As organizations the world over fight to continue business and growth amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing that is helping them stay afloat is collaboration tools and technology to enable more and more employees to work from home. Is this pandemic going to bring about a real change in the way work happens going forward?
We spoke to Niraj Ranjan Rout, Co-Founder, and CEO of Hiver, a Bengaluru-based SaaS platform which is an email collaboration product built on top of Gmail. It helps teams of all sizes manage group emails. The startup which was part of the Morpheus Accelerator in 2010 has been venture funded recently by Kalaari Capital and Kae Capital and caters to over 1,500 customers across 30 countries (US, UK, Australia, and Germany among others). Some of its customers include Harvard University, Hubspot, vacation rentals company Vacasa, video ad-tech provider ExtremeReach and the Chartered Management Institute of the UK.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview-
What is the opportunity that the Coronavirus epidemic brings for Indian businesses as far as the way they work is concerned?
“A pandemic like this is not the right time to determine opportunities in the future of work. As for the impact, we are already seeing how the Covid-19 pandemic is changing the way we work.”
Flexibility in terms of office timing and remote work is already taking center stage. Organizations across the world are encouraging employees to work from home, including startups and corporates in India.
Would you say the virus could result in a serious blow to the 9-5 office culture?
There are a lot of predictions about a permanent shift in work culture. A lot of companies across the globe are promoting work from home. From tech giants like Google and Microsoft to small startups, companies are taking precautionary measures, given the global pandemic. That being said, as far as the 9-5 office culture is concerned, it has already been facing challenges as more and more companies are now focusing on productivity rather than a 9-5 rulebook.
What is the opportunity for collaboration tools during and after this pandemic? How do you think they will affect the way work happens in the future?
As mentioned above, this pandemic will definitely change the way we work across the world. One such example is the US's Covid-19 epicenter, Seattle. Many companies, including Amazon, LinkedIn, Google and Microsoft, advised its employees to stop coming to office in late February and it was made compulsory in early March. We are now seeing a similar trend in India as we see an increase in the number of cases. This is pushing more and more companies to adopt virtual collaboration solutions.
With thousands of people working from home or quarantined, demand for video conferencing software like Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet has significantly increased. Similarly, a lot of teams might start adopting project collaboration tools like Trello and Asana.
Will work from home (WFH) become the norm and not the necessity?
Well, in the current situation, social media is filled with rosy predictions of the future work culture and how remote working might just become the new norm. However, a pandemic is not the right time to determine the best possible outcome for workplace flexibility.
“It has, however, presented companies with an opportunity to innovate and adopt technology to enable remote work - even in the future when normalcy returns.”
What can organizations do to impact productivity for employees working from home?
The right engagement and communication is the key to achieving productivity when employees work from home. To support employees working remotely, companies are deploying various collaboration tools. Right from video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts to email collaboration solutions like ours (Hiver) - organizations are ensuring the gap left by face to face communication is bridged by these solutions.
On the other hand, this is the first of its kind situation for employees too. Many of them might be working from home for a prolonged period for the first time. Some of the things they can do at their end are:
1. Ensure they have a designated work spot at their house
2. Conduct more online meetings and 1:1s
3. Set timers to stretch, walk around
4. Ensure you have a morning routine and you follow a schedule
5. Find out what works best for you and block out distracting noises.