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Is COVID-driven Remote Working Here to Stay?

As businesses look for the right remote-office balance, this is what future of work could look like

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, many companies were compelled to change the way they worked. For most, asking employees to work from home was seen as a short-term measure to cope with an immediate crisis.

But there are growing signs that current practices may have to be adopted on a long-term basis, as some companies realize they can operate more efficiently if they allow working remotely for their people. 

Evidence of this comes from a Gartner survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) carried out as lockdown measures were coming into full force across the world. Almost three-quarters (74%) of the 300 CFOs surveyed said they planned to move at least 5% of their on-site workforce to permanent remote working after the pandemic.

“This data is an example of the lasting impact the coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” said Alexander Bant of Gartner Finance Practice, which conducted the research.

“CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the benefits of a remote workforce. In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.”

It’s a view echoed in the financial services sector too. Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays Bank, told the BBC recently, “There will be a long-term adjustment to our location strategy. The notion of putting 7,000 people in the building may be a thing of the past.”

A better way of working

It’s not just corporations that will benefit from new ways of working. Employees will save time and money spent on commuting and enjoy a better work-life balance. 

For employers, there’s another benefit too. Their recruitment is no longer constrained by geography. “Perhaps the central advantage of remote teams is the flexibility to tap the best talent regardless of location,” said Alex Lazarow, a venture capitalist with the San Francisco-based Cathay Innovation.

“Some regions have particular centers of excellence. Building in such a distributed manner allows organisations to leverage these best-in-class ecosystems.”

In addition, some companies believe that remote working leads to an increase in productivity. Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), which has announced that location-independent working will become the norm for its employees post COVID-19, says it experienced an upswing in productivity after enabling remote working for its 500,000 employees

Using its Secured Borderless WorkSpace™ (SBWS™) infrastructure, TCS is implementing its 25:25 vision for a remotely based workforce that is free to collaborate digitally and innovate without the constraints of a physical office.

The 25:25 concept means that by 2025 only a quarter of the TCS workforce will be in an office at any given time, and each employee will spend no more than 25% of their time in an office throughout the year.

TCS’ Chief Operating Officer, N Ganapathy Subramaniam, said remote working has worked well for customers as well as employees, and all service levels have been met. “We observe better throughput and productivity,” he explained, in a recent television interview.

TCS moved staff to working from home after consulting more than 1,000 clients about its plans and security arrangements. “Once we explained the Secured Borderless WorkSpace options to our clients, the approvals came and we quickly enabled remote working,” Subramaniam said.







A question of trust

TCS’ new business model is a perfect illustration of the benefits of digital technology and its ability to deliver a purpose-driven, resilient, and adaptable business, fit for the realities of a post coronavirus world.

The pandemic has demonstrated to companies that they no longer need all staff to be working together in the same office – people can work from anywhere as long as they have a secure connection and a secure laptop.

The businesses best placed to succeed in a rapidly changing world are those that are agile enough to permanently shift their working models to embrace the new normal.

“We proactively deployed collaboration platforms, cloud-enabled infrastructure and robust security practices, which positions us well to deal with this unprecedented situation,” TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan wrote in March 2020. “Our clients have trusted TCS to manage their technology. We will continue to keep earning their trust by working together to navigate these difficult times.”