The sudden outbreak of the novel COVID-19, which has been recently declared as a ‘pandemic’ by the WHO, has compelled many organizations to question and rethink on their readiness and agility to combat such global crisis. During this tough time, the most important aspects for companies to address are the well-being of their employees while maintaining business continuity.

The current crisis has inadvertently started off a marathon exercise in concepts like ‘Work from Home (WFH)’, remote logins, and virtual meetings—both with internal and external clients. Many organizations from startups to large established conglomerates across sectors have announced WFH for their employees.

While some organizations may have been partly using WFH as an effective employee engagement tool before the crisis, all organizations are now bound to use WFH to ensure business continuity.

Some organizations have invested timely in the right kind of technologies, systems, and processes to enable their employees to work from anywhere—independent of their physical presence in office. At the same time, for most organizations, there are mindset and infrastructure related challenges. For instance, many organizations think that WFH lowers employee productivity. More than anything else, the problem is the ‘mindset’.

To make this work, organizations need to address some difficult questions such as ‘what are the vulnerabilities that their teams are exposed to’, ‘which ones can create hindrance on their way to expand working just beyond desk jobs’ among others. It is important, therefore, to identify which functional role(s) will have a major role to play, to make remote working an ease during a crisis.

Additionally, to make WFH an effective way of working, organizations should take help from technology. The first and foremost is the basic infrastructure such as Internet connectivity and hardware (internet dongles, laptops among others). There are organizations where employees engaged in key operational roles such as Finance, Legal, Compliance, Sales still work on office provided infrastructure like desktops and Internet connectivity. Forced remote working has exposed the vulnerabilities of many organizations wherein their employees do not have these basic infrastructures to effectively work from remote locations.

At RateGain, we already have a ‘WFH’ policy for our employees. At the onset of the current crisis, it was ensured that all employees had basic infrastructure in place for carrying out their work duties at home effectively. Laptops were arranged for the employees who were working on a desktop to ensure business continuity while working from home.

Besides, data security is a serious concern for every organization contemplating a WFH policy. Organizations need to use the best of technologies to keep their highly confidential data and information secured. Most often, critical functions are performed on systems, which work on office Intranets only and as such require organizations to provide special technology tools like VPNs, Citrix to their employees for them to be able to access their work remotely. While these tools are readily available in the market, the key question is how the organizations ensure data security and confidentiality.

Finally, customer interactions, which have generally been face-to-face, have been forced to move to the virtual world through tools such as Webex, Zoom, and Google Hangouts among others. This requires more of a mindset change from an organization and a client relationship perspective. For instance, at RateGain all our client interactions have now been moved online without any compromises on delivery of work and client relationship. All internal and external client meetings have since been done virtually at RateGain.

Today if the organizations have to survive a crisis like COVID–19, they need to change their core way of how they have been operating so far. The leadership needs to consider a broader & long-term perspective that can help companies to emerge stronger and with flying colors during such hard times. For this they need to consider having a team which is allocated out and out for experimenting and doing crisis management as well as plan business continuity processes.

For instance, at RateGain, while initially we had a responsive approach towards the whole chaos made by COVID–19, but it did not take us much long to realize that we as an organization needs to address and thrive through these times effectively. We immediately made a crisis-management team whose major task is to ensure and enable the business continuity while ensuring the safety and health of all the employees.

To ensure ‘business as usual’ organizations today need to work on ‘business unusual’ until it becomes their DNA. At RateGain, there has been continuous communication from the Leadership and HR Function to ensure that the morale of the employees remain high and relevant information with respect to the crisis is disseminated to employees timely.

Organizations need to look within themselves and find an answer to the question today: Have we braced ourselves?

About the Author

Sahil Sharma
VP & Global Head- Human Capital