The unprecedented pandemic has changed the way we live and work. The lockdown has altered the way organizations function. Work from home (WFH) is here to stay and is no more an option but a new normal. It is a necessity to ensure the business does not get hampered. However, this scenario has brought in many challenges for organizations, right from connecting remote staff to conducting virtual meetings. At a time when virtual meetings are the way forward, collaboration between individuals and teams is crucial to ensure productivity does not get impacted. Therefore, an organization has to ensure that each and every employee irrespective of the geographical location is involved in discussions that take place in virtual office. One such organization which has been able to navigate the choppy waters comfortably is Bharat Financial Inclusion Limited (BFIL). Despite a majority of the staff residing in remote locations and that too with most of them without a laptop/desktop, the company was able to engage them and ensured collaboration was not difficult.
“It is also vital that employees’ morale is high as they stay in far flung areas with little communication resources. The strategic decision to deploy Microsoft Team as an application for communication across the organization has paid dividends,” says Srikanth Appana, Executive Vice President, BFIL.
Before the lockdown, phone call or email was the mode of communication to reach out to the remote staff. Agenda of the call/meeting and related files/documents were shared via email. Meetings within the office were conducted in physical meeting rooms. According to Appana, BFIL has presence across the country, engaging different teams or individuals at the same time over the conference call was not possible. Given that business was conducted in a decentralized manner most of the discussions used to take place between HO and RO and RO in turn would disseminate to branches. Only, a few individuals were involved in the meetings and they in turn used to discuss with respective teams and shared back any further information through email. With the current setup there was always a possibility of information distortion.
“BFIL has introduced Microsoft Teams. Given that Office 365 is already in place, Microsoft Teams was the obvious choice as it fully integrates with Office 365. Besides, its end-to-end security feature is an added advantage,” says Appana.
According to him, the organization created awareness about the benefits and ease of use of collaboration tools. Workshops were conducted. Initially, it was just an option. However, with WFH becoming a necessity, the need and use of remote collaboration tool has increased. Discussions were facilitated through collaboration tools. A greater number of employees across the country are able to participate and share files in real-time, review, and edit documents seamlessly. Conducting meetings has become easier and dependency on email has decreased as conversations are happening in a more structural manner. Improved employee collaboration is leading to quicker decision-making, enhancing productivity.
Communication in Real Time Is Enhancing Productivity
Through the collaboration tool, to and fro communication has become real-time. Collaboration among the various teams across the country has become easy. As most of the employees residing in villages do not have either desktop or laptop, phone calls are the only mode of communication. The cloud-based application which can be accessed from any device from anywhere has been beneficial. Every member of the team irrespective of their location and the device are able to participate in virtual meetings and contribute. This way BFIL has not only empowered employees to work from anywhere it has also made them feel that they are essential part of the organization.
As many as 2016 meetings were conducted during the lockdown period indicating high adoption levels, with 2975 channel messages along with 66,583 chat messages were shared. Employees collaborated and shared information easily.
“These figures imply less usage of email. An aggregate of 7,165 calls were made during lockdown period demonstrating how the online tools are taking over traditional voice calls. The above figures indicate how successful the strategic decision has been,” claims Appana.
BFIL is one of the largest microfinance companies in India, which provides financial services mainly to rural women. BFIL has presence in 18 states through 2071 branches and has around 22,000 employees.