“We are definitely adopting a ‘remote first’ mentality, so we will not be returning to the office on a full-time basis,” GO plc’s Chief Executive Officer, Nikhil Patil said.

“We shall also be opting for remote meetings and events whenever possible since this has definitely proved to be far more efficient and effective.”

From the start of the pandemic, the telecommunications company was in a strong – and perhaps, somewhat, unique – position to adapt to the changing circumstances, from a technological and operations point of view.

“When you run a company as complex as GO, a company that offers services on which so many businesses, households and individuals depend, preparing for emergency situations is part of our everyday lives,” Mr Patil said, underlining that COVID-19, nevertheless, “took our preparedness and response to a whole new level.”

The firm mobilised 75 per cent of its workforce to work remotely, including the call centre agents. Retail shops remained open, though these were equipped with Perspex screens; health and safety training was given to customer-facing employees; and procedures were revised and digitised wherever possible, to ensure that outlet visits remained minimal. However, the shift was not without its challenges, the CEO explained.

Indeed, Mr Patil said the sourcing and setting up of equipment for a large workforce was complex since the firm had to ensure everyone had remote access to the systems set up at the office.

As a result, the work of the company’s response team – which devised a strategy for the transition – proved instrumental.

“Having such a well-formulated plan, organising daily team check-ins and discussing the best way forward, as a team, certainly helped overcome any challenges that we faced. We also invested in the upskilling of leaders to help them lead more effectively remotely.

Our HR department did a sterling job of churning out one initiative after the other to support employees in this new reality,” he asserted. And, the results were encouraging. “Many reported increases in productivity,” he noted, as a result of “the time saved from not having to commute to and from the office” and “the freedom to work in the hours when you are at your most productive”.

Despite this, the decrease of interpersonal relations weighed heavily on some. “People missed the corridor catch ups, the early morning coffees and lunches with their colleagues,” he said.

To tackle the issue, the firm introduced mid-day fitness online classes for all staff; yoga sessions twice a week; weekly motivational SMSs sent to all staff; free online counselling sessions; and a kids online learning platform for parents forced to juggle.

Moreover, “in order for everyone to still feel connected and informed on company news, we have weekly, remote live hangouts with the Executive Committee.

During these hangouts, we invite two employees to give a short, five-minute presentation on a particular topic, and then we open the session to Q&A to all staff. These have been really well received. We have even launched new products internally through this medium before going out commercially,” he outlined, saying that it was “remarkable what one can roll out from the comfort of one’s home.”

This is an extract of a story which appeared in the May edition of The Malta Business Observer

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