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How agencies are keeping productivity levels high while working from home

Tough times call for innovative measures. The ongoing Coronavirus attack across the world is forcing organisations to ask their employees to work from home in order to check the spread of the virus. Covid-19 is also forcing people to bring in certain behaviour modifications, most notably, maintaining hand hygiene to almost OCD levels and opting for social distancing. 

The world is now operating in the new reality of working from remote locations and maintaining work schedules and productivity, instead of going for a complete cessation of operations. 

While there are certain professions where the workforce needs to be on the ground – such as medical personnel, essential services, news media, police and administration, judiciary, shops & commerce, pharmacies, etc., quite a few professions have taken to working from home – viz., advertising, corporate houses, tech companies, other media, etc. 

The advantages of working from home are many – saving on commute time, avoiding traffic jams, getting to spend more time with one’s family, working in comfortable environs. At the same time there are certain drawbacks too, such as distractions in the form of visitors, also intrusions by family members, attending to household chores, and most importantly, managing the team that is working from remote locations and keeping the productivity levels high. 

Working from home is not a licence to ‘do what you want as there is no one to watch you’. No binge-watching your favourite Web series, no logging in late for work, no staying incommunicado. There is a certain schedule and discipline that needs to be maintained to get the work done, especially by the newbies to the world of work from home. Just because one isn’t in an office environ, it doesn’t mean that there is any laxity in meeting deadlines. 

Adgully spoke to a cross-section of the agency world to know how they are gearing up to make the most of the forced work from home situation and keep productivity levels as well as employee morale high. 

Sunil Seth, Head HR Business Partner- South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network:

“We formed and activated a Management Incident team, which is part of our Business Contingency Plan framework to meet every week and monitor the situation right from the first case was announced in India. The team monitors the situation and has kept the government guidance as minimum base to put necessary efforts to prevent the spread. As an immediate measure, at the initial stage, only we placed hand sanitisers across all our office entrances and meeting rooms. We also started sharing information on washing hands and basic do’s/ don’ts at such times. A list of hospitals designated for testing of Coronavirus across all locations has been kept handy. It has also been circulated to the employees. A travel advisory has been issued for people travelling for work/ personal as per the guidelines from our global office and Ministry of Health of India. We further have increased the measures by providing work from home to people who have a serious risk while travelling. A doctor is always on standby to provide support for any eventuality across offices in respective locations. Furthermore, our local general affairs teams are well trained to manage any eventuality, including that of evacuation and sanitising offices if required. 

It is critical that we monitor the situation very closely as the local authorities, the State Governments and the Ministry of Health are raising the bar for preventing the spread. Currently, we have circulated the advisory on work from home, which has been issued till March 31, 2020. We are monitoring the situation on daily basis. 

These are testing times for the organisation and employees too. While the paramount aspect remains the health of employees, it is also imperative that the businesses should not get impacted. Thankfully, we are sufficiently invested in technology to allow minimum disruption whatsoever for our people to execute their work from home. Additionally, our IT teams are also well prepared to meet such eventuality and for the switch, which has happened. So far, it has been smooth for people working from home. We trust our employees to make the best use of the support provided and equally reciprocate the same in achieving the work deliverables for the organisation and its clients.” 

Chetan Asher, CEO and Co Founder, Tonic Worldwide:

“We have been concerned and precautious around our teams safety. The HR team had launched a series of guidelines which educated team members on sanitisation habits as well as requested them to avoid travel since February. We have also been avoiding face to face client meetings and recommending Skype or video calls for presentations. Work related travel has stopped completely. Team members are equipped in every possible way to work remotely and have been requested to work from home since this week. Processes ensure collaboration and project status updates regularly. Being a digital agency, we have always been equipped to work remotely and it is an easier bridge to cross for us. 

Since a few years, we have already been giving the flexibility of work from home to all our employees, who have completed probation, for a few days every month. So yes, if the need arises or if it enables any team member, we have been and will consider the option. 

Keeping a check hasn’t been our culture even when they work from office. It’s this trust that builds a sense of ownership and responsibility in individuals. People have their KPIs and are aware of the same irrespective of where they are working from. 

With multiple project management tools and video calling facilities, we have been working with clients across the globe. We also have an office in UAE and teams have been collaborating with each other as well as clients very seamlessly so don't see that as a challenge. The only challenge for anyone is the infrastructure of ensuring one has high speed Internet and devices with all possible software that can equip them to function from home. That’s an investment which will only be beneficial in the long run. Productivity changes, if any, will only be on the positive side.” 

Mithila Saraf, Business Head, Bangalore, Famous Innovations:

“We have also been working from home, we have cancelled all planned trips, company gatherings and shoots. All meetings are being done over VC, all our offices have been sanitized and precautionary behaviour is being encouraged company-wide.  

However, I don’t think this is a sustainable model for creative agencies. Our ideas thrive when we are together as a group and finding creative solutions requires all kinds of different people to work together – draw things, rip up pages, yell at each other, laugh out loud and keep talking until we feel we’ve got it right. Our work is too emotional to be done remotely staring at the screen. Creative people need to be out there in the world. Of course, for now, safety comes first and we are doing our best from our homes until a solution is found. 

Great teams are always built on trust, but that trust becomes exponentially more important in times like these. We are all communicating actively and constantly, keep each other updated on what’s happening and trying to keep the atmosphere as fun and lively as it always is in office. Nothing can replace the joy of working with people you love and admire and seeing them every day, but our Macbooks, Gmail, Hangout, Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp are doing a decent job so far.” 

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, Founder & MD, BC Web Wise:

“Last Friday, we announced that we will be getting into a work from home mode across all our offices in the country – that is, Mumbai , Delhi and Bangalore. We also asked employees who work on desktops and need high end machines/ licensed software that are installed in these to work with to take their machines home on Sunday when there is less traffic, and the same has been exercised. Unfortunately, there are still employees who miss being together for some team work related issues. But we have insisted that they use video conferencing. We already have tools like Hangout / Whatsapp and Zoom for collaboration and video conferencing. 

We already encourage work from home to be more productive and when there are any family, health or other such matters. I am really looking forward to how this forced WFH works out for us as a team and am hoping it is successful. I personally am very effective when I work from home. Yes, there are certain situations when we do need to meet up and I think we can do that as needed. 

The same tools mentioned about help us to collaborate and work together. Each team head is responsible to ensure that there is no misuse of the time given to work from home and instead, we have better productivity as we save on travel time.”

Shrenik Gandhi, CEO and Co-Founder, White Rivers Media

The first step was ensuring that the Work-From-Home announcement and logistics were executed over a weekend. We pre-empted the Maharashtra government declaration, so that’s a benefit that obviously comes with foresight. But thereafter came the tricky bit: setting up processes that would facilitate clear and efficient communication between all verticals in the agency. Daily schedules, situation reports, SOPs, all were put into place between Friday and Monday, so that we hit the ground running when the next week began.

As the week started, we got our workforce into the rhythm of connecting remotely. Google Keep, Zoom meetings, Hangouts, Screenshares, Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets, and of course, the unavoidable multitude of WhatsApp groups, all became our channels for real-time internal communication.

Should the situation arise where one needs to come to office (and this should only be in a doomsday scenario), we charted a Work-From-Office protocol, which involved looping in Mitesh and myself, so that we’re available in a supporting and supervisory capacity.
Simply put, we operated with two key objectives in mind: no compromise on client work, and no danger to our workforce’s health.


Also Read: 

Coronavirus hits entertainment industry; shootings cancelled

Covid-19 Effect: Biz travel stares at $820 bn loss; airfares drop by 40%


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