Workplace transformation: before and after COVID-19

By Georgia Wilson
Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director at TCS UK & Ireland speaks to Business Chief on global workplace transformation following the impact of COVID-19...

Already one month into 2021, it is certainly clear that discussions centred around employee experience and digital tools have increased and intensified in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 back in March 2020. 

Discussions have moved “beyond attracting and retaining talent to enabling and supporting a fully remote workforce with capabilities and technologies that are now deemed mission-critical. Organisations that succeed in the new remote workplace will plan for the entire workplace ecosystem and equip employees to support business operations,” comments KPMG.

With this in mind, Business Chief asks Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director at TCS UK & Ireland six questions on the topic of global workplace transformation following the impact of COVID-19.

The workplace environment before the outbreak of COVID-19

What was the working environment like prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020?

Before the pandemic, TCS – like most businesses – mainly operated from offices all across the world.

Over the years, TCS has functioned on a Location Independent Agile methodology which enables work to be carried out in approved facilities anywhere in the world. We have therefore been investing in becoming increasingly agile for some time now.

That being said, the vast majority of our work was carried out on-site, either at our own or our customers’ – particularly when it comes to our FCA-regulated customers who have strict regulations when it comes to equipment being taken off-site.

What were the core focuses for HR functions when it came to their workplace strategy?

One of our important strategic priorities has been digital transformation. We have been focusing on building digital competencies and roles, adapting a new mindset across our 450,000 strong employees worldwide. We have been helping our employees to not only acquire new skills but also leverage their existing deep contextual knowledge of our customers and industry domain. 

What were the top three emerging trends for the workplace environment prior to COVID-19?

● Increasingly agile

● Campus-based but Location Independent Agile

● Led by technology

How the workplace environment has transformed since the outbreak of COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, how has the working environment changed in 2021 compared to 2020?

As you’d expect, our key priority has been keeping our staff safe while ensuring our global customer base continues to receive the service they have come to expect and the tools they need to adapt.

With the rise in the working from home trend, workplaces have had to rapidly adapt to life from home. Here at TCS we have so far enabled remote working for 95 per cent of our global workforce and established cloud-based governance of over 23,000 projects, enabling high volumes of digital collaboration – 35,000 online meetings, 406,000 calls, and over three million messages. 

This was made possible by the Secure Borderless Workspaces model which enables remote access for employees, sets up a suitable cybersecurity framework and all project management practices and systems needed to ensure that work allocation, monitoring and reporting continues as normal. In this way, the SBWS model ensured that neither the quality nor the timeliness of client deliveries was ever compromised.

All of our employees are under different pressures while they are working from home and that is something that all businesses need to be mindful of. Protecting our staff’s mental and physical health is a real priority for TCS – and is of course particularly important at the moment. We have put extensive guidance in place to support balancing childcare and have even regularly run virtual events for children to tune into, such as art and fitness sessions. 

All of the initiatives to benefit physical and mental health have been offered not just to our employees but also to their families. Our employee networks have also done an incredible job in providing community support and further fostering our culture of helping one another.

Fundamentally, it is really important to ensure staff have an awareness of and access to the appropriate channels to seek the support they need. Pastoral care and support must, and does, continue in our remote working model.

How have workplace strategies evolved since the outbreak of COVID-19, how have their focuses shifted?

As we look to the future, we will continue to make the most of this new hybrid way of working with our 25 by 25 model. Whereby only 25 per cent of TCS workforce will work out of TCS facilities at any time, with associates spending only 25 per cent of their time in the office. And within project teams, only 25 per cent of employees can be co-located.

One clear benefit of this move will be the 25 per cent increase in velocity throughput that is expected to result from it. But there are clear longer-term benefits as well, such as the ability of organizations to provide more equitable job opportunities – which will not only make a positive impact on the company, but also on the wider society. It also provides employees with a choice on how to craft their workplace.

We also now have access to a global ‘talent cloud’, beyond the boundaries defined by the brick and mortar offices. As workplaces are getting reimagined, our global employees can work from anywhere and deliver services to any client. We already have cohesive teams working in 20 different locations delivering one project.

The working environment will continue to embrace agility, with employees spending increasingly less time in the office as they have adapted to new ways of working.

What are the top three trends that you see gaining traction in 2021?

Last month we carried out extensive research into what areas businesses were looking to focus their budgets on following the fallout from the pandemic. Interestingly, despite budgets shrinking across the board, investment in digital transformation is growing as companies seek to support their employees working remotely. 

Within that budget, the top three areas of spend are:

● Collaborative technology

● Cybersecurity 

● Cloud native technologies

It is clear that enabling employees to work effectively and securely from home is becoming increasingly important and companies are making long lasting changes to support that. 

Coronavirus will have a lasting impact on business in many ways meaning we must continue to adapt and redefine the meaning of the workplace with more agility, resilience and flexibility to create opportunities and a brighter future.


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