CIC Delivery Leader at IBM – ROW
The raging pandemic is showing signs of ebbing in some countries but in others, it continues to peak. The world is opening up within small windows. So, in the current situation, how should projects be handled and delivered? This is my second article along similar lines but with more insight into current events and the best ways forward.
Online classes, meetings, conferences and webinars are still ruling the roost. There are bountiful features now available in online meeting applications that help make it more secure, reliable, safe, fast and economical. Travel is slowly starting up again, but some companies may still be wary of traveling, noting the time and costs involved.
Big IT companies are opening up their offices for senior and leadership employees once or twice a week to gauge the readiness and preparedness of coming back to the office for their entire staff. Precautions like proof of vaccination, face masks, social distancing and a sanitized environment are being carried out. Still, the threat of infection lingers on and is preventing any fast decision to return fully to office. The operating models of many IT companies have changed and a new working model is in place. This has been mostly successful and the impact on the business and operations due to Covid-19 has been very minimal. Some of these changes in the operating model are bound to stay forever now.
From the employees’ viewpoint, they have become accustomed to working remotely, and not necessarily from home. Many would prefer to continue this same way rather than maneuver in the dense traffic and eat meals out. I see a mindset already in place for many employees to continue working remotely as much as possible. Many people have benefited from less stress and better habits in absence of a commute and long days at an office. This can have a rippling effect on multiple professions who are dependent on business from this segment of workers.
It must be noted, many of the retail, telecom, energy, construction, travel and hospitality companies are struggling to survive and many of them have already closed. There is an eagerness as well as a hunger to bounce back to get more business. On the contrary, food delivery vendors as well as big retailers like Amazon and Flipkart have come out with innovative ways to deliver goods and services.
The entertainment industry which had taken a major hit is bouncing back with innovations. Leaders like Netflix and Amazon Prime are grabbing this space and creating new business models to survive. But it is yet to be seen how successful these are over a period of time. Some industries and activities after this pandemic are never to return. Some will return in a new form, and some are waiting for the pandemic to get overlying low.
There are a few instances I would like to highlight below which have chartered new territories in working remotely. A news report coming from the PWC company has stated that 40,000 of its U.S. workforce are asked to permanently work remotely and never to return to the office. This new policy will impact professionals across client services, including consultants, auditors and tax professionals. The firm claims the move is the first among professional services firms to offer a permanent work-from-anywhere policy moving forward.
Another startup company in India, “Slice,” has offered a unique proposition to aspiring job seekers. They are offering a three-day work week with 80% of the current payout. The remaining days are available to them to follow their passions and other activities.
For business leaders continuing to plan amid uncertainty, there are a number of measures to consider in planning for the future. I and my team have undertaken many of them in response to the many changes brought on by the pandemic.
Flexible Working Options
One potential solution is to make remote work optional. This allows freedom, especially for those who cannot come into the office for medical or other reasons. You can also consider a partially remote setup. For example, employees can come into the office on three alternating days during the week with the rest of the time spent working from home. This would work for departments like operations, sales, HR and some projects which require strict access controls to be in place. The third option is complete remote work. Extend the fully remote option to employees whose presence is not required in the office. There are many projects that do not need a physical presence in the office to execute the work.
Modified Benefits Plan For Employees
Consider updating your benefits plan to include a wider range of services. This could include reimbursement of internet, mobile phone, power back-up equipment, and more.
It can also be helpful to renew efforts to foster employee connection. This could look like a remote work lunch session. I have used this for many of my meetings. Employees prepare their own food or it is ordered online and delivered to each home.
Virtual birthday/milestone achievement sessions with a surprise gift delivered home is another way to keep up connections.
I and my team have implemented many of the above policies and have seen lower attrition levels, higher motivation from employees, and a generally happier state of mind from the team.
Is there an end of this dark tunnel of pandemic anywhere in sight? There seems to be, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Another variant or some other global threat is always a possibility. Times are changing and so are the demands. It is not very far away when I can confidently say “Work will not matter enough.”