By Marc Chan
For the last few months, the world has experienced an unprecedented challenge from the epidemic of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Starting from an outbreak in Wuhan, China, it turns out to become a major disruption for countries around the world resulting in travel bans, fractured production processes, and an overall shortage in the workforce.
In China, the lockdown of major cities and provinces means obligatory closure of office buildings, residences, schools and major means of transportation and logistics. As the second largest economy of the world that contributed roughly 16 percent to the global GDP in 2019, a halt in business for weeks can have a catastrophic impact to all kinds of businesses, regardless of size and location.
Many companies in China are facing a dilemma: resume full production and take a risk of potential outbreak in the office, or keep employees safe and away from the workplace, but lower productivity expectations?
Avoiding the dilemma
RingCentral, Inc. operates in many countries worldwide, including a major R&D center in Xiamen, China.
Back in late January when we received the confirmation of an outbreak in Wuhan, a Crisis Management Taskforce composed of decision makers from all divisions was formed immediately. The taskforce made analysis based on worst case scenarios and implemented special policy to mitigate the impact. Its focus is clear, maintain employee wellness and business continuity.
Despite the difficulties from the outbreak, team morale in China has been exceptionally high. Employees remain highly engaged and healthy. Projects are on-schedule and on-budget. On February 28th, RingCentral was honorably mentioned in Xiamen Daily, a Chinese newspaper as an enterprise that stayed well and productive throughout the epidemic. This, however, did not come as a coincidence.
Employee Wellness is the utmost priority
The first decision we made in the taskforce was to close the Xiamen office and enforce a Work From Home policy for all employees, both for their well-being and for compliance with the quarantine policy by law. The decision wasn’t too hard to make right off the bat. It’s essential to start from ensuring a risk-free environment and providing a sense of calm for our colleagues.
An epidemic of such magnitude can create unimaginable hardships either directly for employees, or to their families and friends. Anxiety is generated from the shortage of medical supplies in the country and a sense of isolation have resulted from the lack of social activities. During such times, a comforting hand from an organization can mean the world to employees.
As a global company, RingCentral has a large employee base in many countries. Initiated by the taskforce, our folks from different office locations have volunteered to identify suppliers worldwide and provided creative ideas to accelerate shipping of medical supplies to our colleagues in China. Healthcare packs containing surgical masks, sanitizers, alcohol swabs, etc., with love and empathy from the leadership team continue to arrive at each employee’s home in these challenging times, the moment they need them the most.
At our Silicon Valley headquarters, a dedicated message forum has been set up, leveraging RingCentral’s collaboration platform. Colleagues from all over the world share their heartwarming messages, blessings, pictures and videos for the team in China. Using our innovative technology, we’ve not only been able to collaborate for work but we’ve even provided each other with immense emotional support.
Business Continuity is a natural outcome when everyone is well
In the first few days of this massive work from home arrangement involving hundreds of employees, some project managers raised a concern that team collaboration “may be less effective” since folks are used to start a discussion by rowing their chairs to someone else’s desk. With a minor change of habit to start a collaborative chat, phone call or video meeting with a click on RingCentral App, the quality of teamwork they can achieve now is beyond the proximity of their cubicles.
Some other practical concerns were also raised but none of them became actual showstoppers. Concerns like employees who are stranded somewhere without a company laptop, corporate VPN performance with intensive parallel connections, instability of home network, etc. With special arrangement from our IT, solutions are provided in all cases, and no employee is left uncared for.
Employee’s well-being facilitates diligence and creativity at work. The team ended up delivering against deadlines faster than planned because the collaboration across different locations is more effective now with the flexibility of working from anywhere and anytime.
Power through the crisis as an organization
An old proverb says that “you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails”. There may be little we can do about the epidemic, but in a crisis like this an organization’s support and commitment to its employees can go a long way.
In closing, I would like to express our gratitude to the entire company, our leaders, our colleagues and our friends across the globe for the unconditional support during this challenging time.
We hope everyone comes out of this safe and sound.
Marc Chan is VP and China GM of RingCentral.