How We Stopped Worrying About Covid And Fell In Love With Work From Home
Amid the massive rise in Omicron cases in India, several restrictions, such as mini lockdowns and night curfews, have been imposed.
Many businesses have halted their return-to-office preparations and are reevaluating their business continuity plans as a third wave of the pandemic is here. Following the last two COVID waves, top decision-makers in the Indian IT sector stated that they were better prepared this time.
The rapid surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus threatens to rewrite recovery time frames, it’s becoming clear that businesses will have to live with the unpredictability associated with Covid-19.
Conversations on the benefits and drawbacks of both WFH/WFO are picking up as some offices slowly reopen, and others cautiously stick to remote working.
Various posts about the impact of work from home have been doing rounds on social media. A new addition to that list is a tweet by Kunal Shah, the founder of CRED. Many people, however, expressed their disagreement with his tweet.
Kunal’s icy cold tweet quickly snowballed into a two-headed debate on Twitter-verse, with most voices opposing and standing against the merits of Work From Office(WFO).
To express his disagreement, Bitinning’s founder Kashif Raza wrote:
One thing that struck out from Shah’s tweet was the usage of the term “exciting alternatives”, which seemed very aptly poised to promise a new world order for the working class.
Check out how people reacted here:
While Kunal’s, Kashif’s, and several others’ voices are a giveaway that how Indian INC is wrestling and trying to adapt and evolve to live in the new world of COVID.
Is Indian Inc. Ready For A Third Wave?
Many countries worldwide are experiencing the pandemic’s third peak, with the Omicron replacing Delta as the most dominant variant. There have been two COVID surges in India so far.
Unlike the early two waves of Covid-19, India Inc has been able to withstand the ongoing surge in Omicron infections in stride, causing minimal business disruption.
Deloitte India, which had planned to open offices in a hybrid manner in the second week of January 2022, has postponed the opening and is now in a “wait-and-see” mode. “We don’t want to take the risk of employees coming into the workplace and becoming ill,” said SV Nathan, chief talent officer.
Employees at Zomato, Axis Bank, ITC, and Flipkart, among other companies, have been requested to work remotely, except for essential staff.
Back in October 2021, when most states reported very few Covid cases, many companies had resumed work from offices, and several others planned to call back employees in the new year. However, that began to change at the end of December 2021, with infection instances doubling every few days.
A foot in mouth situation ensued forcing businesses to walk a fine line by reducing the work hours and testing team members regularly as they kept on commuting to offices.
The experience gained from dealing with the past two Covid outbreaks is helping businesses in managing remote work challenges and dealing with a reduced staff more effectively.
The question is, what about the employees themselves? Aren’t they used to working from home, and will they return to the workplace after the pandemic is over?
Burnout and the shift to working from home among employees resulted in “The great resignation”, a new term coined last year to describe the rising trend of people quitting their jobs appears to be holding true as attrition continues to rise among India’s top IT firms.
TCS’ attrition rate increased to 15.3% from 11.9% the previous quarter, but the company claimed it was the lowest in the industry.
Attrition in the IT business has risen, causing concern for firms and the industry. The IT sector continues to hire, driven by a demand for skilled workers.
In order to keep up with the talent demand, firms must focus on both attracting and retaining people. While companies transition their legacy systems and build next-gen platforms and processes, talent demand for technology skills is booming.
But what is the underlying reason for this Great Resignation movement?
It’s Simple — Employees Don’t Want To Go Back To The Office
Rising Covid-19 cases across the country have driven Indian enterprises to work remotely, as several decision makers are now of the belief that their employees’ health and safety are their main priority.
Some businesses that had asked their employees to come to the office from December 2021 have already gone back to work-from-home mode.
There are several reasons for this, including job flexibility, reduced commute, time for themselves, and, of course, the fact that no one is always looking over their shoulders.
According to recruiters and HR professionals, travel has been a significant issue for employees. Several employees had to relocate for employment in other states or cities. However, the majority have now returned to their native places and can now work from the comfort of their homes.
Additionally, employees believe that working from home depends entirely on laptops and a stable wi-fi connection. These two factors will enable employees to operate productively from any location (even a hill station or beach).
Employees now plan to provide structured and unstructured time to engage, share, and discuss their lives and work.
But the struggle is real, between operational profits, productivity, and new-found COVID variant it is still about meeting those deadlines, finishing those sprints, and mastering skills that pay the bills.
They say that a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there — so what about “The Growth”?
Growth of individual?
Growth of organization?
Growth of clients and their products that keeps the money moving?
Is this something that we can accomplish as businesses continue working from home?
Work From Home vs Work From Office — Who Is Winning?
Everybody wins when the desired goals are achieved. Whether working from home or office, an organization’s mission statement is still the moral compass that defines the journey of this shift.
In ClixLogix’s story, this journey became a necessity as the COVID was beginning to tighten its grip back in March 2020. In essence, it took a packet protein (COVID -19 Virus) to arrange our rendezvous with the way of working from home. Certainly, it was not something that had ever been bought up in a board meeting, a team town-hall meeting, or 2020 and beyond.
It’s worth mentioning that together — uncertainty, a new way of working, and the fear of being infected — were truly the motherly necessities that gave birth to the bravery that allowed all of us, as a team at ClixLogix to take this leap of faith.
What followed was a bag of tricks that would forever be the true internal digital transformation that we went through as a team.
So, how did it turn out? It certainly wasn’t what we expected it to be…
Evolving In To The New Normal In Treacherous Times
ClixLogix as an organization was in its growing phase when the COVID virus started unleashing terror and panic followed. There was no guidebook/ready reckoner available to read up a case study that would wisen us as an organization to navigate the troubling times. We were not only unplanned but also dwarfed in our mental wavelength to accept the true state of work from home.
Historically, there has been a perception in many organizations that if employees were not seen, they weren’t working — and we were certainly not uninfluenced by this belief. Several client budgets were shrinking, some of them were having cold feet.They truly were painful times which we as a team braved out with a true team spirit.
Harsh 2019 winters were followed by even more testing and tormenting summers when infections were soaring.
It began to look like we were on the verge of a major economic shift. As an organization, it was apparent that we had to be very financially disciplined. From all this, we emerged an even more inoculated team that continued to grow by 55% YOY starting 2020 to 2022.
These outcomes were driven by a tactical train of collaborative efforts at every strata of the organization. It was fight or perish, and we were certainly not willing to give up…
The Serendipity Of Wicked Work From Home
COVID-19 was creating heaps of uncertainty within our agile software development teams as we shifted to Work from Home. We concluded that our teams, in particular, were going to continue WFH and use collaborated tools for the future.
Within a few months, things started to seem normal. New ways of working, emerged, new agile practices, and expectations from the team were re-calibrated.
“We can see that our team is capable of handling the high ticket projects. At the same time, we find that productivity, velocity, and throughput of software engineering have all grown dramatically. The benefits, in my opinion, will not be lost. With this new 100 percent remote approach, there will be a lot more”, says Pushkar Kharbanda, Managing Director, ClixLogix.
ClixLogix has ensured that employees working from different parts of India have been able to work from home in a secure manner.
Even the talent acquisition team saw new paths paved. Shivangi Saklani, Team Lead, Talent Acquisition at ClixLogix has to say this :
“We’re employing people from different states within India versus just focusing local candidates, and we intend to increase that in 2022,” she added.
Advances in technology have made it possible for companies to hire remote workers to accomplish everything at a distance with cloud-based HRMS and application tracking systems that encompass real-time collaboration platforms, team messaging applications, and advanced video conferencing for virtual interviews.
“Giving team members the freedom to make their own hours has led to an increase in productivity for many teams. When it comes to agile development, everyone does not need to be working on the same thing simultaneously. We respect the work-life balance, and that is why we never ping any employee after 09:00 PM. We embrace the offering of flexible work and utilize the tools to our advantage, which leads us to break the barrier of recruiting geographically. This provided massive benefits as it opened the door to more talented individuals. Because of this flexibility, we may collaborate with talented individuals who are unable to sustain regular 9–5 roles due to disability, household duties, or other circumstances” According to Hasan Sartaj, Senior Delivery Manager at ClixLogix.
How Work From Home Has Transformed ClixLogix
The need to go digital has soared since social distancing is widely being accepted as the new normal. Most software development companies like us are seeing a surge in demand for software engineering skills as the push for digital is riper than it has ever been.
The need to thrive and beat this COVID-19 virus at the same time has put startup ideas at a race with each other. A market slump that was witnessed due to several catastrophes that the human race had faced in the past was, in part averted due to this digital push.
Amidst this gold rush, it is these organizations that carry the responsibility of setting the right ecosystem to enable state-of-the-art software engineering.
Vishal Verma, Senior Technology Consultant for Emerging Technologies at ClixLogix, had to say that “Consumers have dramatically moved towards online channels and businesses have responded in return. Covid -19 has accelerated the shift towards the adaption of SaaS. Ruby on Rails has been the go-to technology for start-ups developing SaaS products.”
Facebook’s Horizon Workroom is a VR attempt at enabling work from home.
While the surveillance aspect of this Metaverse-like application is debatable, the attempt of recreating the office environment sitting on a couch at home in itself is revolutionary.
There are plenty of clues, and ClixLogix as an organization has made sure to be serious about enabling the following:-
1) A safe work environment for its team to work and grow.
2) A reliable software engineering team for clients around the globe that trust us with their projects.
Systems are delimiting in nature. An ideal ‘work-from-home system’ is one that maintains a fine balance between the peace a team member deserves at their home versus the innovation that dynamic software engineering projects demand.
Striking this balance can often get tricky and the recent “The Great Resignation” movement is true fruit of the loom that went into works with the knee-jerk that followed with the 2020 Lockdown.
A careful look at Glassdoor Reviews of organizations that are known to use “tattleware” technology to keep track of their teams working from home makes it apparent that employees are labeling them as “toxic workplaces”.
Open floor plan offices are now overtaking farm-like dev setups where folks sit shoulder to shoulder in numerous rows of stations.
Zoom as we know it has eaten up physical meeting rooms and a new vocabulary around the usage of this tool has taken birth.
Above all, who knew “Zoom Fatigue” would be a thing?
We have replaced the 10 AM mandatory check-ins with 10:30–11:00 AM stand-ups that are optional but recommended for all engineers to enable them to have breakfast/brunch with their families.
No questions are being asked — early lunch checkouts can be taken by the team — and yet the projects /sprints nearly never miss deadlines because of this.
Awareness amongst the team members, is changing. It demands the organizations to rise and embrace empathy and be more aware of their team’s needs.
Change stems from the top and percolates its way through the middle and execution layer in an organization tree. We realized this as an organization and strived to agree on a formal framework that is acceptable to all team leads/managers :-
1) Trust the team to do their job.
2) Prioritize contact and set reasonable goals.
3) Keep the schedules as close to normal as possible for everyone on the team.
4) Offer real flexibility to work for ALL team members.
5) Provide tools and technology that are a must to boost productivity while working from home.
When it came to the execution, the standard work-from-office principles required a bit of modification to enable easy adaption and practice by all team members, most of the time:-
1) For communication, daily virtual stand-ups and weekly team meetings were encouraged between team members and team managers. This helped to keep a track of hold-ups, issues, and recommendations to better things.
2) Project management tools saw a lot of customization & integrations. We use Zoho Projects and Sprint along with Jira — these tools are used more proactively by the team to track closure of issues, progression between dev phases, etc.
3) Some projects that we work on through UpWork require us to use their tracking software that tracks the time of developers that work on them. We try hard by educating our team members about the benefits of having this level of transparency and how it impacts the overall confidence-building with the end clients during the initial phases of starting a project.
4) Encouraging team members to keep conversations on the project channels, not in DMs. This enables the creation of a safe environment so that people feel free to discuss any possible problem with the other team members within / outside of the project teams.
5) Training and hiring change agents to support an agile work environment where priorities and requirements change. These change agents follow tactics that enable new onboarded developers to gain knowledge of the ongoing projects with ease.
6) Implementing advanced file sharing via the cloud for our marketing clients negates the necessity of creating a monthly/weekly loop of dispatching these reports via email. Collaborative working via cloud-hosted folders across teams of different disciplines like — SEO, Content, Copy, and Social Team did away with the need to be present under one roof to manage these projects.
7) On the software development end, implementing CI/CD and linking it with Github along with our internal project management tool Zoho Projects / Sprints helped to not only improve the quality of the software we were developing and shipping but also reduced the go-to-market time with a trusted build for our clients.
8) A lot of operations, attendance management, leave management, and monthly reviews for our team were all enabled with further adoption of Zoho People as an HRMS tool for us. Implementing an internal ticket system via Zoho Desk to solve day-to-day queries for our fast-growing team also helped a lot in keeping remote working more organized and enabling a happy work environment for our entire team.
Summing It Up
Honestly, this forced experiment around remote working as a result of COVID-19 has shattered many beliefs of ours, and we are not disappointed about being proven wrong. As an organization now, we are thinking toward the longer term, looking at how we can execute flexibility at a scale, at the same time enabling :
- Enhanced team performance,
- Increased productivity across client projects,
- A better employee experience,
- Tapping into an expanded talent pool,
- And, in some cases, potentially reduced operational costs.
Proven studies published in the last few months suggest that productivity is higher when working from home than in a physical office.
According to a Stanford study of 16,000 workers conducted over 9 months. More calls per minute were made due to a quieter, more convenient working environment and more minutes per shift due to fewer breaks and sick days.
One of the productivity hacks that we widely used at ClixLogix is called the Pomodoro Technique.
Another interesting study states that working from home saves time, whether driving to work takes 10 minutes or an hour. An Airtasker survey shows that not commuting to work saves an employee 8.5 hours of free time per week. This amounts to 408 hours for a year.
While working from home, ClixLogixers have cultivated new hobbies and habits in this span — from gardening, raising(and photographing) pets to learn guitar and whatnot.
As the pandemic enters its third year, a major chunk of India Inc across sectors is likely to adopt a hybrid working model in the new year. How is your organization dealing with Work From Home? Let us know your thoughts!