COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink workplace norms and reconsider our priorities in work and life. In a conversation about the future, Neville Vincent, who heads the South Asia Pacific business at cloud computing company Nutanix, told People Matters that the first, critical step is to accept that this is how things will be for quite some time to continue. Here are the highlights of the interaction.
What do you think will be most important in getting us all to function in the new normal?
We have focused on three things that we think are critical in accepting our new reality. The first is acceptance: acceptance that we are still in a phase where many things will be restricted, that this situation will continue.
Internally, we talk about coming to acceptance so that this situation does not become a stress or a pressure. Instead, it becomes something that you are completely comfortable with. There's been a lot of dialogue and discussion around how you truly accept it, and this situation has led us to have more deep and authentic conversations with our staff as to their own environment. For instance, how are people coping when they don't have their own home office? Do they have a routine for getting up in the morning and getting ready for work, having quiet time to focus on what they are doing? Acceptance really makes a difference to how they are able to function.
We've also had conversations with our customers on how they are accepting the situation, be it at staff level or management level, and that has allowed us to connect more deeply and authentically with them.
And the other two things?
The second is performance. We need to come to the understanding that the performance of the company is going to be affected. Each of us has to look at how we are going to maximize our own performance and productivity—how we can get creative about connecting with people, how we are going to maintain our program of work for a particular customer or partner. We also need to look at expense control: how we are going to collectively save money. For instance, I think we're going to see a lot less international travel in the future—especially as everyone has gotten used to working virtually and found that it's not that terrible.
And the third thing is the opportunity to spend more time on the things that we never had time for. It's really a valuable gift, to be able to spend time with your family, to spend time on learning and reading, reflecting, doing things. This once-in-a-lifetime crisis has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How to maximize that has been part of our dialogue with our people.
On the topic of performance and productivity, how do you think can these be measured when everyone is working from home?
Let's take a sales environment for example. We would measure the amount of visits sales people make to a customer, tracking it on a relationship management application. Now, instead of a face to face interaction, there is a video call, but it is still tracked the same way. And interestingly, we found that across a lot of countries, contact has been maintained. When you look at the pipeline for Southeast Asia, for instance, we met the target that we set for this period—but we met it through digital work, but not physical work.
That's what people mean when they talk about organizational agility, and it comes down to culture, which in turn comes down to personality, authenticity, regular communication—the ability to respond.
Do you think there has been a change in what people value in the workplace?
We now value our own time more, and we're more respectful of each other's time. People have deepened their connections with their family. They've become more connected, professionally and personally, and they've seen and better understood their own life priorities. They don't want to lose that now.
A lot of people talk about work-life balance, but at the end of the day, I think both work and life become integrated into a single lifestyle. Even if you had a massive separation between your personal and professional lifestyle, the two are now integrated, and I think people are going to want to maintain that integration.
That means a blurring of the boundaries between work and life, though: do you think that will be a concern?
I think that this is going to be one of the elephants in the room. Some of the biggest challenges to human connections have been around authenticity, where people want to put on a certain image in the workplace—the way they dress, the way they behave—but all that has gone out of the window now.
And I think that as leadership, we have to be very respectful of that, very tolerant of the fact that maybe someone's child is going to put their head around the corner and appear on the camera—we have to accept that that is part of life, that we all have our personal stories.
It's just that now our personal stories are a lot more transparent than they were, and getting people comfortable with that brings us into a new norm where we are more authentic. More people will start coming to terms with themselves and what they're good at—and what they're not good at. That in itself becomes a form of acceptance, which reduces stress. And I think people are beginning to see this as a positive thing—trying to be yourself, instead of being something you are not.
Could you share some tips on where people can begin with acceptance?
You've got to have courage. Courage to have a truthful conversation around what you're really thinking and feeling. And people are going to have to get used to that in a professional environment. Overcommunicating is going to be a really good thing.
As we made our way through this situation I've learned a lot about myself, about our people, and also about our customers, because this crisis opens the way for questions about what we are doing with our time and what we are now doing that we need to do. And because we've been able to come to acceptance of the situation, I think we could last another two months, maybe three months, if we had to. We're not under stress, we're more conscious of our time, we're more creative about the ways we communicate, and we're not as wasteful of our time, resources, and effort.