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The sunny side of corona outbreak

Media agencies balance productivity and safety with work-from-home solutions

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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Lunching together digitally; employees taking ownership of their work with a lot of seriousness and passion; and people getting plenty of time to be with their families...

These are some of the positive outcomes of the impromptu and mostly self-imposed work-from-home system put in place by companies all over India in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Across the country, central and state governments are taking measures to limit people from travelling and encouraging companies to offer work-from-home options. Large technology firms were among the first among the lot to switch to remote working for all their staff.

Indiantelevision.com asked industry experts about their work-from-home measures during this critical time.

Dineout co-founder and CEO Ankit Mehrotra said: “In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been actively implementing social distancing, sanitisation and even self-quarantine policies for the last two weeks. Our teams across all cities will be working from home until 31 March 2020. Our sales teams have also been advised to focus on virtual training and client support for the next two weeks. In fact, our teams are also having lunch together digitally! In such challenging times, we continue to work together to overcome operational hurdles by leveraging technologies like Google Hangouts, Slack and Google Meets to stay connected virtually and ensure continuity of work.”

For many, work from home is a completely different experience altogether. There is an overload of screen time, dozens of hangout calls, and a few dozen more WhatsApp groups. However, in these testing times employees are taking ownership of their work with a lot more seriousness, dedication and passion. “The reporting structures are well defined and there is a seamless flow of information because of the SOPs set. We, as founders, have a bird’s eye view of who is working on what and what project is consuming how much time. Ease of allocating time commitments to projects is easier. More importantly, the world was greener and cleaner this week and team got a lot of time to spend with their families,” says White Rivers Media chief executive officer and co-founder Shrenik Gandhi.

Big Trunk Communications managing director Bharat Subramaniam thinks that as the coronavirus has taken the world by storm, businesses all over the globe are resorting to innovative ways and acting responsibly to prevent the spread of this infectious disease. He believes that it is their duty as leaders and entrepreneurs to thoroughly understand the risks involved in continuing operations without taking any stern and serious measures.

“In times when communication mediums have strengthened fourfold with the advent of digital transformation, it has facilitated great opportunities in the WFH model. We follow the "Make Big Happen Everyday" culture and believe in going the extra mile for our esteemed clients in challenging situations like these. All in all, work-from-home has worked well and has been a win-win situation for both employees and employers,” he says.

According to Alchemy Group chief business officer Pankil Mehta, the COVID-19 crisis has brought a change to everyday routine. However, there is no hindrance in terms of work getting done.

“Speaking specifically about Alchemy Group, we have consciously invested time and effort in ensuring our technology and processes are such where teams can work efficiently even when they are not sitting under the same roof. However, from a morale perspective, things have slowed down and one can tend to feel a little less productive considering they are at home all day. We, as a team, ensure we maintain daily routines and try and stick to deadlines like any other day in the office. In the current scenario, I have also urged the team to take sufficient breaks and rests throughout the day and most importantly stay safe.”

There, however, is flip side to it. While there is a lot of buzz about the advantages of work-from-home, such as spending more time with family, focusing on other priorities, and less unproductive travel time, the reality of business seems to be different. People will engage less with each other, critical decisions will be deferred and strategic investments will be reassessed until the impact and the scale of the slowdown is understood in the weeks and months to come.

According to Update Geotarget chief strategy officer Samarjeet Reen, this time can be utilised to upskill yourself, learn something new about your industry, exercise, read books. And more importantly, practice societal empathy.

He adds: “We have a very large count of informal blue-collar services and micro/small retailers, which includes home delivery, house maintenance, etc. All of them add to our personal productivity, and they are at extreme risk. While we look after our own health and business, we must ensure that small service providers and retailers get adequate support to deal with containment due to Covid-19, and income sustenance, so they can get back on their feet quicker. Societal empathy and responsibility should be the highest priority, more so for the better-placed industry leadership.”

In Mumbai, all private corporates and establishments will be completely shut for the next couple of days. Production/manufacturing processes which require continuity may function at 50 percent staff strength. Those who do not comply by the order will face action under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code. In fact, those who flout the ordeal can be jailed for six months or fined, or both.

On a similar note, the Karnataka government had issued an advisory, asking companies to adopt work-from-home policies whenever possible in view of the COVID-19. In the wake of this, FCA India has asked over 50 per cent of its staff to work from home.

ITC has asked a certain section of its staff, majorly from the novel coronavirus-affected regions like Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru, to work from home.

Earlier, Hindustan Unilever asked its 4000+ employees globally to work from home as well. It, in fact, advised on-field sales employees to virtually connect with customers.

(If you would like to get featured in our range of positive stories during the COVID-19 crisis, reach out to us right away!)

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