by Surbhi Bhatia
The global lockdown due to the Coronavirus spread (often referred to as Covid-19) in many countries has forced people indoors and compelled businesses to completely shut down their office spaces and encourage their employees to work from home. This situation may not go away anytime soon, and hence organizations and their employees need to figure out new ways of working remotely.
At our e-commerce company, The Mom Store, we too had to figure out and reinvent our ways of working given the Government of India’s restrictions and a 21 day lockdown imposed on all citizens. We have had to close down our warehouse operations which are so critical to any e-commerce company, but we are still running our business with employees working from home and building a business continuity plan that will help us get back on track as soon as restrictions are lifted.
Following are some of the steps we have undertaken to ensure that our staff can effectively work from home and also ensure that we are able to salvage this situation and minimize the loss to business:
1. Instill Discipline in Day to Day Work From Home:
Encourage your staff to start their day on time as a regular working day. To ensure this have a daily stand-up video call with all team members (depending on team size, this can be done by each of the team leads). This will ensure that people will take the effort to dress up in the morning and not just start working in their PJs. This will encourage the team to wake up on time, get ready and get into work mode more seriously.
Delegate work with clarity and set suitable deadlines. Follow up on all the tasks so that the rigour of work from home is maintained. At our company, all employees send a list of To-Do-Tasks in the morning by 9AM and update against each of those by 6:30PM as they finish their day.
2. Take Help of Technology to Effectively Communicate with the Team:
Take use of existing free technologies to easily communicate- whether its Whatsapp groups, Slack, Hangouts or Zoom for Video Calls, AnyDesk for remote screen sharing, there are lots of easy options available to facilitate remote working. It is also a good idea to do weekly Virtual All Hands Meet to keep the tempo going among team members.
3. Use this Time to Do All the Work that Had been Pushed back in Normal Course of Business:
If you are a product company, regular day to day operations in a normal case scenario are heavily focused on driving sales through various channels. But with all sales channels virtually shut down including marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Firstcry etc. and all deliveries through your own website on hold, there is nothing one can do except wait. Why not use this time to focus on activities that were pushed back on the regular course of business? These could be building that blog that you were not getting time to focus on, improving the SEO of your website by undertaking those mundane steps that your team was not getting time for or creating the reporting dashboards which were pending all in the rigamarole of driving sales. Bring in all the steps and build processes that seemed too time consuming to do when everyone was busy chasing numbers. Take a step back and study how improvements can be made in current ways of working and bring in those processes.
4. Keep Up the Engagement with the Customer
Out of sight is out of mind. You can slow down on the campaigns given the conversions will be low, quite understandably, but use your social media handles to have a constant conversation/engagement with your customers. This could be information on how you are handling the orders given the lockdown, what would be expected delivery dates, or create content that they would be interested during this time. We published a guest blog on how what pregnant women and nursing mothers need to know about coronavirus and instantly got more than 5000+ views on the article in a single day.
5. Keep a Plan Ready to Scale Fast Once Things Return to Normal
Things will return to normalcy sooner or later, and the ad campaign costs, bids for customers will rise astronomically within a few days. Keep a plan ready on how you will woo customers back to business at this time without further burning a hole in your pocket on ad spends. Figure out how much discounting will be viable given that you’ve already had employee, rent, and other fixed costs piled up which may not have justified your revenues in the lockdown. Think of innovative approaches to beat the market frenzy once things come to normal.
Finally, this imposed remote working scenario has its own benefits. You don’t get stuck in traffic, your are closer to family and get a lot more time on personal development to pursue a hobby, do an online course which you hadn’t got time to enrol for, and finish that unfinished book that you have been trying to. Stay Safe, Reinvent Yourself and Gear Up to be Back with a Bang.
Surbhi Bhatia is an MBA Grad and the Founder and CEO of The Mom Store (www.themomstore.in) a leading Indian mother and baby products start up that aims to celebrate the motherhood journey from pregnancy to early motherhood. It also provides a platform to young mothers to share their experiences through blogs.
Her start-up is inspired from her own motherhood journey driven by a need for products and information she felt was missing. It has been one hell of a ride since then with thousands of mommies resonating with The Mom Store!
In her past life, Surbhi was a management consultant with a leading Big4, and was shuttling across the globe consulting clients in the telecom, media and tech domain. She decided to settle down when motherhood came calling, before starting off on her entrepreneurial journey.