The current Covid19 situation is unprecedented. Many of us have never seen this kind of business and continuity disruptions in our lifetime. And it affected us too. Any business continuity planning exercises we did at Srijan were based on simulations because there never was a need to kick them in.
Like many organizations, Srijan took an early proactive decision to let employees work from home. We have always considered ourselves to be an agile company not only in terms of our development and delivery processes but also as a way of our life.
This hence was a true test for us to practice agile in a work for home (WFH) fashion and triumph.
Here is a note on what practices we are following to help our employees work efficiently from home and the organizational benefits that we expect to achieve on the other end.
Best Practices to Help Remote Employees Work Efficiently
- Focus on good communication tools
Remote working or WFH demands no compromise on good communication tools and that’s where tools like Zoom help us a lot. Its pristine audio and video quality have helped teams to be closer. For our daily stand-ups, we recommend video with noise cancellation headsets. Employees have been advised to use a high-speed internet connection. All such meetings are backed by corresponding slack channels for any offline or side communication needs.
- Presence and availability
Like in-office, you know when a person has walked in or walked out, unified communication tools like Slack make it easier to know when someone is online. We ask employees to be on slack when WFH so that their presence is indicated. Everyone must use a single enterprise tool to avoid “presence silos”.
- Distraction-free corners
Finding a distraction-free corner in the house is important but harder than what we initially thought. To mitigate this, we ask employees to follow basic hygiene of muting their microphones when not talking and using noise-canceling headsets to cut out background noises. On a lighter note, employees were encouraged to share their WFH corners on corporate channels. While people took it as a social game, the leadership got a sneak-peak of conditions in which employees were operating from.
- Dress as you would for office
We ask our employees to dress professionally (as they would in an office setting) and not sit in their slacks or jammies. Primarily because, most of them have to interact over video calls and secondly, a person is psychologically more attuned to a work mindset when they are dressed for work.
Organizations’ Benefits and Adaptations
At an organization level, we are seeing following foreseeable benefits and adaptations which we would be executing soon-
- Work-life balance
Work-life balance of employees has gone up. Though longer-term implications of this cannot be predicted, we are seeing that online meeting attendance has gone up apart from timely start and endings, thereby helping in making decisions faster than ever before.
Commute time has gone down which has helped with the above pointers. One lesser ( travel) hassle to worry about when planning the day.
- Employee performance
The way we look at employee performance is changing and will continue to change. The performance can no longer be effort-based because physical manifestation of effort (employee sitting on the desk) is no longer there. Performance is now more output driven.
- Cost savings
With a shift to WFH, office rental costs and overheads will come down. We can now think of letting go of some office space and some percentage of employees to WFH on a rotational basis. We see this to be a global trend and companies may even mandate this to a part of their business continuity plans.
- Recruitment flexibility
With WFH opening up, we can think of recruiting anywhere to tap a far more diverse and far more economical talent pool. We have already opened offices in Noida and Pune and now have 7 different locations in India alone. Employees at the time of joining are now given a choice to operate from any of these 7 locations.
- Extended or round-the-clock business hours
WFH allows us to create round-the-clock availability of skilled people for our global customers without having to necessarily staff them on-shore. Without investing in office infrastructure, we can have such teams now available.
- Heightened need for Engagement
Lack of on the spur of the moment, unplanned interactions that happened in an office setting are no longer possible in WFH settings. This requires active thinking on how to keep everyone engaged.
One such way at Srijan was to share pictures of WFH and a contest to select the most unique one. Within minutes, the slack channel we used was flooded with entries and we could see engagement levels going up. The second one has been 15 minutes meditation sessions on zoom where any employee can join in and meditate with others virtually.
We believe even when the contagion spread would be contained, tectonic shifts will continue to happen in terms of how projects are getting delivered with remote teams and openness of the business community to embrace this change with open minds