Since the COVID-19 situation does not seem likely to defer anytime soon, government offices, Druk Holdings Investment (DHI) companies, and some companies in the private sector are now working from home.
According to the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), the timeline for the work from home plan for the government offices has been made for 3 months, from April to June. The objective is to ensure uninterrupted services of critical/essential functions in the event of any major or extended disruptions caused by COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of the civil servants.
Deputy Chief HR Officer, Well-being Services, RCSC, Sherab Zangpo, stated that the guideline is very generic and that agencies may customize as per their requirement, and further said that the effectiveness of the implementation is ensured through the institution of the service delivery coordination team in the respective agencies.
“With regard to the closure of the offices, we don’t expect any of the offices to be closed as the country is not going into lockdown. However, respective agencies decide on what are the critical services and require physical presence in the office,” he added.
Reportedly, when it comes to working from home, agencies are identifying the range of services and staff who can work from home. They are also said to be coming up with rosters in which the staff are divided into teams to take turns to work from the office as well.
RCSC has suggested to agencies that it should prioritize the vulnerable staff, like those pregnant, breastfeeding and those with other health issues. RCSC is currently reviewing the government’s press release issued on 27 March for the alignment of benefits during the time.
He added, “This plan will reduce crowding in the office, encourage social distancing, take care of family at home, while also delivering the services uninterrupted.”
As per a RCSC press release, agencies are working on categorizing services, such as critical services requiring physical presence, essential and routine services that can be delivered via working fully or partially from home or remote working and services that can be deferred for the time-being. RCSC has shared generic guidelines and protocols that they can customize. The documents can be accessed from their website www.rcsc.gov.bt
As a measure for continued service delivery during the COVID-19 outbreak, RCSC released a guideline for remote working which comprises of: 1) Objective of working remotely/work from home, 2) Ground rules for remote working/work from home, 3) Management Processes for remote working, 4) Use of Remote Toolbox and 5) Accountability and Productivity Measures towards relevant employees.
DHI has also instituted ‘Work from Home’ (WFH) in line with the PMO press release and subsequent decision by the management. The plan was instituted on 1 April and to go on until further notice.
The notice mentioned aspects of effective work and guidelines that constitutes of the work timing, personnel availability during office hours, leave requisition processes, submission of note sheets, exemption rosters for physical presence in office and technological/IT arrangements for effective correspondences.
Following the press release and management guidelines, the Chief Executive Officer of DHI owned and controlled companies also addressed a letter towards all the company members to ensure service delivery during this phase.
Other than government offices and DHI groups, some private companies have also adopted working from home and welcomed the system.
Green E or commonly known as Drukhost which provides hosting services, website development and application development had adopted ‘work from home’ since 6 March after the closure of schools in the country.
Sangay Tshering, a managing partner, said, “At first, a few things went wrong and we had to regroup one more time to sort things out, since then we are functioning smoothly.” He said that for communication and work tracking their office uses ‘Slack’ – an instant messaging site which works like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, and for organizing and planning they use Google calendar to keep track.
He also shared that there are some important things like setting out clear operation guidelines, making sure employee data usage is compensated or sorted out between the team, and the need to explain to the clients about the remote work system in place and on orienting the clients on the services remotely. They are currently using digital payment options like mBoB, mPay, etc.
The 11-member team come together online at 10 am on Slack and start daily operations until 5 pm, which he said that is the usual timing of their office. Google Drive is used for shared folders and material exchange, and GitHub for code repository to be shared with the technical team. He said, “If anything complex requires physical interventions, we have a provision to regroup and thrash things out. Our company is currently involved in the National IT team for the development of COVID-19 applications.”
Another private company, Bhutan Media and Communications Institute (BMCI) is doing the same after the government’s notice for closure of training institutes.
Pushpa Chhetri, Director, BMCI said, “We had to discontinue the on-site classes due to the current closure notice from the government. We feel that it is very important to ensure a safe working environment for everyone and reduce commuting to and from office through public transport. However, instead of discontinuing the class, we migrated the class to Rigpah, a local online learning platform. It has been quite an efficient transition owing to our very enthusiastic and proactive trainers and participants.”
She added, “The whole office team is mostly working from home although there are some who prefer to work from office at times. However, social distancing norm, hand wash, sanitizer and masks are available if anyone wishes to or have to visit office at times. We keep in touch through group chats, online meetings, emails, etc. We have become more task- oriented rather than attendance-oriented. It is working well for now.”
She said that the new initiative is totally dependent on Internet stability since the participants and the trainers will be sitting in separate locations, and each person’s connectivity is very important. BMCI has developed online skills and training material apart from delivery. She also said that at the moment the government has only looked at the Internet needs of educational institutions although the training institutes are also expected to close business until further notice.
“We started working online since the first circular to close institutions was published. We use Rigpah, Zoom, Skype, etc. The biggest advantage of working online is that it is pushing us to explore and collaborate further. While social distancing has become a new norm, our social networking skills are improving,” she said.