Making our way back to workspaces, safely

An interview with Nitesh Bansal, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Engineering Services at Infosys

The year 2020, to say the least, has been quite disruptive.

Not only has it forced people to figure out new ways of living, but has also taught corporates across the world, new ways of working. What Covid-19 has also ensured is that safety becomes the topmost priority for employers and employees, across organizations and industries.

As lockdowns across the world moved millions of people to work from their homes, organizations have been forced to either scale down operations, or halt them altogether. The initial weeks of the lockdown were all about enabling remote operations at scale, but as lockdowns begin to ease, enterprises are faced with new questions and concerns. The primary amongst them being how to get employees back to the workplace without compromising on their safety and wellbeing, and still ensuring that workplaces remain nurturing and collaborative.

Today, the search for vaccines continues, and people are adapting to what is called the “new normal”. But even as we look at going back to our workplaces, the nature of work itself would not remain the same, says Nitesh Bansal, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Engineering Services at Infosys.

“In the past, pre-Covid, you were happy if your entire store was full – meaning you wanted more footfalls. You wanted to make sure that if you had a 10,000 sq. ft. of space there were more than a thousand people that could come inside. They could be all over the aisle, picking up goods, packing up baskets, and queuing for check-outs,” he says, adding, “But is that what you really want in the new normal?”

Bansal notes that this is the first time, corporates across the world have been forced into a situation where their elaborate continuity plans, and disaster recovery options, were not sufficient. “The business continuity which could’ve worked at a local, or a site level, could not be implemented, because all of a sudden, in one go, every site was locked down,” he says.

While organizations are confident that things will open up, gradually but certainly, the bigger question is figuring the roadmap to this uncertain future.

Just like so many other enterprises, we at Infosys, also wanted to find a solution as we prepared to get our employees back to the offices in a phased manner. So, we started searching for ways in which technology could aid this return.

Bansal explains how we did this at Infosys. “When you think about handling a significant number of people coming in during the day, using various facilities in the campus and going back, it is a significant undertaking,” he says talking about steps right from enabling transport, disinfecting the vehicles, and employing screening mechanisms.

“It cannot be a solution where a person is individually measuring temperature for other person and, making it human dependent alone. The only way to prevent all of that is using technology,” notes Bansal. Technologies to confirm mask compliance, social distancing, and hot-desk solutions, have helped employees come back to work with an assurance of their safety, while also ensuring that it’s all done non-intrusively, without capturing or storing any personal information.

In multiple conversations with clients, Nitesh says, there was a realization that what we are doing at Infosys could help our clients tackle the new normal as well.

“Maybe sharing some of those best practices, some of those guidelines, some of the learnings that we've had, will help our customers,” said Bansal. The results were our Return to Workplace solutions, built on the pillars of: to prepare, to prevent, to protect and to thrive - as organizations prepare their workplaces to bring back their employees safely.

Bansal notes that there is an awareness that these mechanisms and practices will have to continue to be deployed for the near future, and technology to report and manage compliance would be crucial. “People are also conscious of the fact that not only now but for some time to come, we will have to continue to deploy such mechanisms and measures that will provide this reassurance to the people who come to those workplaces either as workers, employees, or associates, or customers to be able to stay safe,” says Bansal.