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Communication and trust in a global distributed workplace

By Ashok Kalyanswamy

Collaboration and trust. For me, that is the essence of how we work through and after the COVID-19 situation.

When we went down into lockdown mode, the first order of business was to enable our entire company to work from home. That's a complicated value-chain: from marketing, sales, on-boarding, trading (thankfully our core business is online trading and investment), post-trade settlement, client service—we had to enable the whole bank to work from home globally. That included employees from the UK, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, The Middle-East, India, and all major countries in Asia working in synchrony. We are managing seamlessly as our technology is enabling that.

The challenge we face is the quality of internet connections at home, the workspaces at home (comfortable chairs?), children and spouses sharing space and internet bandwidth, etc. However productivity remained high, and surprisingly work life balance went the other way - despite avoiding long commutes, work and personal time became a blur. The key reason we could maintain a high degree of business continuity is because team leaders made extra efforts to reach out to communicate and stay in touch with employees, and we trusted employees to do their job without line of sight management. So it begs the question: is this the new normal? If as a policy, we can trust our employees to work from home, provide them with the right "office tools"—internet connection, furniture, monitors, docking stations etc., this may suddenly open up for people from anywhere to contribute to a company's growth, enable previously stay-at-home mothers and fathers to contribute to the economy productively and foster more virtual creativity and innovation.

Companies and governments should provide the needed financial incentives to support people in this manner, which in turn may mean less traffic on the roads, reduced CO2 emissions, and happier families. However, all this begins with a fundamental thesis—leaders trust their employees to work from home, and make extra efforts to collaborate in a virtual workplace. Elementary, my dear Watson!

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