A growing number of local as well as international companies operating in Bangladesh are encouraging their staff members to work from home
Ankit Sureka, a senior manager at Banglalink, started his office work yesterday with a meeting with his senior colleagues at 9.05 am to fix the day's plan.
But, it was not a type of meeting we are much familiar with. Ankit was sitting on a sofa in his drawing room wearing a T-shirt and trousers.
Soon after the meeting, his five-year-old daughter came in. She was showing his father some pictures from her comic-rhyme book. Ankit pulled her to hold her in his lap while doing office task on his laptop.
His four other colleagues who attended the meeting were also connected from their homes through video conference as they were working for the office. Like them, a majority of 1,100 employees of the telecom operator have started working from home as part of a precautionary measure to avoid the coronavirus infection.
The company has rolled out a "work-from-home" guideline for most of its employees except those engaged in essential services such as network operation, customer service, and LIC support for two weeks starting from Wednesday.
Talking about this new experience, Ankit said "It feels excellent working from home.
When asked about the effect of such an initiative on the productivity, he said it is unlikely to impact the overall productivity if the professionals manage to use their time and are well aware of their key deliverables.
"In my case, adapting to the "home condition" was not difficult at all. We are already habituated to working in a homely official environment where we can relax, play indoor games, go to the gym etc.
"Thus, instead of hampering my productivity, it is enabling me to focus on my works more as I am feeling a bit relieved of the anxiety caused by the virus outbreak.", he added.
Mobile network service providers – Grameenphone and Robi - have also directed their employees to work from home.
Niaz Mohammad Siddiqui, Robi Axiata Limited's manager, strategic communication and content development, who was doing office works from his home in Mohammadpur on Wednesday shared his views about working from home amid the growing concern over the spread of Corona virus.
The Business Standard found him busy at 2:45 pm yesterday on his laptop working on some communication content for his company.
He said he had just had an important discussion with one of his senior officials using one of the popular mobile applications. So, he didn't feel that working from home in anyway limited his capacity to contribute towards the company.
He also mentioned that working from home is not a new practice in his company.
As part of its plan to become a modern, agile and digital company, Robi has long been allowing its employees to work from home whenever necessary, he claimed.
Therefore, the company is finding it easier to maintain its regular flow of work even though many of its employees are choosing to work from home.
"However, as a customer-centric company, our employees are serving the customers strictly following all precautionary measures wherever their physical presence is necessary," he added.
Robi's Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam said some 1,325 employees are currently working with the company, and nearly half of them are currently working from their home.
Meanwhile, Grameenphone, a company with more than 2,300 employees, has been encouraging its employees who are engaged in roles that are not customer-facing to work from home.
All the employees are doing their job from home and keeping them in-network through digital communication devices like Whatsapp, Skype, Telegram and Signal.
Growing number of global companies opting for working-from-home
Like the telecom operators a growing number of international companies operating in Bangladesh are encouraging their staff members to work from home amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The World Bank yesterday announced "office at home" provision for its officials at all country offices in South Asia region.
"Officials with critical health position will perform from home on mandatory basis and other officials have provision to work from either office or home" said Mehrin Ahmed Mahbub, senior external officer of the World Bank office in Dhaka.
She told The Business Standard, "I am working for my office from home, and most of the officials are doing the same."
Mehrin Ahmed went on to say some of the officials in the Dhaka office have been working directly under the supervision of the Washington office.
"Office at home" is not a new concept for them, she added.
Meanwhile, the Dhaka office of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in a bid to prepare to face any vulnerable situation Covid-19, had asked its officials to work from home on last Monday on an experimental basis.
"The test was successful and the office has updated its IT system," said Gobinda Bar, team leader, external affairs of Bangladesh Residence Mission of the ADB.
Mentioning that the Dhaka office of the bank is very keen go for the "work-from-home" provision if it is required, he said, adding a decision might be taken by today.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) is monitoring the current situation very closely.
"The development agency has not decided about working from home," said Fahmida Siddique, public relations officer of the Jica's Dhaka office.
All agencies of the United Nations (UN) are developing IT infrastructure of their offices to allow their officials to work from home. All of these offices are waiting for further decision from the UN.
AM Shakil Faizullah, communications manager of the United Nations Children's Fund's (Unicef) Dhaka office said, "We are prepared to allow officials to work from home if the situation demands so."
"We are trying to face the crisis cautiously. The office remains open. Employees have been advised to work from home if any one of them suffers from health issues like cold, fever or cough," he maintained.
International news agency Reuters's Dhaka office has already started remote work.
"We are offering our staffs working from home facility to our staffs those feel sick," said Rupali Chowdhury. Managing Director at Berger paints Bangladesh LTD.
Standard Chartered Bank Bangladesh limited officials said this bank stared working from home facility, after the World Health Organization announcement that the coronavirus outbreak has become a pandemic.
Unilever Bangladesh Ltd Head of Corporate Affairs, Partnership and Communication Shamima Akhter said the company has about 1,300 employees including direct and indirect, of them, some 400 are enjoying working from home facility.
Transparency International Bangladesh outreach and communication director Sheikh Manjur-E-Alam said the organisation has decided to provide working from home facility from the next week.
Brac rolls out mandatory remote work for "non-essential" staffers
The non-essential members among 2,000 employees at Brac head office will work from home from next Sunday as a precaution for the prevention of the novel coronavirus.
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac, made the announcement in a press meet at Brac Centre, Dhaka yesterday.
"The workers whose presence is not important (non-essential staffers) in the head office at this moment will work from their homes through online from 22 to 25 March. Then, we will assess the situation again", said Asif Saleh.
"We have 45,000 staff members all over the country. They will work in a limited scale as part of a precaution to keep away from the spreading novel coronavirus", he added.
Asif Saleh said Brac, the largest NGO in Bangladesh, has 50,000 voluntary health workers who will also work for raising awareness among the people over coronavirus.
"Our field force will support the health programme of Brac for the next two weeks", added Asif.
"The next two weeks are very important for Bangladesh. We still don't know whether the coronavirus in Bangladesh has spread to the level of community transmission. But it is feared that it might happen".
He suggested the government to decentralise the coronavirus testing facilities across the country and ensure strong home-quarantine management.
"New temporary isolation centres in stadiums, community centres, and government training centres can be set up," said Asif.
He also mentioned that the government has formed a cell to work in public-private partnerships.
"Brac has participation in the cell. We will work according to the guideline of Directorate General of Health Services," said the executive director of Brac.