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Time to make remote working more engaging and productive

Navin Malhotra

These are unprecedented times, with the entire world grinding to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s like something straight out of Hollywood – a tiny virus named “corona,” which first emerged in China’s Wuhan province and is now present in more than 210 countries, with 1.6 million confirmed cases and 99,000+ deaths.

The global economy has been devastated, as most industries struggle with a complete shutdown of work.

IT, the backbone of many industries, has to be up and running during these times to help the customer remain in business in the best way possible.

IT vendors are also affected as most cities/countries remain in lockdown mode and they are finding it difficult to remain in business due to reduced demand. In the current scenario, with both primary and backup sites either not available or on the verge on being locked down, the only viable alternative has been to work remotely. This has had its own challenges – to securely move desktops to private homes, and gain approval from those clients for whom teams had been working in restricted environments. Needless to say, IT and BCP teams have had a tough time ensuring the transfer of the workforce since the lockdowns took everyone by surprise.

In addition to the issue of remote work, the main challenge for leadership has been ensuring that teams remain productive and motivated, and are able to cope with the new ways of working as remote work was never the norm for many organizations. The employee experience in the current scenario, where stress levels are high, is the most important trait leaders are trying to measure and act upon as it will have a direct impact on productivity and delivery quality. Refer to the Capgemini Research Institute’s (CRI’s) latest notes – Virtual organizations need real leadership – which provides interesting perspectives on three key questions 1. How do I lead effectively in a virtual environment? 2. How do I ensure that my workforce remains motivated and engaged? 3. How do I encourage and maintain collaboration and creativity virtually?

Since this is a new way of working and team members are connecting virtually instead of face to face, there will surely be some initial challenges when it comes to delivering quality services.

That’s why it is important to ensure trust, where everyone understands and respects privacy and empathizes with colleagues. Providing team members with clear and timely communication is also important as everyone wants to know what management is doing, not only for employees but also to ensure business continuity. Management should therefore create platforms that:

  • Allow employees to share their challenges when it comes to working remotely
  • Provide timely support to those challenges, including personal challenges
  • Communicate important messages regarding actions taken by leadership
  • Provide opportunities to keep the learning curve steep
  • Offer improved healthcare options, including COVID-19-related
  • Offer employee counselling for COVID-19-related stress
  • Revisit the rewards and recognition programs during reduced budgetary constraints
  • Provide informal connects where team connects over video calls using MS Teams, Skype, etc.
  • Introduce fun events with team members to keep everyone connected.

Refer to complementary Forrester webinar on employee experience

From the CIO’s perspective, one critical aspect during this pandemic in the digital workspace is security and data privacy since the computing infrastructure is now outside the boundaries of the enterprise. Security policies are at risk.

Although basic checks on encryption and antivirus remain in place, security risks are heightened

We are already seeing phishing attacks and data breaches under the guise of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, many clients have relaxed their security policies to enable remote work, resulting in heightened risk levels. Some vital actions in the current situation include:

  • Security risk review and reporting to senior management
  • Remote working security policy and awareness to employees
  • Close monitoring and review of security controls related to:
    • Use of computing devices
    • Security awareness among employees
    • Resource on/offboarding practices
    • Access controls
    • Controls related to BYOD
    • Enterprise risk management
    • Business continuity.

Workers are adaptable and resilient. Your workplaces should be too. Empowering employees and equipping them with secure tools and technologies will be a huge differentiator. Please reach out me if you want to explore more on secure remote employee solutions.


Navin Malhotra