At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, some retailers had to deal with gaps in their supply chain as customers stockpiled on essential goods. For others, the transition to a remote workforce was fraught with challenges.
Those were some of the insights from Computer Weekly readers who shared how their organisations were coping with the pandemic during a virtual roundtable.
An IT manager at retail chain remarked that while the challenges were intense, it gave his firm the opportunity to relook its business processes and enhance the visibility of its supply chain. Meanwhile, it had to spur its non-frontline staff to embrace collaboration tools so they can operate remotely.
“We were driving the usage of online collaboration tools before the pandemic, and while there was some resistance to adoption, a lot of the barriers dropped when Covid-19 hit,” he said. “So, I would say several positives came out of the pandemic in driving digital growth as well as remote working and learning.”
Telecommuting isn’t always easy for every organisation, especially for those that value face time. However, a reader from a local SME remarked that the initial resistance towards remote work arrangements suddenly disappeared with the onset of Covid-19.
“It was mind boggling to say the least, but with strict rules from the government that require companies to provide telecommuting options for employees, we don’t really have a choice,” he said. “It remains to be seen if we can sustain the current arrangements.”
At another company that was in the midst of moving to a new office before the pandemic hit, employees had to work from home because renovation works were suspended.
“We were very much stuck in limbo,” said its business director. “So, all of us have been working from home, whether we like it or not. We’re now used to this arrangement and have been running our monthly all-hands meetings virtually.”
As for challenges, the company had to make sure there were enough VPN tokens for everyone to log in to the corporate network. “There was a mad rush for tokens initially and prioritizing who could have them first was an issue. And because everyone was logging on, the VPN connection was spotty.”
Most participants agreed that while the challenges they faced were teething problems expected during the transition to remote work, there are bigger questions on HR policies and the need for commercial real estate if telecommuting and flexi-work arrangements are here to stay.
“There could be companies thinking very hard about whether they need the space that they are currently occupying,” said an IT director at a research organisation. “Or, should there a realisation that some people really don’t need an office in order to get their work done? That will have very interesting economic repercussions.
“In addition to the economic hit that Covid-19 is bringing, I can’t help but wonder if we should be compensating staff for working from home, because they are now using more utilities at home and are paying for bandwidth.”
“There’s a lot of cost avoidance on the part of the company because part of the cost has shifted to their staff. Most companies are just going to enjoy the reduction in utility bills.”