“Many IT service providers manage 85-90% staff work remotely”
D D Mishra, Sr Director Analyst, Gartner tells TPCI in their exclusive interaction that remote work can be a great motivator if we have right tools, process, culture, metrics and mindset to enable this.
TPCI: What is your view on the ‘work from home’ culture that has gained prominence in the Indian economy as a result of the lockdown? How is it helping companies minimise the business damage from this period?
D D Mishra (DM): Indian companies were not culturally prepared to work from home. Though it is practised by many western companies, in India, organisations are more accustomed to seeing their staff in office. The Covid-19 crisis has triggered a new cultural shift not only for Indian companies but many other companies across the globe.
Work from home definitely gives a lot of flexibility to the employee and is also a cost-effective practice. If used properly with the right tools, processes and metrics, it is known to improve productivity. It needs process and behavioural and cultural change within organisations. Effective remote work programs require more than just giving employees smartphones, laptops and email access, and then allowing them to work from home. Thankfully, Indian IT providers have managed to work from home.
TPCI: What benefits does remote economy offer vis-à-vis a regular 9-6 office job? To what extent was it being practised in the world pre-lockdown?
DM: Few organisations have work from home culture and some have done it partially, for example, allowing few days of work from home. Organisations have historically restricted work for home to only high performing employees. Performance is seen as biggest barrier for organisations for remote work. Even if they are able to meet the bare minimum infrastructure requirements, remote work programs can be undermined by a lack of trust when managers are not equipped to deal with employees they cannot see.
Stereotypes and assumptions about what work can or can’t be done remotely result in underperforming programs. Employees who are under prepared to handle remote work demands may suffer burnout, frustration and lost productivity. Moreover, application leaders fail to appreciate the breadth and depth of the infrastructure requirements needed to support effective remote work at scale. Covid-19 may have been able to dismantle some of the myths though and Indian organizations may be more open to explore this concept.
From the benefit perspective, it saves travel time which the employee can make use of in doing productive work. It saves energy and real estate cost, which is expensive. From a cost reduction perspective, it brings lot of opportunities, adds to flexibility, improves mobility and improves quality of life for employees. Remote work can be a great motivator if we have right tools, process, culture, metrics and mindset to enable this.
TPCI: What lessons can Indian companies draw from their international counterparts to reap the maximum benefits of this work model? Do you feel the model could get more popular among India Inc post-lockdown? Why or why not?
DM: The post Covid-19 era will bring cultural shift towards remote working or work from anywhere kind of concepts. Not just from ease of use perspective but from the business continuity perspective as well. We have seen huge demand for remote work requirements, need for devices and tools for enabling remote work in last one month. Much of this demand came from the IT and ITeS sector as well but many organisations are exploring remote working for its key employees. Remote work worldwide will become a new normal and India will not remain untouched with this shift.
TPCI: What kind of infrastructure, organisational planning and people management would be necessary to make this work model a success?
DM: The remote work enablement goes beyond tools and devices. It begins with assessment of organisations’ capacity to enable work from home. It requires assessment of tool, platforms, security, network considerations. Next, it will revolve around processes like how do we ensure working hours, availability, collaboration, technical support strategy, HR processes, role of manager in motivating and building morale and maintaining engagements. Communication is the key. Building clear expectations, focus on performance outcomes and building open lines of communication are the key to success.
TPCI: Which are the key sectors and job roles where this model can be most efficient and effective and why?
DM: The sectors which are less regulated can easily adopt. The jobs which do not require frequent physical face to face meeting or physical presence are candidates for remote work. In the IT Sector, many IT Service providers manage to keep their 85-90% staff work remotely without disruption. The BPO sector is also managed but if they are serving certain sectors like banking and financials, it has been difficult. Even many governments across the world and in India too in a limited way have enabled remote work during the Covid-19 crisis. Of course, remote working is not a replacement but many consulting and technology firms have successfully managed remote work from home.
D. D. Mishra is involved in high-quality analyses across all outsourcing services, as well as identification and development of new research topics addressed to meet requirements of Gartner clients. His responsibilities include working with clients to resolve sourcing issues in infrastructure outsourcing, along with developing research to drive improved performance, operational efficiency, cost optimization and partner management and to support various Gartner initiatives and events in the area of infrastructure sourcing.