My experience with Business Continuity during COVID-19
Chintan Ghuntla / July 14, 2020
It would be an understatement to say that COVID-19 has disrupted businesses almost everywhere. Companies and employees were abruptly required to shift from working in the comfort and known environment of their offices to working remotely from home. And this transition for most happened in the matter of days. While we at Vibrant Moon also went through the same upheaval, here are a few factors that helped us smoothen this process.

1) Tech Preparedness

We've been working from two different cities - Pune and Mumbai - from day one. My co-founder Ankit and I have always lived in different cities. Due to this, we had set-up our company for remote working right from the beginning. We have invested in good hardware and software (often cloud based) such that all of us can work from practically anywhere with an internet connection (and most of us have worked from some real remote places during our travels). Even before COVID-19 started causing disruptions, working from home was always an option available to all of us, though we usually preferred working from our offices for our own set of reasons. However, working from home once in a while were kind of dry runs that made us ready when we were actually forced to work from home. All of us knew exactly what was required to work from home and thus we were already set-up for it.

This helped us move to work from home almost instantaneously and with almost no disruption from technology perspective. And while not all jobs can be performed remotely, our work certainly can be, at least most of the time. Instances of companies trying to source laptops for their employees till a few days before the nation wide lockdown was imposed made me realise that many companies were going to face massive challenges in terms of business continuity from the technology perspective during these tough times.

There are challenges though. Working from home for a day or two is quite different from doing it for weeks or months at a stretch. And while it may take a long time to return to pre-COVID-19 office days, we all are in a much better place than what it would have been if we were not ready for this.

2) People Preparedness

Being ready from the tech perspective is maybe the easy bit here. However, being ready from a social and emotional perspective is always a challenge. We work out of nice offices and enjoy going to office most of the days. I'm sure many of us felt maybe a bit disoriented with the sudden change to working from home. Some have figured out and are comfortable in their new routine now, and maybe some are still adapting to it. Yet, there has been no adverse impact on the amazing quality of work that we produce.

I feel one major reason for this has been our conscious and continued effort to be a high trust workplace. Our's is not a supervisory based team - we operate on trust and we measure and expect high quality output from each other. We've strived to be a workplace where one doesn't have to fake sickness to take a day off. Where someone volunteers to work on the odd weekend, they do it because of the ownership of their work, not because they have been asked to. We don't measure the hours put in, but always strive to wow our clients.

Companies trying to monitor their employees working from home through a camera and the increased demand for such kind of offerings raises questions on several fronts - legal, ethical, privacy issues etc. However, apart from the dilemma raised on these fronts, there remains an important unanswered question - even after using the available hi-tech tracking and monitoring tools, how does one really ensure that the person being monitored is really working and being productive? For better or for worse, technology doesn't have an answer for that, at least not yet. And it might not even be feasible financially to try to achieve that kind of supervision and micro management.

For us, being a high trust team is paying dividends now when everyone is working remotely. We check in on each other, have daily meet ups virtually, and try to over communicate. However, each one of us is also working privately away from any gaze, but with an eye on what we want to achieve.

3) Preparedness for clients

One thing common between people, businesses, and governments across the world with the COVID-19 situation was that most didn't expect the situation to degrade to this level, and so quickly! Blame it on the human fallacy of being unable to visualise or fathom exponential growth. Hence while all of us saw parts of China shutting down around Chinese New Year, most of us didn't imagine the same happening where we lived. After all, this situation is an unprecedented black swan event! Hence when situation started to evolve at high speed, most businesses were struggling to catch up with it, and trying to figure out how badly they would be affected by these developments.

So while we were also trying to get our heads around this rapidly evolving situation and figuring out our own logistics and how all of this would affect us, we also made an early decision - to be with our clients during what almost certainly seemed to be difficult times ahead. We wanted them to know that they have not been abandoned during difficult times. We wanted them to be assured that we have been able to smoothly transition to working remotely, and that their work is not being hampered.

This came as a big relief for some of them, as they understood that digital marketing was more important now than ever, when all other forms of marketing is at a virtual standstill. We're proud of the fact that by being ready to handle this situation, our clients had one less thing to worry about during these challenging times.

There is no such thing as over communicating during such times. We reached out to every client not only on personal email, but followed it up with a phone call. We not only assured them that their work is progressing without any disruptions, but also tried to understand how they and their industries have been affected, and also tried to understand their pain points. Marketing plans that were signed off in advance were changed at the last moment on our suggestions to make them appropriate for these tense times. The last thing a brand needs at such time is of being perceived as tone deaf or living in la-la land!

While things were not all perfect, we continue to be nimble, learn and adapt to situation. My best experience in terms of business continuity? We speeded up the onboarding of a new client and kicked off their time critical new work just as the lock down was being rolled out across the country!

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