The culture of working from home or social distancing might be quite alien to a society like ours. However, companies in different corners of the world have already adapted before even the current crisis we are facing. The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has officially been termed a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) -- an alarming wakeup call as the disease is accelerating in multiple countries simultaneously at a rapid pace. Given that this is an era of the connected world, mass traveling did very little help towards the initial containment.
Since the initial outbreak, many countries around the globe have imposed travel bans, most of them have closed educational institutions and socialisation hit a roadblock. These turns of events made global and local corporations take drastic steps, encouraging their employees towards a work-from-home policy to remain safe.
For modern tech-based companies, the infrastructure and policy needed for remote working are already in place, as a vast majority of employees are usually mobile device (laptops, smartphones, etc.) users. However, this particular concept was not really in practice on a large scale for developing countries like Bangladesh. However, given the current social distancing and isolation measures, we may see a significant change in our lives, adapting to ways heretofore unknown. Our lives have had to face drastic transformation over the last couple of weeks; more and more people are struggling to cope with this change. Along with the global behavioral shift, we have also been practicing various new ways of living in the face of this global pandemic -- but life has to go on.
Optimistically, there might be a silver lining: to get more focused and productive. Being more in control of our time free from commuting, gathering socially, and physical meetings, we have the potential to open up a new dimension of our lives. However, it will be imprudent to assume that we can turn to distant/home working effectively and with limited guidance in one go.
Talking about my employer – Grameenphone -- I believe the last couple of days/weeks have been full of learning and adapting to these new digital ways of work. Since the telecommunication industry has not only become an essential need in our daily lives, the nation & various critical services depend on it. Connectivity is ingrained with education, entertainment, socialisation, cooking, art, music, and more. Hence, for us, the show and work must uninterruptedly go on to keep our network up and running and serve our customers who need us the most right now.
We have quickly adapted to this remote work strategy where more customer-facing and back-office employees are connected on a daily/hourly basis grouped into their units/teams with three primary missions -- keeping the people in the value chain safe, serving our customers to the best of our abilities and do our part in contributing back towards society.
While the majority of our employees are working from home, they are supporting a big group of fighters out on the ground. Many of the distribution employees, tech employees, customer service employees, call center agents, partners' employees (distributors' employees) and network vendor employees are out there and continuing to serve our customers and retailers during this period. The distributors are serving retailers, and network vendor partners are moving batteries where commercial power is absent. In Bangladesh, there are nearly half a million small retailers all over the country who part of the distribution supply chain. Each is playing their role to contribute to society. With the help of various innovative digital collaboration technologies, employees and partners are doing their best to adapt to new working conditions and serve the customers to their level best.
In this cause, we are not alone, and we have been creating a joint force with a2i, DG Health, BTRC, BRAC and the WHO to raise awareness among and support our 76.5 million customers and beyond. During this crisis, our Facebook community, personalised self-care app MyGP, mass SMS, toll-free IEDCR call center, Facebook chatbot, and even our 400,000 retail touchpoints have been playing an effective role to fight back this upheaval of Covid-19.
At the same time, we know how critical a role the medical staff on frontlines are playing. Now every drop counts. We never thought our determination to source 50,000 medical-grade PPEs, 10,000 PCR test kits, and 1 million surgical masks would have to face sourcing challenges due to a broken supply chain system amid the global outbreak. However, we have been joining hands with authorities to stand beside the communities in need to overcome these crises together.
According to the global research firm Kantar, online communication applications have seen a surge in usage by 40%. The government has undertaken an initiative to create a digital map to track coronavirus cases and find out areas susceptible to contamination by using mobile users' information. Besides, hotline numbers have been set for inquiries, reporting fake news and last but not the least to receive remote treatments. These facts ensure that the job of the telecom professional has become more challenging and engaging.
With coronavirus, it's not clear how long people will be at home, which might pose additional problems. Prolonged isolation could also potentially impact employee morale and productivity. Make no mistake -- the telecom industry, along with Grameenphone -- will continue to reach out to the masses and help however possible.
We shall overcome!
The writer is Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Grameenphone Ltd.