Many IT firms, startups and companies have allowed its employees to work from home amid coronavirus fears, but there are serious challenges to working out of the office. In the space of software servicing and IT, employees and management are finding it difficult to maintain productivity through this style of working.
In an interaction with Almug Technologies co-founder Vijay Gudipalli, we discussed the challenges employees and the management face while working from home. Almug Technologies has more than 75 employees in its Bengaluru office - all of which will be working from home until March 31. While the office space with its complete setup - laptops, high-speed internet, 24/7 electricity among other amenities - will be uninhabited for the forthcoming days, it is proving to be a challenge to mirror the exact set up at individual homes.
In any case, even with the best setup for work from home, a product-based servicing firm will take at least 20 percent hit in productivity, Gudipalli expressed. Working from the office eliminates communication barriers, boosts instant solving of issues that might arise, and most importantly the security of information remains intact.
Almug Technologies employees will be working from home for at least two weeks. Gudipalli, like most of us, is concerned about the rising number of coronavirus cases in India and in the city and the mounting death toll. "In the next two weeks, if there is no vital threat from coronavirus, we can think of asking the employees to return to the office."
Here are the biggest challenges faced by IT and software startups while working from home.
If you think only face masks and sanitizers are in demand during coronavirus pandemic, ask an IT startup or a software company. Laptop rental prices are soaring through the roof. Laptops are essential to work from home, but not all employees own one. According to Gudipalli, only 25 out of 75 people in his company own a personal laptop, which means the company is arranging 50 laptops for the rest of its employees in order to work from home.
On a normal day, renting an i5 processor laptop with a decent amount of specs would cost about Rs 1,800 per month, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, there's a huge spike there. After negotiating with various dealers, Almug managed to finalise on Rs 3,000 per month for one laptop, which is almost twice as much the regular cost. But the normal going rate for an i5-powered laptop is around Rs 4,500. This is possibly due to the demand for 88,000 laptops in Bengaluru alone.
The company has to bear the cost of these rentals to ensure the workflow is not disrupted.
Even though the rentals can be added in expenses, what's far more concerning is the information security. Gudipalli is highly concerned about information and code security. "How will you make sure your information is not leaking because employees are working from home?"
But Almug is taking necessary measures to prevent boost information security and it is invested in protecting data while employees work from home.
Another major concern is the internet bandwidth that is available in the homes of employees. Not every person chooses high-speed internet for home as the consumption doesn't demand it. However, if you're working on a company client using its VPN, there's need for a higher bandwidth, which poses a great challenge for working from home.
"If the internet bandwidth is low, we have lost productivity for that period of time," Gudipalli noted.
"For a product based company, teamwork is a key part. Everybody from the domain, tech and other teams work together in office space. But relying on video conferencing not effective. But that's the best we can do," Gudipalli said.
What can the government do?
The government can ensure that there are no power cuts in the cities where it is asking people to work from home. This is a major requirement to ensure the success of work from home model during the coronavirus outbreak.
Gudipalli also urged the telecom providers to ensure that there are no network outages. It includes both mobile carriers and broadband providers as employees working from home are heavily reliant on internet connectivity to get the work done.