For over a decade, a sizeable number of service and some manufacturing organizations have been practicing ‘work from home’ and ‘telecommuting’, allowing employees to participate in virtual teams. While telephone and email allowed for ease of information flow, personal touch to interactions, clarity of communication, and articulation of emotions were somewhat compromised. ‘Telecommuting’ model struck a balance between remote working with intermittent physical presence to ensure clarity of communication and trust among team members and management ‘work from home’. For the past 2 months Complex data visualization for business presentations, recruitment interviews, employee onboarding, review and appraisal meetings, training sessions, farewells have all been conducted in real-time on sophisticated technological platforms.
As a rapid response to the COVID pandemic, organizations have shown agility to allow for remote working to ensure business continuity. Businesses in the service sector have found the Virtual Teams practice a boon. Most businesses have leveraged on the investments in training and technological platforms for remote working. Brick and Mortar companies have been managing to keep their support systems alive through remote working platforms. Skype, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom, and Bluejeans have become popular vehicles connecting customers, clients, friends, and families across distant locations. Small and medium businesses have been practicing remote working for the economic advantages of saving on space, infrastructure, and cutting commuting costs. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for example had initiated their transition towards ‘Borderless Workforce’ to allow its employees to work from any location. With the lockdown situation, TCS is designing to have 75% of its workforce work remotely.
Virtual teams are an effective mechanism if designed with care. Communication among the team members must be frequent, allow for transparency, and build trust. With reduced personal interaction, managing emotions could be a challenge. Presently, online jam sessions, virtual town halls and motivation seminars are being widely used to sustain employee morale. A plethora of Webinars, Internet-based Training, Real-time coaching sessions are being conducted or recommended to make good use of the idle time.
As they say, ‘Never let a crisis go waste’, Organizations that reorient their configurations to leverage on remote working capabilities shall gain in the longer future. The new-found organic self-skilling process shall empower organizations with a workforce that can work from anywhere and provide on-demand service.
‘Man-machine collaboration’ shall be the harbinger of the post-COVID-19 paradigm shift.
Dr. Vidya Iyer
Professor of Human Resources
In her career spanning over 15 years, she has been a management consultant for organizations of repute across sectors, a trainer and faculty person. Her attachment for the SME segment is special as she has been an active member of quite a few start-up organizations. Mentoring women entrepreneurs has been a passion and her association with ISB- Goldman Sachs program proves her commitment for the cause of women entrepreneurship. ‘Employee Development’ as well as ‘Student Development’ are the areas that she identifies with and continues to research, read and write about. In the past, she has trained and mentored over 100 professionals across Junior to Senior managerial levels in Indian Public and Private sector organizations such as ICSI, IOCL, IVRCL, Vijay Electricals, Kribhco, NTPC, DGM- India to name a few. She is associated with the Non-Profit sector too as a consultant. Keen on understanding business and management issues, working towards finding business solutions across a wide range of organizations has been her forte. A teacher by choice, she enjoys interacting with junior and senior students of HR, Strategy and Analytics. She has been a faculty for executive programs at IIFT, NMIMS, MDU, IBS-Hyderabad and Osmania University and is an AMT (Accredited Management Teacher) from AIMA.
Dr. Vidya has conducted awareness and sensitization programs for faculty, staff and students. She has conducted trainings and workshops for KPOs and large PSUs such a POSOCO and trained 100 executives on ICC and POSH. Her doctoral research was in the area of Employability and she is currently associated with a National Project from ICSSR to study the employability status in North Indian states. She is an alumnus of Osmania University, ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad.