The year 2020 was often seen as a visionary period for most businesses worldwide. Almost everyone had a vision 2020 plan in their goals for the future. Now it’s 3 months into 2020 and more than half of the world’s businesses remain shut or are operating under severely restricted conditions due to the Coronavirus induced Covid-19 pandemic. The deadly disease, for which no vaccine or cure has been found yet is claiming thousands of lives globally each day and forcing almost every major economy to go into shutdown for weeks if not months. One industry that is sure to face one of the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 is the Information Technology (IT) sector. Hazardous environments prevalent in most countries due to the Coronavirus has resulted in almost every IT company closing their office and asking staff to work from home.
While work from home or remotely is not a new paradigm in the tech industry, the massive scale at which companies mustmake their infrastructure ready for supporting customers and clients during this pandemic while employees work from home is a challenge. There are critical resources like data center and hosting management staff who need to be present in person at the office or infrastructure location to ensure there is no disruption. Remotely working employees need to have a medium of constant communication with their peers and managers to ensure that work milestones and projects remain unaffected due to the turmoil. Several news outlets across the world are reporting rising cases of Covid-19 and in all probability these lockdown conditions will extend to another month or so for sure. In this situation, how can IT companies stay competitive, keep their employees motivated and continue to support their customers or clients effectively?
At any point of time, not all staff in an IT business needs to be at office. As mentioned earlier, it is mostly the staff who manage data center infrastructure or hosting and network availability. Arrange for their physical presence in the office on a rotational basis so that they do not work from the office always. Ensure that they are given adequate protective gear like sanitizers, face masks etc. while they commute to work. Consult with your customers or clients to see what infrastructure dependent work can be minimized to safeguard your employees while the customers business operation is not affected. Policies can be relaxed to let employees work out of their home computers if you are unable to procure laptops for everyone. Make sure necessary firewall software and network security tools are installed to prevent any leaks or threat to confidential customer data you may have.
Move away from a culture of on-premise internal management software and integrate new cloud-based solutions for project management, employee management, payroll and team collaboration. These solutions can guarantee easy availability of critical resources such as code repositories, employee contacts, knowledge archives, files and documents to employees working from literally anywhere and anytime. Your core network and IT staff can also feel relaxed as they do not have to bother about ensuring the availability of these tools as most SaaS service providers have SLA’s that ensure availability round the clock. Also there will be dedicated mobile apps for such tools thereby offering better notification and connectivity for employees to respond to any matter that requires their attention whether it is in client service delivery or internal organizational updates.
Once you have safeguarded your employees from the Covid-19 pandemic by offering them work from home options, it is important to ensure there is regular communication with customers and efficient project management to ensure that their deliverables are fulfilled on par with expectations. Project managers need to ensure that their team members are on the same pace, their effort tracked, and dependencies made transparently known to all members. By encouraging visibility through a powerful project management tools, it is easier for teams to be more responsible as everyone is aware of how their work impacts the larger team and how dependent tasks need to be prioritized for overall service efficiency.
As most IT companies have been used to conduct meetings for teams physically within a meeting room, the sudden shift to remote work may take a toll on bonding between team members. This is where you can make a difference by encouraging teams to meet at least once a day over video conferencing. These meetings may not be aimed at discussing just work-related matters but also as a means to keep socializing and sharing regards with each other in these challenging times. It is a good way to boost morale of employees who are working from home as they get to connect with their teammatesand share their daily routine and interesting topics.
While emails remain the number one choice of communication for any IT organization, it is important to have a larger number of channels to help employees stay in touch during this crisis time. Have a good intranet solution deployed in your organization where content can be regularly posted to keep employees engaged or have a weekly newsletter with happenings recorded from across your teams are announced to the larger organization. Have a group in WhatsApp or any IM which all your employees have. Share important alerts pertaining to the Coronavirus or any critical work updates in these groups for faster response. Instruct managers to have a friendly conversation with their teams over in their respective team communication channels be it on official tools you use in office or unofficial groups in WhatsApp or any IM platform. Employees need to be motivated regularly to stay focused when there are lot of options for distractions when they work from home. However, care must be taken to ensure that employees who work from home are not always forced into attention. Leaders must understand that not everyone can put up the same productivity levels all the time when working from home. IT companies shouldn’t go overboard with work hours monitoring or constantly requiring staff to report to their managers. Ensure that they have the freedom and flexibility to work and deliver work on time while managing their personal lives at home.
While the Covid-19 pandemic will rage on for the coming months before eventually getting controlled, it is important for IT companies to ensure business as usual without any disruptions to critical business operations their software is powering across the globe.Safety of your employees is also a key priority and in this environment most customers would be accepting of small delays or push backs of delivery timelines to accommodate your workforce operational changes to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. It is important for companies to stay safe, keep their employees motivated and engaged, plan for optimized resource utilization to save costs and above all keep customer technology up and running. Together we shall overcome this great pandemic and come out in flying colours.
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