IBM believes in progress—that the application of intelligence, reason and science can improve business, society and the human condition. Here, Chaitanya Sreenivas, HR Leader, IBM India, talks about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: We have done a couple of things. IBM has always had a flexible workforce. We have been following that. IBM has also re-invented itself several times. The Covid-19 was not very shocking for us. We have had a headstart. In early March, we recognized how things are going elsewhere. We moved to WFH scenario. DoT took care of the connectivity. We were already in a WFH mode.
We are also working with clients, and supporting them. Meticulous plans - working with clients, employees and authorities. We are also making sure our OSP line is working. We are about 99 percent WFH from March 22.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: IBM has a flexible work policy. Employees also have their accounts, roles and functions. We have to follow the current procedure. We started off with a lot of engagement - digital sessions, etc. We helped them build their routines. The clients are also being helped via digital intervention.
DQ: How are you assessing on learning from enforced experiments around WFH?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: Enforced experiments is not about measuring or checking the personnel. Each accountability is taken care of. We were concerned about productivity. We have now learnt a lot. Our productivity has definitely improved. Lot of intervention has helped us. Systems were already in place.
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: Employees have specific roles to do. Managers have had a hard time in seeing what they are doing. Managers have undergone training on how to manage people remotely, empowering the remote intervention. We are helping managers to set up. This is ongoing. Lot of digital intervention, engagement across teams, etc.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: There is lot of emphasis on families, on cultures. We found out that there were some difficulties. We started having engagements with employees. How to WFH, how to build routines, etc. We had the leadership to WFH.
DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: We are in the IT/ITeS space. We have engagement programs, leaders talking to the workforce. We predominantly had laptops. Those who didn't have, we provided laptops. We provide dongles, etc. We also have digital tools - whiteboards, collaboration tools, etc. The teams are well versed with them. Video tools, learning tools, etc., are also doing well.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: We have a lot of collaboration tools. We have multiple VC and voice tools. Also, communication and sharing tools. We get to see, hear, and have whiteboards. We are trying out some other tools.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: Covid-19 has tested a lot of technologies at scale. There have been new technologies created. With that, there may be more opportunities for us to work differently. The new normal may not have everybody in office. We are also interacting with clients differently. There has been a lot of comfort that has come through as well. A lot of new dimensions have opened up.
DQ: What are the solutions that you are now offering for Future of Work / WFH?
Chaitanya Sreenivas: We probably will! There have been lot of testing and engagements. There may be new offerings for customers, especially around collaboration and tooling.