It is truly interesting to observe how the COVID-19 situation has shown us that multidimensional progress is possible by accepting the present reality and adopting unconventional means. Stepping away from set daily routines, I sat and recounted how it took a crisis to bust some widely-believed myths about how large, dispersed businesses can or should operate.
We have seen how businesses are rolling out innovative measures to keep engaging with their customers and employees alike, and run, if not salvage their businesses.
Myth 1: Work from home means productivity will be hit
Before COVID-19 came knocking, most businesses believed that remote working lowered productivity. However, we all would agree that this could be far from true. We are working longer hours for sure and interestingly our productivity is higher as well. RescueTime, a time management software provider, recently shared data showing that working remotely has a positive impact on efficiency, and that employees working from home actually spent around 4% more time on their core work each day.
Another research conducted on about 5,000 workers globally by Citrix, a digital workspace provider, also dispels this myth. As per the research, more than 65% of remote workers stated that their productivity levels were higher when working from home.
Just think about it, when we are working from home time is saved on commuting, the work space is familiar, attention spans are better as office distractions are avoided. These changes lead to increased productivity. This may not be the case with everyone, however for most people, they get into a new schedule and maintain it. With many companies thinking of making work from home a new normal, I feel this myth is undoing itself.
Myth 2: Meetings are best held in person, face-to-face
The ongoing lockdown and continuing social distancing norms has prompted organisations to evolve from holding in-person sessions to conducting equally effective virtual meetings. We are witnessing a plethora of organisations creating virtual office space for its employees using a combination of tools like Slack, Hangouts, MS Meetings, Zoom etc and ensuring official meetings continue to follow the schedule. Yes, in India many of these meetings are more audio, as compared to our western counter parts, but the effectiveness of these meetings cannot be taken away.
Businesses are effectively utilizing virtual meetings, digital events and live streams to connect with their customers, employees and partners to ensure that continuous connect and service remains unaffected even amidst the present situation.
Myth 3: Policy making is a slow and time consuming process
Or so the myth goes. But the COVID-19 crisis has shown us that companies, governments, and other regulatory bodies are capable of swift policymaking and implementation.
The IRDAI, for instance, has issued several guidelines to insurers to protect customer’s interest. These include additional grace period for payment of regular premiums, expediting COVID-19 claims settlement, allowing for settlement options for maturity payouts of Unit Linked Policies, amongst many more. Not only was the regulator swift to introduce these measures, industry players were equally agile to implement them and let their customers know.
Similarly, the Ministry of Finance and the RBI have also brought about rapid changes in the policies by issuing advisories, guidelines, and circulars for both businesses and consumers. The expeditious measures taken by the authorities have busted the myth that policymaking and implementation is slow and cumbersome.
Companies themselves have taken decisions around allowing customers to transact end to end over digital mediums, using data to profile and service customers better plus used various audio-video avenues to reduce the need for physical meeting and document exchanges.
Myth 4: Data security is optimal only when confined within the office
Even before COVID-19 era, the myth of data security being optimal only within the offices kept organisations away from trying remote working.
With organisations transitioning to working remotely during the crisis, they have strengthened their data storage, enhanced security systems and access to prevent any data leakage. The best thing to happen is that several security measures that added to latency of applications have been addressed to ensure that the system response times and customer experience has gotten better online as there is now an understanding that not all digital users have top quality bandwidth access, nor are they patient enough to wait forever to complete transactions owing to system buffering.
IT and data security teams are ensuring that employees use a secure and encrypted VPN connection to access organisation network. Organisations are also educating their employees on the usage and guidelines of IT systems from local networks, in addition to constantly monitoring and checking on their network security.
Myth 5: Digital adoption is fastest amongst tier 1 or new age customers only
Having led the customer experience function for a few years now, I must say that the way COVID-19 crisis has promoted digitization, no other event or intent has been able to do so at such incredible speed! One would tend to think that this digital adoption would be fastest amongst youngsters or folks from urban India. Interestingly this is a myth. At Bajaj Allianz Life itself we’ve witnessed a tremendous uptick in the usage of smartphone applications and digital tools by customers, partners, agents, and employees across, including the rural population.
We have also seen the digital adoption trend amongst our employees and customers from supposedly backward states who are rapidly moving towards virtual tools and digital solutions for their needs. Thanks to easy access to the internet and cost-effective smartphones, the usage of virtual tools and applications are no longer restricted to urban, tech-savvy users and are finding favour amongst the rural folk.
In the coming weeks and months, as businesses continue to adapt to the next normal, we’re likely to witness many more such myths being dispelled. Personally, I look forward to seeing how much further this crisis will thrust businesses into the next normal by quickly acclimating to the new ways of operating business. Learning from these developments can help us be better prepared to thrive in the new world, and come out as winners on the other end.
(By Kayzad Hiramanek, Chief-Operations & Customer Experience, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance)