NetApp is the leader in cloud data services, empowering global organizations to change their world with data. Together with our partners, we are the only ones who can help you build your unique data fabric. Ravi Chhabria, MD, NetApp India, talks about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? How are you facilitating the digiwork? What plans have you put in place?
Ravi Chhabria: During this lockdown, we have shifted our mode of operations completely online. Our secure Virtual Private Network, NVD (remote desktop), and other collaboration tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, are all being monitored to maximize productivity.
The network security in such time has become even more important hence we have NAC (Network Access Control) at every endpoint. A multi-factor authentication approach has become our rule of thumb on a day to day basis to ensure maximum secure connectivity for our corporate infrastructure. We are constantly checking internet bandwidth and VPN tunnel utilization of our employees.
During these times predicting spikes or performance issues using Network and Application monitoring tools saves a lot of time and improves productivity. Our onboarding process for new employees was translated to a virtual one over one weekend. All the sessions that were being conducted face-to-face have been quickly converted to virtual sessions via Zoom.
DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?
Ravi Chhabria: Video and calls have made collaboration easier,but also put a stress on many remote workers. With kids at home, caregiving, household chores, we need to reinforce the need to take time off and designate work and relaxation hours. Work shouldn’t be dreary or impersonal either – team birthdays to happy-hours, we are celebrating all possible occasions virtually. Teams are closer than ever before. Some have introduced family and pets to their teammates virtually.
We have well-being partners and coaches and they are conducting sessions on ‘thriving remotely from home.’ We offercounseling sessions via phone – anonymously, to employees and their families. We are lucky that we work for the technology industry and are able to bide this time as normally as possible.
DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?
Ravi Chhabria: Being in the technology industry, most of us have had experience with work from home situations. Even so, initially some of us had a few hiccups in terms of ergonomics, internet connectivity, but two weeks in we saw how people set up home offices to become better. We offered ergonomic consultation with the in-house physiologist, and even home delivered some electronic accessories.
We learnt new ways to conduct both on-boarding of new employees and exit of those leaving. New employees were given virtual device access to help them connect from day one. We learnt that people are willing to go the extra mile to work together and get things done. Employees now send us screenshots of all the work and fun things they are doing. We learnt that we are a resilient lot, and that people find ways to do what they really want to do. Work from home is not a deterrent for producing some great work!
DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?
Ravi Chhabria: Managers are constantly in touch with their teams, maybe even more so than during normal times. We all found our way as guided by our culture. If that means some of us took an unscheduled crash course in remote leadership, we are not alone, and our human factor remains the same. We are sharing practical tips on how to stay productive while working with the family around. We have to remember that people are looking at their leaders to stay informed, motivated, happy – even comforted.
DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?
Ravi Chhabria: Work from home is changing our work hours. It could be tempting to stay put at your home-desk and send more emails, get more code written, and prove that we are more productive. We may be overcompensating for the hours in traffic, or away from in-person interactions. While it is important to be productive, taking a break from work is important when working from home. If it is ok to work-from-home, it is okay to take vacation-from-home.
DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?
Ravi Chhabria: All companies have been forced to re-evaluate their IT models and accelerate digital transformation efforts as employees move to a work from home model. So, technologies that support work from home are the number one priority. Companies around the globe have rolled out mandatory remote work policies, but not all have the right infrastructure in place to support the influx of users to end-user computing (EUC) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) applications.
Number two: As more of enterprises move their daily lives online and employees’ transition to remote work environments, companies are experiencing sudden influxes of traffic and data. This data needs to be proactively protected and optimized over a hybrid cloud infrastructure. So, you need tools that to give you visibility into your complete infrastructure—both in the cloud and on the premises—and to make critical adjustments quickly. AI for predicting and analyzing this data to make business as well as infrastructure adjustments is essential. With all this data moving through multiple end points, data protection is also the need of the hour.
Thirdly, application performance and availability challenges depend on where your apps and data live. Storage often plays the most critical role in application performance. Storage technologies that allow for rationalizing your data and application infrastructure, move data between on-premises storage and cloud, and help ensure data availability across clouds.
NetApp continues to invest in this space. Our recent acquisition of VDI superstar CloudJumper is an example. NetApp has deep product sets within analytics, like Active IQ, and data protection. All of this is going to come together over time as a complete vertically integrated stack. NetApp has the best possible solution – a true vertically integrated stack and solution for partners and customers.
DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?
Ravi Chhabria: As this way of ‘digiwork’ becomes more prevalent, it is shaping the future of work. Commuting and urbanization are two birds killed with the one stone that is work from home, but there is more. We think technology will shape and drive this, but really it is all about the people. In India we often live in large multi-generational families, with our elders and our kids.
Even as women are thriving in the workforce, they often carry a heavier burden at home, by way of housework and caregiving. Now that work has moved to the home, people are learning and being forced to confront non-work obligations. This will change behaviour. Not only on the part of men, and their role at home,but maybe, now more women will join in the workforce. Work situations that allow for home life balance, maybe even home-life integration, might be here to stay. That is a very good thing for a diverse workplace.