I read a quote somewhere that said, “Life is unpredictable, and you never know what is coming next. Don’t ever get too comfortable and always be ready for change”. My belief in these words has become stronger than ever as social distancing continues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not even in our wildest imagination did we think that the world would be affected so profoundly in such a short time. Although countries responded at different times, most of the world’s population is now practicing some form of social distancing to mitigate the risk of catching and spreading the infectious disease.
As news spread of coronavirus invisibly crossing international borders at an alarming rate, AdvantageGo’s senior leadership team immediately understood the gravity of the situation and executed on our Business Continuity plan (BCP) without delay.
Ensuring the wellbeing of our people was our priority, and like thousands of companies worldwide, AdvantageGo’s employees based in India and the UK are now working from home. As commercial insurance software providers and an IT organization, we were well-equipped to smoothly switch to remote working and with no disruption to our customer service. Over 90% of our global workforce had worked from home in the past, which meant that we were able to quickly transition to remote working.
All of our global teams have the ability to work from home with the relevant software and collaboration tools to access the necessary environments required to continue to provide the same high level of customer support, without disruption.
We immediately reached out to our valued customers to communicate that AdvantageGo was open for business as usual. We also shared our ‘Go Deliver Online’ remote working guide with our employees and customers that outlines best practices and how to be successful in delivering projects remotely, safely and on time. You can read more about this in a blog written by John Racher, Head of UK Operations and International Growth.
As mentioned above, the safety and well-being of all our staff is a top priority at AdvantageGo. Frequent and consistent communication among team members was key during the first few weeks of remote working. Our senior leadership team personally called all employees to discuss if they had any challenges working from home, and to ask about their health and well-being.
During the first week of our offices closing, all managers met twice a day to discuss and resolve any teething issues as a result of remote working. Lack of face-to-face contact was not a barrier, and we made heavy use of all collaboration tools and social media channels at our disposal to share information, hold meetings, and engage with each other.
Having a BCP plan that is regularly maintained and tested, an infrastructure that can withstand the mass switch to remote working within days, a dedicated IT team and smart planning meant that our migration to working from home full-time was seamless. Of course, not everything went to plan as there will always be unforeseen circumstances to deal with, but on the whole, 95% of our workforce was able to work from home in that first week of our offices closing, and with 100% of our workforce working from home after the first week of our offices closing.
We remain committed to providing the best customer service during this time, and all our customers are dealing with their usual teams at AdvantageGo.
At AdvantageGo, we are acutely aware that remote working for a longer period than usual and amid nationwide lockdown restrictions brings its own unique set of challenges. Isolation, working with family members or housemates at home full-time, not being able to go outdoors, and the constant news cycle on COVID-19 can cause anxiety and stress.
AdvantageGo has always placed a strong emphasis on community and having fun while working. We regularly hold social activities and celebrate our employees’ achievements. Working from home doesn’t mean this has to stop; we just had to find a way to have fun collectively within a remote environment.
A few teams have come up with some great ways to keep up spirits while remote working. One group is running a 21-day Fitness Challenge by sharing fitness videos and tips for those who want to remain physically active during lockdown. For those that prefer a less sweaty activity, our ReadGo Book club also has its own 21 Day Reading Challenge, where readers are encouraged to read daily for a minimum of 21 minutes and share what they read with the group. Readers are also encouraged to share their own works of fiction through ReadGo’s ‘Five Minutes Read’ initiative.
This ongoing pandemic, though ruthless and tragic, has taught us some invaluable lessons.
I am writing from my perspective, but what I have witnessed working at AdvantageGo is that full-time remote working does function. Of course, remote or virtual working isn’t new, many organizations have been doing this for years, but for many other businesses, remote working is simply not an option. However, there are still many companies out there where the majority of its workforce is office-based.
There will always be a need for face-to-face meetings and human contact; we are social beings, after all. I’m not advocating that all companies should switch to remote working once the pandemic is over, however, what COVID-19 has shown us is that working from home doesn’t necessarily result in productivity loss and reduced customer satisfaction.
We’ve all seen the positive environmental outcomes resulting from lockdown – jellyfish visibly swimming in Venice canals, and people in the northern state of Punjab being able to see the Himalayan mountain range more than 100 miles away due to the reduced air pollution. It would be tragic and heartbreaking to lose these wonderful and positive impacts on nature.
The only way we’ve been able to continue working remotely through these times is via technology. One positive take-away from the pandemic is that we don’t necessarily all need to commute to an office to get work done.
The world is anxious to get back to the way things were before the pandemic hit, understandably so. I, too, am eager to meet up with family and friends and celebrate life together in person. However, in the rush to return to our lives Before Coronavirus, let’s pause and assess some of the good that has come out of all of this.
News reports have emerged saying that a possible second wave of the pandemic may occur later this year as restrictions are lifted. There is all likelihood that further lockdowns may come into place, forcing us to work remotely a second time around. Having a BCP plan is crucial, but it will only work if employees are empowered and fully supported to work remotely during extended periods of time. We don’t yet know the full nature of the crisis, but being as fully prepared as possible is key to managing performance issues mid-crisis and so your business is equipped to survive and thrive during these turbulent times.
Make sure your company has a BCP in place that is maintained and regularly tested. Ensure that there are measures in place allowing you to immediately connect and communicate with your customers. Many companies, not matter how successful, are often judged by their performance management in times of crisis.
If possible, encourage employees to work from home one or two days a week on a regular basis. Make sure your collaboration tools are up to date and always working. They should also be effectively used by your customers.
Community/social activities are essential for team spirit – have something in place. Have initiatives to support your employees’ physical, mental and spiritual health. Lastly, keep the team motivated and emotionally strong, especially during difficult times like these.
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