The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our global economy and forced businesses to change the way they operate. The evolution of this virus and its socio-economic impact has made it difficult for many businesses to adapt their operations. However, through it all, Jolera has managed to maintain consistent and successful operations. We asked Jolera’s very own Chief Operating Officer, Manish Govindaraj, how the company managed to adapt and thrive during the global crisis while staying true to its people-first core values. Manish describes his team’s approach to enacting the company’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP), as well as their coordinated return to work strategy.
“For a business to continue operating under these situations of duress or crisis, you have to have an active and tested Business Continuity Plan. For us, as a SOC II Type II certified entity, we have been testing our BCP on a quarterly basis, not just because SOC II demands it, but also because it’s good business practice.”– Manish Govindaraj
According to Manish, the organization’s transition to remote operation meant balancing the safety of employees with the ideal productivity levels necessary to satisfy customers’ expectations. With hundreds of staff members operating globally, Jolera was identified as an essential service and aimed to “challenge ourselves to provide a seamless experience to our customers, as if nothing had changed,”. With hundreds of channel partners, thousands of end clients, and such depending on their services, company stakeholders recognized the importance of honouring commitments to both customers and employees alike.
“We are a true 24/7/365 entity, and that had to be held true while we were remote with all of our staff members. At the forefront of all of this was the importance to keep our employees safe, and as a result, keep our business safe.”– Manish Govindaraj
The company made the transition to total remote operation at the beginning of March, even before the government of Ontario declared a state of emergency. “We acted early, reducing the risk of exposing our staff members to the virus at the workplace; that was very important to us,” Manish reflected. In the best interest of employees, Manish led the initiative to remote operation with Jolera Inc’s Pandemic Response Team.
Together, they identified four key aspects to protect their people and their business:
1. Keep everyone safe
2. Deliver on customer mandates
3. Ensure operational security
4. Build a stronger Jolera community
Once employees safely transitioned to remote operation, the company introduced rigours to maintain and further improve productivity. Manish reported, “Through daily active management, collaboration and transparency through better reporting, we saw a Jolera community bond even closer together and a total rise in productivity.
As government-mandated restrictions began to ease around the world, businesses once again were challenged to transition their operations and safely re-open their doors. Before building any plan to re-open, Manish’s main objective was to create a sense of normalcy for workers in the physical office. With this goal in mind, Manish teamed up with Jolera’s Pandemic Response Team to build and execute a re-opening plan.
“We kept it somewhat simple. If you look at the government of Ontario’s plan, there are multiple phases, and we just distilled it down to two phases. In Phase 1, we begin operating our offices with a limited number of staff per location. This was to test physical distancing and safe practices at work. We did not put a number or target into play, simply because it was an elective approach where employees chose to be part of that phase and wanted to join back in the office. Phase 2 is going to be about returning to a sense of normal in alignment with guidance from our government.”– Manish Govindaraj
It was essential, to Manish, to source information from reliable government agencies when making decisions about opening the various offices across the globe. “Because we are so spread out and geographically dispersed, we had to factor in the diverse needs that existed based on where we were located geographically. The reality in Porto, Portugal, is very different from that of Toronto, Calgary or even Winnipeg.”
In addition to geographical diversities, local considerations unique to each building or operating site also had to be considered. Manish identified challenges associated with each operating site; “We needed to coordinate with building security and building management to ensure that our people could come in and start working.” Although prerequisites such as PPE, cleaning equipment and sanitization requirements were identified to ensure the offices were equipped to operate safely, individual employee considerations also needed to be accounted for.
“We made the decision not to include people who relied on public transit during Phase 1. Instead, we chose a subset of employees who would drive into work to limit their exposure to the public.”– Manish Govindaraj
Taking all of these factors into account, Manish identified, “the most important thing was to start building confidence among our people that we’ve taken the right actions in order to re-open our offices in a limited capacity.” Open communication and reviewing the plan with department leaders gave staff a full debrief of all the considerations that had been factored into building an executable return to work plan. Physical distancing and other new behaviours at the office have since been adopted to ensure that people are kept safe.
“When COVID-19 started surfacing as a distant threat, there was a lot of media hype about what it was, what it could be and where things could be heading. The narrative was morphing every day. As a leadership team, we agreed that we would look to government agencies and sources from within the governments of where our offices are located to guide our decisions and actions. We’ve been monitoring all of those sources for direction on what we needed to do relative to every point in time throughout this crisis. Whether it was before we invoked our BCP and Pandemic Plan or as we continue to monitor our evolving coordinated return to work plan, one size does not fit all – we had to tailor our plans according to the information that we were getting from the different government agencies.”– Manish Govindaraj
Manish credits Jolera’s readiness and resilience to the immensely talented and committed people within the organization.
“We had the comfort level going in [to remote operation] that our people can perform well remotely. We have a great team, and we have the right oversight and collaboration mechanisms in play. The team came together; they just fell right into the groove and delivered on their mandate. Overall, we are delivering on all the things that we need to deliver on, keeping both our customers and our teams satisfied.”– Manish Govindaraj