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evolving the next normal working model – lessons from our journey @worxpertise

By Shubho Chatterjee, Chief Operating Officer, North America, worxpertise

covid-19 has forced businesses, workers and their families to desperately adapt to its vicious onslaught and to the extraordinary circumstances it has wrought in lives and livelihoods. With the vaccines now being administered globally, there is the return of some normalcy while we still dread at the thought of future mutant waves as evidenced in India with the second wave.

it is expected that the years 2021 and 2022 will be transition years for businesses. There is no doubt that society, businesses and individuals will face a new normal and we should expediently use the transition years to best understand and prepare for that different future. There will be new trends in consumer rebound and demand, changes to travel modes and models, enhanced innovation,  dramatic continued growth of digitization supply chain redesign for resilience and changes in daily working norms and creation of new working models.

in this blog, we will focus on an innovative future working model at worxpertise, derived from the lessons of the past, with employee well-being, superior customer experience and enhanced top of mind customer lifecycle value. The genesis of this new working model is derived from our Covid-19 experiences in India and its impact on our global business and our workforce. I hope this blog will help many organizations to adapt and prepare for the next normal working model.

the background: worxpertise is a customer lifetime value-driven global digital business solutions provider based in New Delhi, India. The company provides leading-edge digital capabilities and solutions to its global customers in various verticals, such as, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Agriculture, along the Front-office, Middle-office and Back-office continuum. Its New Delhi workforce is diverse, skilled and represents many regions and states of India. With the onset of the pandemic and strict lockdowns, our associates were mostly forced to leave New Delhi and return to their homes. As has been the experience of numerous organizations where “we’ve seen two years of transformation in two months”, worxpertise was forced to rebalance its workforce and work-life by enabling remote work, workstream and activity alterations, communication mode changes and operating conditions. Most importantly, the company was very empathetic to its workforce because of unfolding personal tragedies, decided not to reduce staff and pay them full salary.

we were prepared for such an eventuality. Given our deep understanding of a dynamic work environment, even prior to Covid-19, in 2019 we had put into action a geography agnostic and agile outsourcing technology infrastructure. We made significant CAPEX investments and set up our private cloud which enabled us to work from anywhere while maintaining the most stringent security protocols. Simply put, we were ready to work from a multi-location environment and mobilize our employees at a short notice. With the onset of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown announced for the first time in 2020, we were ready. In just 9 hours we migrated our entire workforce to their respective remote locations or homes. But this was a new work environment that the employees had to face.
the problem: upon returning to their family homes, worxpertise associates encountered various factors inhibiting their capability to do work and impacting productivity.

Some of the factors were:

  1. living and working in close quarters with multiple family members sharing the same living space. This resulted in frequent distractions and stress when managing video conferences with colleagues or clients.
  2. privacy was also a key issue; virtual backgrounds often could not be enabled due to bandwidth constraints and toggling mute/unmute was equally challenging.
  3. limited bandwidth and unreliable internet connectivity. Rural areas globally often suffer from this constraint and it is indeed difficult to equalize experiences between participants on a 5G network and others on 4G or 3G.
  4. lack of opportunity for associates to co-mingle with their peers. The lockdown completely cut off physical human interaction and this was, therefore, not possible for relocated staff.
  5. potential inability or desire of associate to relocate back to a major high-cost metropolis. The risk for the company is to lose skilled and trained employees, lose productivity and for the employee is to find new local opportunities.

thus, the impact of relocation has been threefold: procedural, technical, and social. We now examine future hybrid working models to resolve the above problems for the workforce and the company.

the win-win-win solution: as the saying goes, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go the mountain”. For worxpertise, the new normal will focus on recruiting from regional and rural locales without relocation to New Delhi. This incentivizes all parties: the employees are able to avail desired work without the expenses of relocation and a high-cost metropolitan living; worxpertise is able to recruit and retain talented workforce; families can rely on the nearness of their loved ones!

worxpertise has focused on Tier-2 cities for its regional hubs for aggressive recruiting. The Tier-2 cities provide stable broadband and infrastructure with scalable offices in technology parks. These offices provide a secure and professional environment for workers. Thus, the problems of limited workspace, privacy, and unreliable internet connectivity are solved. Additionally, local hires will have a desirable and productive environment with professional interactions. This will also reduce the pressure on Tier-1 cities in multiple ways.

the following are some considerations and challenges for a successful hybrid, Tier-1, Tier-2, remote work.

  1. frequent and relevant communication from the center to the hubs. Employees will feel more included when there is clear and frequent communication regarding their productivity and well-being.
  2. effective, efficient, and clear communication of employee accountabilities and frequent touch-points to identify and assist with local issues.
  3. continuously fostering collaboration: the culture is not in the office it is what is done together. Fostering collaboration will likely be difficult among hubs and between the center and the hubs.
  4. managing hub employees differently depending on the needs and local customs.
  5. re-think recruitment to leverage strengths of the hub locations. Some hubs may have strengths in particular disciplines, such as engineering or arts. How would the skewing of particular disciplines be avoided, when necessary?
  6. reiterate and fine-tune.

at worxpertise we have surmounted these challenges and redefined the way we work to usher in the next working model. We have some good performance metrics to share – we have achieved more efficiency and agility as the pandemic spread. We have answered more customer calls during the covid time vis-à-vis the pre covid time. For instance, our customer call response rate went up by 17% if we compare December 2019 vs December 2020. Similarly, calls per hour were at par if we compare work from home to work from the office and in some timelines, it was actually better in work from home.

this paradigm shift, in practice, is an effective, scalable, sustainable, flexible and replicable organizational hub-and-spoke model. A centralized hub can have all the resources to run an agile organization while skilled employees can choose to work from the spokes. The spokes can be easily configured, re-configured or moved depending on the business environment. Organizations facing similar challenges should benefit from implementing this approach. Welcome to the future workplace model!

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