Technology tools and the right people management policies have emerged as the most important factors in keeping companies going during COVID-19. People Matters asked Sandeep Bhargava, Managing Director of Asia Pacific Japan at multicloud solutions firm Rackspace Technology, for his take on what's working during this period. Here are the highlights of what he shared.
What are some opportunities and challenges you have identified during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The biggest challenges and opportunities that organizations will face are often associated with the right technology tools and the culture an organization has developed to prepare for a remote workforce. Organizations that have taken a cloud-first, objective-oriented approach may find they are better prepared for delivering customer outcomes from anywhere, as they are better designed for remote access and scalability.
We believe that leaders and the human resource department of companies would begin to see the benefit of more flexible working arrangements for their employees that would improve the well- being of their staff even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
How have you been balancing priorities and managing stakeholder responses and reactions during the implementation of BCP?
For me personally, I have been compartmentalizing my day to allocate time for competing priorities—looking after the business, ensuring that our customers continue to get the fanatical experience that we promise to provide. Staying focused and in the zone is key to balancing priorities in order to achieve our desired outcomes.
We are proactively reaching out to the various stakeholders such as customers, partners, employees and their families through multiple channels to identify their needs. We want to find out how they are coping in the present situation, understand the current business realities for our customers and the areas they need help in. Within the company, we ensure that all our employees receive the assistance they need to help them continue to service our customers.
How do you leverage the company culture to keep operations running smoothly despite the disruptions?
Even before COVID-19, we were flexible about employees working from home, enabled by collaborative technology tools, various cloud-based systems, a culture of fanatical employee engagement and the trust between the organization and its employees. This helped with the company’s smooth transition to a remote working environment.
Hence, the switch to working from home has not affected work flow and how we show up for customers. Our ultimate goal is to keep people connected even though they are physically distant.
Here are some of the initiatives we have put in place:
Announcing the achievements of our employees in our internal newsletters to ensure that despite working remotely, we are acknowledging the efforts of our fellow Rackers (a dear term we use when referring to our employees).
Global Wellness Challenge: An eight-week challenge during which Rackers are encouraged to inspire and motivate one another in our professional as well as personal journeys. For instance, logging physical activities and experimenting with healthy recipes that we then share with each other. In addition, we also write inspiring articles and share them with the team.
We introduced RackerNess for LinkedIn: a campaign highlighting the different ways Rackers are dealing with and processing the work from home experience. This helps our employees bond and provide the reassurance that we are all in this together, including our customers and partners, who often comment on the LinkedIn posts.
Important events during COVID-19 continue to take place, but are not forgotten at Rackspace. Managers have called 1:1 meetings only to log in to a video conferencing facility and find their whole team online with virtual party backgrounds and a chorus of Rackers singing Happy Birthday.
As a leader, what are some of the important factors you've identified in managing your people through this crisis?
We are committed to looking after our Rackers physically, mentally and emotionally. Among other initiatives we have designated a working day of their choice as a wellness day off for all Rackers, sent 10 non-surgical masks to all Rackers worldwide and also made available tools such as Whil, an online tool that can help reduce stress, increase resilience, and improve focus, sleep and performance.
More than ever, there is a need to be approachable and be understanding about the added pressures of work from home that our employees are coping with. There are adjustments and changes, especially those who are taking care of their children at home.
Personally, I have been reaching out to my employees all over the region just to check in, share a couple of jokes, and ensure they’re smiling and happy.
Based on what you have observed in the last few months, how are you planning for the next stretch?
We are closely monitoring and following health and safety guidelines from government agencies and public health officials as well as tracking global developments related to COVID-19. Across our Asia Pacific and Japan offices, we understand that employees in different countries will require different types of implementations to ensure that remote working is carried out effectively.
We’ve worked to safeguard our employees and minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 so that our team of Rackers can continue to deliver a great experience to our customers. What I have noticed is that our employees have overall adapted well to this ‘new normal’, possessing the right skills and mindset to deliver excellent service to our customers.
As a company, we are looking forward to the post crisis situation when we will be able to further support our customers on their journey towards cloud adoption and meet their needs to build strong and competitive businesses as the economy recovers.