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Remote working will be the new normal: Pankaj Gupta, CEO & Founder, EnableX

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EnableX, a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) provider, is disrupting the Indian market by allowing application developers, enterprises and service providers to quickly and easily embed high-quality real-time communications into any website, mobile or native application. The firm’s founder, Pankaj Gupta, tells us how the firm’s BCP have helped it easily transition its employees to a work from home scenario

As a technology company, physical proximity is not really a critical factor to our work. We have always had in place, policies that allow the option of flexible hours, work-from-home, etc. Because of this, we have had some basic Business Continuity Planning (BCP) established even before the crisis started, which helped us easily transition to Work-From-Home (WFH). As a result of this, we already had in place VPN Server & tested connectivity for secure access for every employee. We have also issued laptops which are fully equipped to help employees carry out their functions from home or any remote location. Besides, we also provided them with wi-fi dongles in case they did not have good connectivity at home.

What we also did was to enhance our systems to allow everyone to WFH, which involved enhancing overall bandwidth in the office and ensuring everyone could connect to the servers there without any hitches. On top of this, we instituted some guidelines for all employees, and set up virtual team discussions and catch-ups on video conferencing for all employees on a daily basis. This not only makes them feel connected, but also helps motivate and encourage them through real-time communication. An end-of-day mail to summarise what was done and what’s planned for tomorrow is also being sent out to ensure efficient productivity.

The above measures allowed us to seamlessly move into a 100% WFH mode and now we are functioning without any loss of productivity, or morale and motivation.

Key challenges

Despite the situation slipping out of hand in most nations, not all organisations can offer all employees WFH, including traditional sectors such as manufacturing, retail, etc. However, in the IT space, WFH is definitely feasible for most, if not all organisations. To add to that, unfortunately, there is still a mindset which discourages WFH such as lack of full faith in employees.

Many of those who have implemented WFH policies have done so with the assumption of WFH being a rarity and for a small number of people at any given time. Many companies have not even envisaged that they may have to move 100% to WFH and thus, getting that done is the biggest challenge.

Even so, WFH does bring its own challenges for all organisations:

Employees grappling to adapt: Being at home brings its own distractions, and companies need to be mindful of the fact that employees will also take some time, and require guidance to ease into this new way of working, while employees will have to learn how to manage their productivity in a whole new working environment.

Fragmented Communication: Remote working can result in fragmented communication and lack of real-world interaction. The absence of face-to-face communication means that it’s not easy to quickly touch base with a colleague or a manager. There are tons of communication tools e.g. email, skype, IM, phone calls, among others, but none is a replacement for a face-to-face chat. It will, thus, take time for employees to adapt to these tools and grow their productivity on them. Also, such channels sometimes result in some information being overlooked or missed especially when they are not integrated into each other and the company’s way of working. For example, using a common messaging app to conduct business correspondence while switching to the company ERP to check information is tedious and prone to mistakes. Those organisations which will integrate existing tools like CPaaS into their existing work processes will handle this much, much better.

Uncertainty about Productivity: Organisations need seamlessly integrated communication and collaborative tools to ensure productivity does not dip. Such tools need to be easily available on any device, easy-to-use and must have the ability to scale without compromising on quality. You do not want your staff to spend time doing complex installation or learning how to use a new app. The choice must depend on the capability of the last mile employee who has to use the platform, and so ease of use is crucial to making a choice.

Varying Employee Psyche: On the emotional front, while initially employees might feel excited to have the opportunity to work from home, they will soon see emotional disadvantages like isolation, loneliness and the overwhelming impact of having to learn a new way of working in an accelerated time frame. They might develop a “cabin fever” from being in the same place for too long all by themselves, which will impact their psychology and hence productivity.

Clarity of thought in deploying tools

There are many platforms and tools to engage employees and customers. We, at EnableX, are using our own Video Conferencing Solution extensively to seamlessly engage and connect with not just our employees, but customers and partners too. Here’s a look at two solutions that can facilitate smooth collaboration:

All-in-one Video Conferencing and Collaboration Solution – An all-in-one Video Conferencing and Collaboration solution that comes with chat, voice & video calling and feature-rich collaboration tools can be extremely helpful. It provides an immersive video calling that can help employees to reiterate certain points with clarity which other communication channels can’t.

It must offer the following basic functionalities:  Group video calls, In-meeting group and private chat, Screen & document sharing, recording, annotation features, Video broadcasting
and must be directly accessible from any browser and any device

Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) – Organisations could also build their very own video communication solution using CPaaS. With just a few lines of codes using RESTful APIs, businesses and developers can integrate voice, video or messaging directly into their customer-fronting applications or website. For example, during this period of lockdown, customers would prefer or in most cases – can only purchase goods online rather than visiting the brick and mortar store. By embedding video conferencing within the online ecommerce store, businesses can continue to engage customers and build brand loyalty. Organisations that have an employee collaboration platform could easily enhance on such platforms with voice and video communication. Group chat, video meetings and private one-to-one calls could be done directly on their company’s platform without the need for employees to utilise other channels and tools for communications.

No matter what solution an organisation leverages, it is highly important for the solution providers to ensure minimal outages especially during this time when there are huge spikes in volumes.

We, being a CPaaS player ourselves, are continuously working on delivering effective and innovative real-time communication capabilities that can make a difference and equip organisations worldwide to deal with the new normal – remote working.

While technology can help facilitate WFH and improve productivity, organisations also need to have some clarity of thought in deploying these tools.  These could include:
Who will need to be able to join a video conference? Do you limit it to just your employees, or third-parties too?  How will you limit access? How do you address confidential or sensitive issues being discussed over video calling?   Once these are addressed, they can deftly sail through.

Plan, plan and plan

While one can never be fully prepared for something like the current crisis, having thought through and prepared for possible crisis situations and planning for the same goes a long way. Our IT policy, with a defined BCP, really helped and allowed us to transition without any hiccups. In a nutshell, one should Plan at Leisure, Act with Speed, and Demonstrate Agility.

Another practice that every organisation should follow is to have some buffers and extra resources in terms of IT & Network. These come in handy especially when you have to act fast in response to an uncalled-for situation.

To reiterate, we believe that remote working will be the ‘new normal’ even after the COVID19 pandemic is over. With the increasing adoption of collaborative tools, businesses have started to see the benefits of remote-working in not just saving time and cost but also the ability it offers to acquire talents that wouldn’t be possible in the case of a conventional ‘working-from-office’ scenario.

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