Don’t let a good crisis go to waste: experts discuss the future of work post-COVID at BTS2020

At Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020, experts envision the future of work and unlock new possibilities in a post-COVID world.

A couple of months ago, nobody would have related high productivity with working from home. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the workplace as we know it. While one can go on discussing the challenges versus innovations that this new normal has brought with it, startups and enterprises have been leveraging technology and opportunities to make the most of this ‘Black Swan’ of an event.   

Experts are constantly talking about the new normal. But, what exactly is the new normal, and how are we going to prepare for it?

At Bengaluru Tech Summit 2020, a panel moderated by President - Digital of ITC Infotech Debjyoti Paul, and consisting of P Srikar Reddy, Managing Director and CEO of Sonata Software Ltd; Pradeep Kar, Founder, Chairman, and Managing Director, Chief Microlander; Chetan Garga, MD and Country Head of Allstate India; Sumed Marwaha, MD and Regional Vice President of Unisys India; and Tapas Panda Head, Print R and D Center, HP Inc; envisioned the future of work, unlocking new possibilities. 

Shifts and changes 

Experts discussed the changes that are brought by the pandemic, and how it has shifted both the human and technological perspectives: 

  • Change in the mindset: The new work from home culture has changed us in ways we never expected.
“Humans are more resilient than what one thought,” Pradeep said. 

Earlier, work from home was synonymous with decreased productivity, and one not being held accountable. Today, from small startups to large corporates — all have been working remotely, and many have reported their employees being more productive, if not equally. Pradeep said, “We were not confident that the Indian telecom industry was geared enough to support remote working... however, perspectives have now shifted.”

Similarly, from an employees point of view, they have largely become more self-accountable and companies trust their employees more than ever now. 

Pradeep added, “What has changed is the mindset, attitude, perspectives, and possibilities... and these changes will stay."

Working in the new normal

  • Increased tech adoption: Every sector and every industry was forced to go digital with remote working being the new normal. Advancements in tech have led to the increased adoption of existing platforms like Zoom (termed as the King of the pandemic), and Google meet. 
"Two years of digital transformation has happened in two months, only because we were forced into it and also by working remotely," Srikar said. The impact of COVID-19, in addition to tech adoption, has created double the disruption. 

Experts compare the pandemic to a ‘Black Swan’ event of titanic proportion. Chetan said, “What we thought we would do in five years is something we will be during in the next five months due to the current situation.” 

Chetan — the country head of an American insurance company — said, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” He explained how even the insurance companies have gone digital and are customising policies according to the needs of individuals. 

  • Access to talent pool: Remote working has enabled companies to become geographically agnostic when it comes to hiring new employees. This has also ensured that companies and corporations have access to a global talent pool, and have processes in place to enable virtual hiring of employees.
  • Empathy: Chetan further added that the pandemic has brought out a lot of empathy for fellow humans. Compassion and acceptance have been the greatest change brought about by COVID-19. 

Additionally, attitudes towards what matters — health, families, and friends — have drastically changed over the last couple of months. 

How can we prepare for the Future of Work? 

Once the experts established the changes and challenges of the future of work, they discussed the few points that we, as individuals and organisations, need to focus on to prepare ourselves for the future. 

Srikar said, “There will be a new normal. The future will definitely not be the past.” He believes that the faster we accept this and work towards it, the better it is. 

Tapas of HP Inc said that from the tech angle, the future of work will be an amalgamation of cyber and physical systems, with humans in the hoop. And, this has been accelerated by COVID-19, along with digital connectivity.

Speaking on one of the most important things to remember while preparing oneself for the future of work, Tapas said, “Learning how to think, and learning how to learn,” are qualities that one should focus on. 

Srikar ends on a positive note, saying, "Opportunity is not something in the future, it is something you actually do. Now, the world looks much more hopeful and positive compared to a few months ago.” 
Edited by Suman Singh