Work from Home – Innovative Practices and Solutions
Ever since the lockdown, companies have been changing the way they do business. What used to be a luxury which was accorded to a few privileged employees some time back has become the order of the day. Work-from-home (WFH), though it may have its own pros and cons is now completely transforming the way businesses are being run. From the usage of collaborative, productive and instant messaging tools, arranging virtual meetings, ensuring no wastage with respect to time, money and effort w.r.t travel which was there earlier thereby using the gained time to update re/up-skill ourselves, WFH is clearly revolutionizing the way companies function in this VUCA world.
In terms of numbers, according to a MoveInSync report, until 20th March, 52% of total employees across India are working from home. Pune has the highest WFH with 63% followed by Bangalore with 61% of WFH employees. Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and NCR follow the sequence with 58%, 54%, 41% and 39% respectively.
Mr. Deepak Sivakumar, TCS
So much so, that according to a report by Forbes, Microsoft Teams – the instant messaging collaborative app as part of the O365 suite of products, has seen a 775% increase in usage with over 44 million active users per day cumulatively generating over 900 million meeting minutes (includes audio and video calls). The emergence of the WFH situation has seen many companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Cisco offer their enterprise specific collaborative software solutions such as Teams, Hangouts, Workplace and Cisco Webex free of cost for nearly 6 months.
While some of them may look at this as a stop-gap arrangement (depending on the nature of their work), others are exploring the possibility of a WFH as a long term solution. Here I have explored some innovative practices and techniques which can be implemented by organizations (more specifically – IT/ITeS) in order to make this a big success.
Clear your Workspace: How often in the midst of our hectic work do we take time to clear off those clutter of mails occupying a lot of space in our mailbox? Maybe occasionally we do for professional mails, but personal? Doesn’t it give a good feeling seeing your mailbox empty? My suggestion would be to run a contest wherein employees can choose to delete their long-haul of unread mails in their inboxes (either professional or personal), post a selfie in the social media handle of the organization overlooking their empty inbox! This not only helps in having a clean inbox, but to an extent helps in a brand building activity! Who knows, this may go viral with employees of many other companies following suit!
Goal Setting for the week: It does help to set goals and try to accomplish them. More so in the case of an emergency situation which calls for WFH. Associates can be asked to give an approximate summary of the tasks they might be expected to do/they can possibly do this week; hence the supervisors will have an overall understanding of the work which can be done by the associate. It helps them to plan better for the days ahead also. A unified productivity tracker (like Microsoft To-Do) which not only helps in easy entering of the tasks, but also better viewing of the productivity dashboard among teams can be used rather than depending on static excel sheets which may be difficult to enter and also not uniform among various teams.
Indian telecom service providers have seen a 10% surge in overall traffic due to WFH. (Business Standard)
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) estimates that data consumption on average has increased 30% in the lockdown period.
The pressure on Indian networks is high because broadband penetration is very weak in India. Out of 687.62 million internet users, 22.26 million are wired broadband and remaining 665.37 million are wireless internet users. (Economic Times)
This unprecedented situation has forced major streaming giants such as Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar to lower the quality of the video streaming to SD from their usual options of HD and 4K resolutions to cater to the expected increase in viewership traffic.
The most important of them all! Proper connectivity is required to ensure business continuity. Running a small survey to find out what internet plans/bandwidth/price the associates are using in their homes will help in getting a holistic view of the state of connectivity present in their homes. If they are using any unreliable, poor network/speed broadband services in their homes, offer to pay for a hotspot device which can be delivered to their home.
VPN For Security and Seamless Connectivity: It ensures a high level of security and safety and all work should be done only through them. Having a clear cut VPN policy helps in proper utilization and also, clear demarcation of the timings for intensive business operations and processes (in order to experience less outages). For e.g. the load on the bandwidth might be significantly lower in late nights as not many people are using – hence any business critical activity can be done at this time to lower chances of intermittent disruptions. Also, if there is any scheduled/unscheduled power cut in a particular area, there must be a way to validate the above and accordingly transfer/allocate the tasks to another set of associates.
Have a WFH Day Every Month (In Rotation Among Teams): In order to prepare for such unforeseen circumstances, just like how we have a mock fire-drill, we can have a model WFH day (in future) in rotation among various teams in the organization to get them acclimatized to the environment of remote working. Introduce it in the official on-boarding programs, get feedback from employees regarding any difficulties they have faced during this period. It can be particularly beneficial to the Gen-Y of employees, who would ideally be not that tech-savvy or proficient with the latest messaging, productivity and collaborative tools.
Connect with the Client: A New Initiative: A webinar can be conducted where any representative from the client account can brief all the members of the account regarding what measures are being taken by them during this period of lockdown, answering the potential doubts and queries which the associates might have. This not only ensures better understanding of the gravity of the situation from both sides, but also create a congenial atmosphere between the employee and the client.
Also, have a special feature about each one of the teams during the monthly newsletter of your company which describes the critical support and help offered by the team at the time of emergency, testimonies, the innovative initiatives done by them which made the delivery seamless and on-time and also suggestions to other teams on how to effectively improve productivity during WFH. This can go a long way in improving team bonding and also give them a feeling of self-recognition and help them gain visibility for all the efforts they have undertaken.
Share your Knowledge:
There may be a few features in some collaborative tools which may not be known to all the associates. Hence an initiative where a person can share a tool-funda a day which may be new to all and which can help in the better usage of productivity and collaborative tools will go a long way in making everyone aware of the tool! Rewards and recognition for the best ideas!
Connect with your HR/Delivery Head:
A reassuring word from our senior can go a long way in boosting our spirits and confidence, isn’t it! Well, what better a time to do it than now! An associate has an exclusive opportunity to connect with the delivery manager on completion of a few tasks/courses related to his/her domain/tech. This will not only encourage learning and act as a pride of honor for the associate, but also bridge the gap between the hierarchy.
Similarly, some randomly picked associates can be given a personal call by the HR to enquire about their well-being, any difficulties they face while WFH and addressing any doubts/queries if any of the associate. This will greatly boost up the self-esteem of the employee!
Freshers: Reassurance and Engagement: It’s as important to deal with your future workforce as to deal with your present workforce. A reassuring mailer to those who have landed campus recruitments for the ensuing year describing them the major highlights of the previous year, the achievements so far, the various business units, technologies on offer, the roadmap of events, important persons to know etc. will kindle awareness among the future associates in knowing more about this stream. As they would have ideally finished their undergrad/postgrad and would be relatively free, this initiative coupled with some challenges/tasks assigned to them apart from their usual on-boarding LMS modules/courses will greatly help them in contextually becoming ready to join your ever-growing workforce! They can become easily deployable in teams, and also can save out on the time, money and effort being spent in onboarding them when they eventually join your company.
To sum it up, I may not have given any automation or technology specific solutions to help an organization sail through these difficult times. There are always experts on those lines! People are the human capital of an organization and it is they who define the organization. Hence methods and initiatives which enhance their well-being, confidence, productivity and team building are the ones which are needed in these times of a global challenge. This will not only prove effective in an emergency situation, but also become part and parcel of their professional life in whatever field, whichever company and wherever they go!
About the author
Deepak Sivakumar is currently working as a Business Analyst in Tata Consultancy Services. Prior to that, he did his bachelors in electronics and communication from SASTRA University and completed his MBA from Symbiosis University, Pune. An avid reader, blogger and a technology enthusiast, he loves to analyse current affairs and the latest developments in tech.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.