Covid-19 lockdown has taught India a few sweet (and bitter) lessons on the digital way of survival in the corporate world. Oxygen, electricity, and water – without which survival is at most difficult for a human being – has several new companions in the form of Zoom, Slack, Houseparty, Google Sheets, etc. These technologies might have come in handy during testing times like this Covid-19 lockdown where more than three-fourths of the world is working from home for close to a month.
Across borders, across organizations, these new-age technologies, and tools needed to be implemented and deployed at lightning speed. To act at a speed like that an organization’s greatest asset – its employees – had to adapt itself with very little turnaround time. And this adaptation, superimposed with challenges posed by work from home, work for home, and work at home, is not easy. Unless the employee resolves to the new norm (of working from home) with a superior thought that there are tasks to achieve in company goals with the new-age tools, no Zoom, Slack or any other technology would have penetrated into the new working systems and protocols.
So, when employees are the asset, making them comfortable with digital tools to maintain productivity is not only important to keep the business going during these difficult times but it is equally important to keep the employees energetic and motivated.
A few of these opinions below by leaders of various organizations reflect how a strong commitment by their employees to perform their designated tasks harnessing the digital solutions provided to them is helping their establishments sail through the rough sea of Covid-19. The leaders have also ensured that their employees don’t end up working all the time and have also taken the opportunity to introduce upskilling programs.
Basin Gerald, Founder and CEO, Profit.co:
According to the Gallup reports, 33% of the U.S. labor force and 15% of the employees all over the world are engaged. From employee engagement and productivity perspective, they should be well equipped with a holistic understanding of the company’s goals. This will also bring to the forefront the pivotal role each individual plays in fulfilment of these goals. For the leader, they would always want to have all-time access to business progression and it is aligned with the large business objective. With teams spread across the world and under the current pandemic when all are working off-premise, the business leaders would like to assure that all members of the team are aligned to the larger business goal. Employee engagement and Behavioral Economics go hand in hand. The latter has managed to provide companies with fool-proof ways to improve productivity and boost overall progress. To provide transparency and lead a top-down approach, organizations small and big should adopt a process that allows them to clearly define and track objectives as well as key performance indicators. This is where bottom-up Objective Key Result (OKRs) come in. With OKR, individuals are encouraged to create their own personal objectives and key results that align with the team, department, and company goals. This, in turn, helps in improving productivity.
Akhil Gupta, co-Founder and CTO of Nobroker.com
NoBroker, a tech-enabled brokerage-free real estate platform that makes the real estate transactions seamless and efficient has given work from home to their call center employees which is quite rare. As the software for the call center can't be handled through the home. However, with their tech strong team, they have initiated this step. We are using Slack heavily for tech teams for easy coordination and team calls. Every morning and evening we have team huddles at a fixed time so everyone is updated on the progress of work. The weekly meeting between various teams has also switched to Slack.
We have a lot of call center employees for whom we have enhanced our integrated contact center solution to enable calls on employee phones instead of a computer. Even the incoming customer calls are patched to the personal mobile phones of the calling executives. Each one of our employees can work from home without any hassle. All they are required to have is a good internet connection.
Harshvendra Soin, Chief People Officer, Tech Mahindra:
The well-being and safety of our associates and partner ecosystem is our biggest priority. We have relaxed our work from home policy and are encouraging associates to avail the same. In accordance with the government’s orders and guidelines, we have postponed all internal events and have advised everyone to adequately leverage technologies like TelePresence and Video Conferencing. We are also working towards utilizing next-generation technologies, to have a robust business continuity plan in place, to combat the situation. We are constantly monitoring the situation to ensure that our associates feel safe, secure and motivated at all times.
Chandhok Cathy Chandhok, Chief Marketing Officer, Infogain:
In business, we are taught to brace for eventualities and a business continuity plan is supposed to help us manage calamities such as fire, flood, or weather-related events or even cyber-attacks. But in the last few weeks, nothing has shaken the business world as this pandemic. Organizations have been forced to quickly adapt, learn and execute. ‘Work from home’ is one such development. The office atmosphere gives a camaraderie and belongingness that sitting at home working by oneself can be increasingly daunting. At Infogain, we believe that maintaining a disciplined work schedule will help, we are also encouraging our employees to do more video chats for work and to just bond, leveraging tools such as MS Teams or even Workplace! We have also set up helpdesks to ensure our employees are well looked after and know there is someone they can always reach out to. Our key executives, who are part of a task force are also available at the end of an email. And finally, we are utilizing this to do many information-sharing sessions in the form of webinars across our global locations – engaging as well as learning and keeping ourselves, our teams across active.
Spicetree Design Agency (SDA), Founder Shiraz Khan
Being a digital agency, one has various things to deliver right from content, creative, copywriting, visual effects etc. Most of this requires hi-end computer systems as the creatives can’t be supported otherwise. Pre-empting the situation SDA decided to take precautionary actions so that the teams are safe and their families are also safe. Before the announcement of lockdown 2 weeks back, they changed the timings of the team. Everyone was asked to come to the office at 8.30 am and leave by 5.30 pm so they miss the peak hours and crowd. Once the corona confirmation numbers started going up they simultaneously started setting up dashboards for teams to work from home. Computers were installed in the house of team members who didn't have one or who needed the hi-end computers. To ensure that the teams are functioning properly hourly reporting system has been set up and the organization can access computers and check what is the status of work etc. Being digitally prepared for the next couple of months is the need of the hour.
Pankaj Gupta, CEO & Founder, EnableX:
We, at EnableX, have managed to transition to remote working for our employees across all our locations in India & Singapore. We realize that effective & continuous communication and collaboration are critical to productivity while working from home. We are using our own Video Conferencing Solution extensively to seamlessly engage and connect with not just our employees, but customers and partners too. Remote working comes with its challenges as well and we’ve got a very effective IT team that has been working hard to ensure everyone is connected and productive! We are conducting regular all-hands calls to help our people stay ambitious and motivated. The teams are also being encouraged to use this opportunity to spend some quality time with their families and not just “work all the time”.
Anindita Gupta, co-Founder, Scenic Communications
During this lockdown, we are making sure the entire team is well versed in the digital nuances. We have made sure all our employees use Google sheets, Google Drive and Whatsapp groups so that there is seamless work. Each member of the team updates their to-do lists digitally and adheres to it and closes the same by end of the day. Many bigger agencies have incorporated CRM’s to ensure productivity. Productivity during WFH is achievable if used in an efficient manner. Team members need to be self-motivated and proactive and it is very important that they use technology efficiently. In India, there was no culture of having meetings digitally. Everything was done face to face, especially important business decisions and while closing high-ticket opportunities. The lockdown has brought a big mindset shift amongst the people. Many who would refuse video calls are readily agreeing to it and things are also getting closed like earlier. After the crisis, if we can still follow this it will help all business leaders to save a lot of time and energy and use it somewhere else efficiently.
Harsh Binani, co-Founder Smartworks
At Smartworks there is a lot of emphasis on employees’ well-being. We have been sharing regular updates with our workforce, in the form of advisories and emailers. We have been working with employees to help them with guidelines on how to achieve the maximum out of their day and make use of time tracking tools available online. We don’t see much impact on the output as of now as we see teams working together and collaborating well using Microsoft Teams. We are conducting all the internal meetings using Teams and external conferences using Zoom and MS Teams. Technology advancement has enabled remote working a bliss at this difficult time, whether you are sitting in office or kilometers away, we are communicating and working well with colleagues/employees remotely.
Ruchi Bhalla, Vice President & Head of Human Resources, Pitney Bowes Inc:
In order to help employees stay connected and positive during this trying time, Pitney Bowes has launched an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that provides Free Confidential Counselling, Access to Meditation and Relaxation Exercises, Online Resiliency Workshops and Guidelines to Remote Working. Additionally, we have launched Udemy Online Courses on Managing Virtual Teams, Cultivating Mental Agility and Managing Time while Working from Home. These courses are aimed at providing guidance to managers and employees to seamlessly balance Work-Life Integration in a virtual working environment. We have also set-up an Emergency Helpline for any support that employees need during this time.
Judith Yampolsky, Head of Amdocs People:
Some time ago, unrelated to coronavirus, we introduced a policy at Amdocs that allows our 25,000 employees to telework one day a week. Now, due to the coronavirus outbreak, we’re encouraging most of our people to work from home, full time for as long as it is needed. This is a totally different scenario. To help our employees adapt, and to stay as part of the corporate community, while maintaining a work routine and a healthy body and mind, Amdocs has launched the Virtually Together website. It provides a wide range of solutions for working from home, wellbeing and for parents at home with their kids. And we’ve decided to share large sections of this website with the wider community. Our industry connects people, so critical at a time like this, and we hope this site will help.
Sameer Nigam, CEO, Stratbeans:
Having led Digital Transformation for hundreds of companies, we, as an organization, are extremely agile and working remotely has never been a challenge for our people. To ensure uninterrupted functioning and seamless communication amongst employees as well as clients, we are using smart project management and collaboration tools like Slack, Confluence, and Zoom. These platforms allow our employees to collaborate and do virtual meetings at any time. This whole set up gets value added by the collaboration platform - G Suite by Google. Keeping in mind the safety and security of our employees, we advised them to work remotely way in advance - 3 weeks ago, a time when not all organizations were thinking about it. Moreover, we have always had a flexible 'Work from Home' policy since the beginning, therefore, it didn’t come to us as a cultural shock. In order to ensure a positive work environment even at home, we have added online fun rooms, and IMPROV sessions wherein people join from different locations and play mini-games. In fact, we have received a very good response to these.
Sunil Peter, Associate Vice President – BCP and IT, Maveric Systems: Maveric Systems operates out of 3 locations in India, with a total of 600 plus employees from Associates to Executives. With the current situation at hand, the teams responsible for timely delivery of work to the clients are giving their 200% using communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams, WebEx, SharePoint, Skype as well as ZOOM HD within our organization which helps us in supporting our employees to enable productivity.
Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Social Entrepreneur, Founder – President of Avtar Group
Technology is a great enabler today. Leaders are making the best use of video calling solutions to stay in touch with their employees. Large and Intentional organizations have long tested the benefits of flexible working and remote collaboration. In fact, the 2019 Working Mother & Avtar 100 Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) study revealed that many companies were better prepared to handle this challenge, because of their innate flexi-friendliness. As per the study, 76% of companies support remote work and 98% provide the benefit of flexi-time, enabling the workforce to access a stress-free job zone. And, this is gender agnostic. Employees in these companies are successfully utilizing the different flavours of flexi-working at the rate of 68% by men and 70% by women. And from the employers’ side, 89% track employee satisfaction on flexible working policies, hinting the evolution of flexible working, which is now at the forefront.
Sourav Jandia, Founder, Voyzapp
As Voyzapp is a tech-powered platform, providing voice-overs online without any need to visit any conventional voice-over agency, this model has helped to sustain and provide VO requirements to anyone in these tough times of Corona Virus scenario. With all organizations facing WFH situation, Voyzapp ensures that no productivity of whether the clients, artists or its employees are compromised due to its tech-savvy and digital portal. As every voice and artist is available online and most of the premium artists work from their home studios, there's no scarcity of new projects and budding artists too can explore new opportunities by registering themselves for free on the portal. Hence, Voyzapp is serving as a means of earning and smooth functioning even in the times of such crisis.
Neelesh Kripalani, Senior Vice President and Head, Center of Excellence (CoE) at Clover Infotech
As the world continues to struggle with the outspread of Covid-19, even businesses with robust continuity plans are struggling to ensure smooth functioning of operations across geographies, let alone be agile in their response. The impact of this event has challenged CIOs like never before and has left them with very few options. The pandemic has spread across almost all countries hence regional BCP has been severely impacted.
This event has had a far-reaching impact and created demand on the CIOs to think out of the box to create digital workplaces that empower people to utilize digital technologies to serve the customer better. It is essential to equip people with uninterrupted remote work from home options albeit in a secure fashion. Businesses need to review existing security infrastructure and consider endpoint security for devices, identity, and access management to enable employees to work safely and securely.
Chaaya Baradhwaaj, Founder & MD, BC Web Wise
During this lockdown period we are following all the guidelines shared by the government to support the nation. We have told our employees to do work from home because it is the only solution to stay healthy. We have always believed in video conferencing, brainstorming, including collaborative sessions with clients. We also have a work-from-home when needed option that is always on. So for us work has been seamless, we are connected even more so, as there are no travel time or chai breaks. We are on Zoom, Hangouts, or Whatsapp through this we are digitally supporting our employees to increase their productivity. Hoping it nets into a positive impact on everything else that we do at the agency.
Om Routray, Vice President of Marketing, SourceTrace
SourceTrace has gone completely remote across all countries. It is not an easy decision but is the most effective one. But the critical next step is assuring both the employees and clients that their livelihood and business continuity are safe. We have formed task-specific Whatsapp groups, set up weekly calls to maintain productivity and morale. On the client-side, we are calling each of our clients and keeping them abreast of changes in our work set up so that they have visibility into and confidence in how their projects are being handled. The most critical element has been the CEO reminding everyone periodically that their health is of an utmost priority now and everything else can wait.
Lalit Keshre, Co-Founder and CEO, Groww
WFH is working well for us. Being an internet-based financial services company, it is extremely important for all our teams to work in sync and ensure our customer focus never wanes. For a WFH to be successful, it is also important for people to take individual accountability and make the effort of communicating well. The Growth team is one of the most aggressive teams at Groww who need to constantly brainstorm new ideas. For this, we are having daily brainstorming sessions, and help each other quickly dissolve dependencies or roadblocks if any to achieve the ambitious targets we have set for ourselves. The day starts with a daily stand up and ends with a quick discussion on how we have progressed so far. I ensure all members are absolutely clear of what they need to prioritize and work on and get the right resources and assistance to make things happen. Frequent one on ones with the co-founders are also keeping all members aware of how their individual contributions align with the organization’s goal.