It will be an understatement to say a lot has changed since the pandemic began. In a business environment, the pandemic has touched almost every aspect from sales to delivery to corporate functions, and the definition of the ‘new normal’ continues to evolve every few weeks.

We are among the many organizations – like most our customers – that benefited from driving digital transformation throughout our organization for the past few years. It allowed us to transition seamlessly into 100% Work From Home – due to strong data governance tools and processes such as GDPR and ISO, strong security through endpoint controls, and all operating systems on the cloud. We saw zero glitches during this transition and saw a notable improvement in employee productivity and customer engagement. An increase in corporate communications and a strong HR engagement program kept this running successfully.

However, we must recognize that we are all social beings. Even though working from home has worked for organizations and employees alike, we need to be cognizant that the ‘new normal’ is continually evolving. As the economies across the world are opening up and people have begun to move around more, we must recognize that everyone longs for a change in scenery and the ability to rebuild the camaraderie and rapport with their teams. We must give the choice of work environment to the people. And if they chose to return to their offices, a new challenge will present itself in ensuring we keep them safe, productive, and socially distanced.

As we went through this process we realized that it requires collaboration across different operating and corporate functions. Here are some lessons on how we broke down departmental silos and readied ourselves for this next phase in the COVID saga.

Communication and HR: Going back to the office is not about us wanting our employees back in the office. I think over the past 6 months they have demonstrated that they can function equally efficiently from home. Rather, WFO is about employees wanting to come to the office for a variety of reasons like change of scenery and collaboration with co-workers among others.

To hear this from employees, we ran a simple 3 question survey every 2 weeks and observed the trends. This is invaluable information to gauge the mood and take steps to mitigate any perceived risks. It is important to let the employees determine their workdays and hours in the office while leveraging technology to maintain social distancing and safety norms in the office.

Technology and Admin: So how do you limit how many employees show up at work to ensure social distancing? While we will be implementing one-way corridors, elevator spacing's, sanitizer dispensers everywhere, we felt the need to figure out an innovative way to solve this. That is when our IT teamed up with Admin and came up with the COVID-19 Hoteling and Contact Tracing App to effectively implement safety. This app will allow users to book work desks in advance before they walk into the office. This allows admin teams to create a seating map that enforces social distancing and limits the number of employees in the office. Also, internet connection to the disabled seats can be taken away including disabling wi-fi extenders. This ensures people work at assigned workstations and cannot break social distancing norms. In the initial weeks, we plan to allow the only 1/6Th of the work spaces to be occupied at any given point of time. Apart from ensuring social distancing norms, this app will also allow us to capture thermal scan ratings and oximeter readings for all incoming and outgoing employees as well as successful contact tracing. If anyone tests positive, we will be able to trace all individuals who have been in their physical proximity for timely isolation and testing. Another significant advantage is the flexibility it offers individuals to come to work as per their choice and preferences. This is the kind of flexibility we at Jade Global will continue offering our employees long after this pandemic is over.

Finance and Innovation: At a time when cash conservation is a priority, most businesses are cutting down large projects and other capital expenditure. However, this type of cash conservation - through deferred investments - can impact long term growth. It is counter-intuitive and a balance must be struck. At Jade Global, our Finance team has been enabling investment in IT to make your front-end ready to go when things open up again. We are implementing process improvements, granular dash boarding and more to ensure that we are do not miss out on growth and development due to the current economic situation.

To conclude, let us recognize that the ‘new normal’ is constantly evolving. It makes sense for us to remain flexible and employee-focused in our policies and listen to them in determining next steps. It is also important to collaborate internally within different functions to bring about the changes necessary to deal with the evolving situation. Please share what you are doing at your organization to resume Work Form Office. Here is wishing all of you a successful return to business and continued productivity as we all overcome COVID-19 together.

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About the Author

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Anant Soni

Executive Vice President

In his 15+ years at Jade Global, Anant has played multiple roles on the business and corporate sides of the organization, most recently as the Head of Human Resources and Information Technology. Anant is passionate about driving the ‘Jade Promise’ through perpetuating a culture of excellence across the organization. In his current role of leading the Enterprise Solutions business unit, Anant is leveraging his experience on both sides of the table to come up with innovative services and solutions.

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