When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going
For the first time in my professional life, I have experienced this saying in action! And not just for myself, but the way the entire organization showed up and stood tall in times of turmoil shows some real character.
This is a note to summarise how at Cars24 we turned Work From Home or a lockdown situation into an opportunity!
Of course, it was extremely problematic and difficult at first. But we didn’t go through an immediate stoppage, and here’s why!
- Starting early: There are 2 types of organizations, those which delay acceptance till the last minute and till it hits them and they find themselves in an unwanted scenario with lack of planning and preparation. Then there are those who prepare themselves well in advance and when the tragedy hits are already prepared for sustenance and avoid panic. Thankfully, we belong to the second kind. We started preparing way before there were even talks of a government-mandated lockdown. Though unsure about the gravity of the pandemic, we were quick enough to not dismiss it as unnecessary. And we planned, we did mock drills and began working from home a week and a half prior to when the lockdown began. So when the lockdown actually happened, we didn’t find ourselves struggling and the switch to working at home became easier!
- Plan to the Nth level: Our operations are people-intensive in nature and moving them into work from home setting came with its own challenges. How to make sure work is happening at an optimum level and how to mark attendance? ‘In God we Trust, for everything else bring Data’ – So we resorted to data for everything! We made trackers that would capture inputs of the employees. We even made input based attendance criteria, and this made sure that the teams are operational and productive.
- Connectivity issue at homes: Of course, that was the biggest challenge in our set-up, but as I mentioned, we started early and planned till the nth level. We made sure that before lockdown happened, everyone had internet connectivity. We made sure to provide the right infrastructure for employees to have seamless communication across teams. Internet is the key to WFH and thus all employees were provided with laptops with a stable internet connection.
How to do it right?
Leaders of the organization play the most important role in making sure everything is done the right way, and for leaders in this phase, all communication is under communication. Thus we focused on communicating in a way to enforce togetherness.
- Discipline: We worked to make sure that the team understands that this is exactly like working from the office, so the discipline of logging in on time as well as sticking to a schedule is very important. We made arrangements that allowed all teams to virtually log in.
- Attendance: We reinforced the idea that the work itself hadn’t changed, just the settings had. Thus, if any employee wishes to take a leave, they must follow the usual process of taking leave and if they require a couple of hours off, they must confer with their manager and team members proactively.
- A Home office: We focused and thoroughly implied the importance of ensuring there is a separate space that can function as a home office. Ensuring that they have a desk and a chair, a quiet environment and a background that isn’t distracting were highly stressed upon. The employees were also expected to dress well for the job and keep their videos on.
- Communication: Indubitably, the most important aspect, we resorted to virtual communication platforms like Zoom, Hangout to communicate with teams as much as possible. It’s easy to feel lost in this phase, so over communication is highly required when working from home so as to foster a sense of team spirit!
- Reviews: We made sure data-based reviews and consequent problem solving happens more than they would happen when working in the office so as to collect data and prepare better based on the needs of the employees. It keeps the team’s morale high and instills the feeling of being productive.
What To Do?
This is the most critical question, when your business is offline, what to actually do in a lockdown situation.
We had 2 phases, one was working from home without lockdown and in partial lockdown, mobilizing as much of the team as you can to work from home and create innovative solutions for the teams which cannot work from home as the role demands them to be on the field, create product-based solutions for them to keep business going till the situation allows.
We did this really well, we operated business till the last minute by changing our product landscape overnight, honestly, we worked more from home in that phase! And then when the situation demanded us to pause the show, again overnight we created plans to get work going for the team from the very next morning!
And now that we’re effectively working from home, we have been taking devised steps to ensure maximum productivity! These steps are what everyone must take into account.
- Training: There can never be enough of this, we have started practicing and enforcing training so that when the time comes, as a team we are all much more skilled than ever. Ensure proper training for a better tomorrow.
- Experience: We believe that customer experience is an inherent aspect of the success of any organization. Work on enhancing your customer experience as it is the right time to do this.
- Brainstorming: Have sessions that you couldn’t have in the past due to time constraints, these sessions bring out amazing ideas for the future and you can start project and product planning for them right away.
- Robust Product: Since product and technology teams can work, make sure that this time is used to make the product offering stronger than ever!
Honestly, I’m a person who thrives in challenging situations, and I took WFH as an opportunity. But this lockdown isn’t a simple work from home situation, in this lockdown there is first work for home and then work from home! Here is how I managed to balance personal growth and professional determination during the lockdown.
- Schedule: I made a schedule for myself, where I dedicated my time for house chores. On regular days, my travel time to the office is 1.5 hours one way, so of the 3 hours that I spend on the road, I decided to spend 2 on working out.
- Work out: I feel it is very very important to work out as it keeps your body and mind healthy so I would urge you all to do take out time for it. The Cult Fit app was a boon for me as it provided me with brilliant home work out sessions. The combination of exercise and meditation gave me a lot of energy and positivity. Not a day has gone down with negativity hampering my spirits.
- Don’t be Harsh on yourself: It’s okay if you thought you would read a lot and couldn’t, it’s okay if you thought you’ll work on that long-forgotten hobby and couldn’t. The world as we know it is going through a pandemic and not everyone handles crises in the same way. We are dealing with a crisis and then dealing with a new style of working where there can be longer calls and meetings and atop of which there are house chores. With all of this, if you cannot spend as much time as you thought on your hobbies, then it’s okay! You are still surviving and managing a lot. You’re still a warrior and you should be proud of yourself.
- Empathy: Have a lot of empathy in this phase, understand that everyone is dealing with a difficult situation. Understand, stay positive, spread positivity and listen to others. And yes, if you are blessed enough to have it all, do lend a hand to others in need. Humanity has never seen such a crisis and this is the time to give back to society.
- Minimal Screen time: My Netflix subscription has gone for a toss, my screen time on entertainment has rather reduced now! I have been staying away from the temptation of binge-watching as after a point, it starts psychologically affecting one and gives a feeling of wasting away time. Plus who has time these days, I feel I’m busier now, managing work and home simultaneously! Strive to give yourself a break, be it from work or binge-watching in the interest of better physical and mental health.
- And Lastly, but Most Importantly ‘Staying Positive’: Staying positive is the most critical aspect in these trying times. The phase might go longer than we expect and it is normal to feel lost or feel bleak about where we are headed and insecure about the future. But we cannot control the crisis, only our minds. I make sure I look at the bright side of everything and understand that everything comes with a silver lining. Every time I get doubts, I make sure to find the silver lining and note it down as gratitude. This helps me a lot in keeping my energies high through the phase.
Words by Manika Tandon, Vice-President -CARS24