement from work to spend time with their children or help with child rearing while the mother works, is very rare. Good news is that there is a change, though it is happening very slowly.

The reality is that, for now, fathers have to step out of the house to earn a wage to support their family. The reality is also that work hours, travel, virtual offices, smartphones, laptops, all reduce the amount of pure personal time that is available to fathers.

So, how really can a father increase time with family and child/ children? Is the quantity of time important or the quality? What is the difference?

Quantity Vs Quality

Quantity, as the word means, is the amount of time available in terms of seconds, minutes, hours.

Quality of time is the value of time spent with the child. It refers to the mindshare your child got from the time spent with him/ her; how focused, intentional and engaging the time spent was. Spending one hour with your child working on a puzzle along with chatting with your friend on the phone, is not quality time. You may have managed the quantity but for your child, it didn’t make a difference because you didn’t give your mindshare.

Quantity of time, can it really be increased?
Yes. The simple strategies below can help:
Modify your routine: wake up early, observe your time drainers and reduce them, make time for some physical exercise. Refer to What Exercise Does To Your Mind  to see how much more energetic you will feel if you have a fitness routine, even if it is simple fitness. Your child will also pick up some good habits.

1. Prioritize and delegate: Take on only those jobs at work and at home which absolutely require your expertise or involvement. Delegate the others to trusted members of your team, family members and staff.

2. Reduce unnecessary breaks at work: Unknowingly, many minutes get sucked away in a single coffee/ tea break. Reducing these breaks help you add up to more free time which you can, in turn, spend with your child.

3. Review social media usage | involvement: Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter etc. These are again huge time drainers. Observe your social media usage for a week and make note of how much time gets consumed by this. Planning and scheduling your social media usage is a sure way to free up time. I say this from my own personal experience. A friend was almost addicted to Facebook and his family felt neglected due to his obsession. He consciously worked out a schedule to balance his social media, work, family and personal commitments. Now he checks Facebook and LinkedIn only thrice a day at a pre-decided time for a limited duration.

4. Kiddies day on at least one day of the weekend: If you have a 2 day weekend, keep one day aside to spend with your child. Plan activities where you can involve your child. These activities need not necessarily have to be completely kids specific. You can take your child along with you while running errands like grocery shopping, getting the car fixed or a haircut. Remember, your child learns a lot just by accompanying you. Make sure the day has a good blend of errands and fun activities that your child enjoys.
 For those of you who have older kids, shopping, watching movies, plays, discussing current affairs, there are a whole host of things you can do.

5. Take on some childcare duties: like dropping your child to the bus stop/ school, brushing teeth with them, giving them a bath (maybe over weekends only if time is a constraint), cutting nails of small kids, to name a few. Of course, many of these duties are age specific.

How can you make the time spent with your child memorable - quality of time

Here are some strategies to improve the quality of time spent with your child

1.  Keep a boundary between work and home
 Work pressures will always be there. It doesn’t help you, your work, or your family if you take these pressures back home. Some simple ways of creating a boundary between work and home are:
•    Listen to music on the way back home
•    Catch a nap during your commute back from work
•    Take a few deep breaths before entering the house
•    Enroute call a friend/ relative who helps you de-stress
•    Make a to-do list just before leaving work or during your commute back home. It will help you plan your work better and also feel more in control of the next day.
•    When you walk into the house, spend the first 15 minutes exclusively with your child. Children, irrespective of their age, wait for your arrival to share their day with you.

2. Making routine activities fun
These are again age specific.
•    Turning grocery shopping into a treasure hunt. Car cleaning can be made fun too.
•    Even daily routine like brushing teeth, bathing, saying prayers, eating a meal together can be fun.
•    Make bedtime special. Read books to them, cuddle up to them and exchange notes about your respective day.
•    Older kids can be asked to assist you to surf information about a prospective vacation or do a price comparison of a product you are planning on buying. Besides improving the quality of time spent, this also improves the self-belief and self-value in children.

3. Use Technology smartly
Overuse of technology can be intrusive. Using it smartly will help you connect better with your child. Here are a few tips:
•    Keep the phone away while you are with your child. Children, irrespective of their age, sense when you are mentally and physically present with them
•    Make a telephone call to your child when he/ she returns from school or once during the day (depending on the age group)
•    Use FaceTime, Skype when you are traveling
•    For older kids, you can send emails, forward interesting articles and reading material

4. Involve them in your hobbies
•    Music, running, playing board games, solving jig saw puzzles, gardening, painting, building Lego castles, reading a book together, the list is endless. When you involve your child in your hobby, besides spending time, you will also be teaching them valuable life skills.

5. Getting involved in their projects
•    You can help out with school projects
•    Teach a subject. My dad used to teach me math and history. Our study time was also the time to discuss many other things that happened during the day.

6. Play a sport together
Sports is a great way to bond.

7. Sharing experiences
About your work, people you have met, your travel experiences, current affairs. This enriches the experience of the time spent, for your child as well as you. It will also help your child expand their knowledge and interests.

8. Open communication with your spouse
This is crucial in the whole plan of improving the quality of time you spend with your child. If you are a father who feels that you aren’t getting enough time to bond with your child, talk to your spouse about your guilt, fear and anxieties regarding this. You will be amazed with the innovative ways in which she could help you create occasions to increase time and quality of time to spend with your child.

If you are a father, you may already have some interesting ways in which you have increased and improved the time spent with your child. Do share them. I am always eager to learn more. More importantly, your methods could benefit many other fathers.

Anupama, co-founder of in.harmony, is a management graduate and counselor with 20 years of work experience in employee wellness, business development, client servicing, marketing, brand & event management. Being a mother of a 16 year old, she has a deep understanding of parenting concerns from her personal experience as well. She has also helped many parents through various stages of parenting.