The future of the workplace after COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced unprecedented and unanticipated upheaval, with lockdowns around the world triggering a sudden and widespread need to enable millions of people to work from home. This period has presented, and will continue to present, many challenges but it has also taught us valuable business lessons.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organisation that employs 448,000 people and partners with thousands of companies worldwide.
As was the case for the majority of businesses, our primary concern has been keeping our staff safe while ensuring our global customer base, from manufacturing and retail to banking and utilities, continued to receive the service they have come to expect and the tools they need to adapt.
With millions of people across the UK suddenly needing to work from home, technology played a central role in enabling new working cultures and business models.
Over the years, TCS has functioned on a Location Independent Agile methodology which enables work to be carried out in approved facilities anywhere in the world. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated the vision away from this structure and saw the launch of our Secure Borderless Workspaces™ model (SBWS™). This has provided our employees with remote access and continued cybersecurity, as well as access to the project management practices and systems needed to proceed as normal. Thankfully, we had been investing in agile working models for several years and the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that having agility at the heart of your company can allow you to be more resilient in times of crisis.
Traditionally, our staff worked in approved facilities around the world; as the pandemic hit, we facilitated the transfer of over 95% of our 448,000-strong global employee-base to our SBWS™ remote working model in a matter of weeks. This smooth transition was vital in reassuring our staff and enabling them to continue their jobs with as little disruption as possible.
What we’ve come to realise over time, however, is that this shift is now not just about working from home, it has triggered the creation of a whole new model that heralds significant change for the IT services industry.
Our long-term relationships with our customers meant that we knew what they wanted and needed to keep their businesses running (and continue to provide vital services) during the crisis. Over the past few months, we have also been helping many UK organisations adapt to working remotely using our SBWS™ model.
One of these customers is leading British retailer, Halfords. When lockdown was announced, many stores were temporarily closed but there was a sudden spike in online sales, requiring significant and quick changes to stock and personnel. Warehouse management systems had to be reassessed and redesigned, and the movement of some goods was revised, while there also needed to be continual monitoring and liaison with vendors.
Technological innovation, largely facilitated through the SBWS™ infrastructure, enabled the deployment of collaboration platforms, cloud-enabled infrastructure and robust security practices to continue critical operations.
Customers like Halfords are comfortable with the new model; associates are happy that they have flexible operating hours and are saving daily commuting time that can now be spent working, learning, keeping fit and pursuing hobbies.
The successful implementation of our SBWS™ model has led to a new business vision that puts agility and flexible workspaces at the heart of how we operate. By 2025 we will only need 25% of our employees in the office at any one time to ensure 100% are productive. Employees will only need to spend 25% of their time at the office, only 25% of a project team will need to physically be in one location and we expect a 25% improvement in productivity and results. By putting this strategy at the heart of our new vision, work can change from being a place we go, to a thing we do.
Coronavirus will have a lasting impact on business in many ways. Despite the immense challenges it continues to present us all, we must also work to redefine the purpose of business with more agility, resilience and flexibility to create opportunities and a brighter future.
For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.