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Can WFH Be a Viable Long-Term Option for IT Companies?

The Central government has extended easier connectivity norms to facilitate WFH for IT, BPO firms till July 31 in the wake of coronavirus crisis.

The Central government has recently extended relaxed connectivity norms for work from home (WFH), applicable to the IT/ITES sector till July 31 in the wake of coronavirus crisis. Earlier, companies were not allowed to connect office Virtual Private Network (VPN) to their home infrastructure, but the rule was initially relaxed till April 30 in view of the lockdown. While many see the work from home model as the new normal, some others believe there are obvious technological challenges of WFH, especially if it’s considered as a long term option.

The key challenges

The biggest challenge is the sudden adoption of WFH at a wider scale has led to a spike in data network traffic. This leads to a quality-check on India’s IT infrastructure health for managing the WFH scenario seamlessly.

Ashok Kumar, Founder & Managing Director at RAH Infotech says, “The network and data infrastructure in India is not robust enough to address or support 100% WFH or remote working during Covid-19 like situations. The companies may have proper infrastructure to support remote access from anywhere but general Wi-Fi or phone networks at remote locations are not always up and running to support continuity in work.”

Read more: How CIOs Can Secure Remote Workers during COVID-19

“During situations like this WFH users are also working on their own devices and multiple remote working apps. On top of it they are also not fully secure as users lack the understanding of secure access. The infrastructure on both data and network traffic has to be further strengthened to support users, companies and businesses communicate hassle free. The current situation should give us a lot of learning and investment thoughts to create better data and network infrastructure,” says Kumar.

Prashanth G J, CEO at TechnoBind also agrees that the country is not geared up for an extended and widespread WFH scenario. “We have seen instances where people do not even have a laptop to work from home since they use a workstation at the office, added to this WIFI connectivity is yet another challenge which has a long way to go for a WFH to become the new normal,” he adds that the lockdown would have served as a forced pilot for most organizations to understand which part of their workforce can actually work from home in an effective manner.

About 90% of IT employees and 70-80% of BPO companies are estimated to be working from home and only those performing critical functions are going to offices. However, a SCIKEY Mind Match Report shockingly reveals that 99.8% of the workforce is incapable of WFH and only 0.02% showcase highly productivity attributes. Moreover, companies should think about ramping up the security aspects especially for employees working from home.

“WFH Enterprises needs renewed architecture based on “Cloud Security Platform”, adhering to Zero Trust model, Capability to minimize threat surface with strong threat mitigation stack, Support for effective Authentication, Scale, performance, and ease of deployment,” explains Harsh Marwah, Chief Growth Officer at iValue InfoSolutions.

Apart from security and regulatory issues, WFH also has a human challenge. As a report by Feedback Insights, a Bangalore based research firm, revealed that around 65% employees are concerned about personal well-being; a lack of connectedness with the team and an overall anxiety about the job environment.

Rise of collaboration tools

Nonetheless, Union Minister for IT and Telecommunication Ravi Shankar Prasad in a video conference with various state officials and state IT ministers, discussed ways to leverage technology in the best possible manner to help deal with the current situation. For example, Prasad assured that steps would be taken to strengthen the Bharatnet BBNL to provide better internet facilities.

The Minister also said that a national strategy committee would be set up to frame guidelines and solutions to fight the pandemic crisis.

Meanwhile, industry body Nasscom said the decision would help IT and BPO firms to chalk out their strategy of bringing back workforce to offices in a gradual and phased manner. Till then, collaboration technologies like video conferencing can be used extensively to keep the employees engaged and are becoming key enablers in helping business leaders achieve business continuity.

As Vishal Agrawal, MD, Avaya India & SAARC says, “The Government’s decision to further extend WFH rules for the IT/ITES sector comes as a relief to the workforce as the nation moves ahead to fight the pandemic.” He believes that with high quality collaboration technologies, workforce can boost productivity while maintaining healthy social distancing protocols, amidst the ongoing crisis.

Ankur Goel, Managing Director, Poly India believes that leaders should ensure that the laptops, headsets, private corporate networks, or even employee communications tools provided for employees are up to par to support its workforce working remotely for extended periods.

It’s a difficult period no doubt, but by implementing the right technology and with constant collaboration, alongside, addressing regulatory issues, experts believe, the IT sector can get through this challenging period.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at Trivone Digital, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com