Wednesday 27 May 2020

Productivity is not the need of the hour; Mental Health is!

Productivity during COVID isolation

The lockdown caused by coronavirus pandemic has led several companies to subtly shift to work from home policy. However, the expectation to be more productive even in remote working conditions is still a reality for many employees. The objective is to get the job done and often there is less importance given to understanding the psychological impact of the pandemic on the workforce. Undoubtedly this adds stress to the managers too, who not only need to handle their stress but also are in a position to make sure that the team feels assured at this uncertain time. While its ideal of being productive at work is important, however mental health is far more important. 

Home is the current office -

Every employee develops a certain affiliation towards their workspace. Modern workspaces are designed ergonomically to foster optimum working conditions for the employees. Whereas home is meant to be a place of relaxation. This juxtapose creates a contradictory environment for work. Firstly, not everyone can afford a workspace at home. Secondly, external factors such as unreliable internet connections can cause technical difficulties while engaging in work. Even the ones with decent workspace at home do not have ergonomically friendly chairs, tables, or lighting which in turn can cause physical strain. Those who are thrown into the situation are still getting adjusted to the home office.

Endless work hours –  

In remote working conditions, it is assumed that the employees are available the entire day to work and are being contacted whenever it is necessary by their peers or managers.  Scheduled office work hours seem to have disappeared in the work from home setting. Such uncontrolled work culture can create high stress because it is impossible to structure each day. Being at home in isolation also adds additional personal work of taking care of kids, family and performing household chores like cooking, cleaning, etc., Often employees skip meals, or have to resort to working nonstop just to catch up with both work and personal commitments causing them a lot of anxiety.

Invasion of privacy -

Work from home often requires employees to connect to a video conference portal to discuss work and take part in group meetings. Although video calls help in virtual communication, its no substitute for the in-person interaction. Often workers don’t express themselves fully on virtual communication setting. In addition to this, video conferences can expose an employee’s home atmosphere which can affect the privacy of an employee. In simple terms, It is an invasion of workers private space.  Home cannot be an office and it does need to be.  Videos calls can provide unintended visual, audible clues about the employee to his/her work counterparts. In some cases, it can lead to emotional distress and poor performance.

The glooming uncertainty -

At this quarantine period, each of us is processing the trauma differently. It is natural to have concerning thoughts about the risk of infection of self and our loved ones, financial hardship, etc., which affects the ability to concentrate at work.   We are all getting emotionally exhausted consuming news updates about COVID-19.  Some may even have lost their family member to the pandemic and suffering secretly. The peer pressure to stay normal during work from home increases the risk of mental breakdown.

Feeling of isolation –

Recreation aspects of work atmosphere like team-building exercises, pool tables, pantry, etc. help to improve social interaction between coworkers.  However, due to the nature of the shutdown,  we can’t go out and it prevents us from engaging in any social activity. This forces us to experience a state of loneliness.  Time invested in extracurricular activities holds the ability to execute our work well and can alleviate quarantine distress. Being isolated at home decreases any chance of such activities and in turn increases the risk of mental health issues.

In summary 

The expectation to be productive while working from home can provide short term benefits to the organization however it can have a long-term effect on the mental state of its employees.  As a community, we are going through a traumatic experience. On top of that, employees have additional pressure of being productive while coping up with the pandemic.  This is a ticking time bomb and needs to be addressed. We need to create a work culture that is inclusive of employees’ mental health. However, work from home is going to be our new normal for the foreseeable future. In the forthcoming blog article we will discuss ways the organization can make a difference and ensure the well being of its workforce.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on this article.


Solution Consultant

Saturday 16 May 2020

An Insight into Power BI (1/3): Pros and Cons of the Business Intelligence tool

Power BI - An Insight
Power BI is the most popular name in the business intelligence domain developed by venerable name in the software industry the Microsoft.  Initially, the tool was developed for technical analysts and programmers but soon became accessible to decision-makers of the organization.  Big or small every business aims to establish its brand presence in the market as well as grow exponentially.  This is where the Business Intelligence tool plays a major role in making the right decisions for the business to achieve its objectives.

Regardless of the size of the organization, going for a BI solution is one of the major decisions. Typically, there are few objectives of the objectives a good BI solution is expected to fulfill such as:

  1. Analytics aiding better decision making
  2. Improved operational efficiency
  3. Improved cost savings
  4. Increased growth in revenue
  5. Increased competitive advantage
  6. Enhanced customer service
  7. Compliance and risk management

Business Intelligence tool has been a platform that was only accessible to large organizations. However, due to the disruption of cloud technologies and SaaS model, BI implementation is available even for smaller organizations.  Power BI is a cloud-based platform and does not require capital expenditure or inhouse IT infrastructure support.  Just like any other cloud services, the implementation of Power BI is rapid and trouble-free. In a nutshell, It is a powerful low-cost reporting and analytics platform.

Having said that, its vital for any organization to invest in time and effort in understanding all aspects of BI tool before investing in one.  That is exactly is the objective of this Power BI series. Power BI is almost as simple as an excel tool with some advanced features, however, some of its offerings may not be suitable for your unique business requirements.

Here are the top pros and cons of Power BI.

Pro: Affordability

Hands down, the big brand is accessible to the simplest merchant in the game. This has been the major advantage of Power BI. Its analytical and visualizations are affordable and are relatively inexpensive. Oh, did I mention, the Power BI desktop version is free of cost! You can download this tool and start creating your reports and dashboards on your computer.  However, if you want to use the Power BI cloud services and publish your reports and have additional features you can the cloud solution for just 9.99$ a month!  Its affordable compared to other BI tools.

Con: Table Relationships

Table relationships tend to have issues as the data size and relationship between the data elements grow.  While Power BI is good with tables of simple relationships in the data model, it may not handle complex relationships between tables well. Its often recommended to create a data model with outmost care by having a more unique field so that Power BI does not confuse the relationships when it comes to such tables.

Pro: Custom Visualizations

Custom visualizations are created by developers for specific use for their users/decision-makers.  Custom visualizations are even available in the marketplace for you to download and use. In additional to vanilla visualizations ( which should suffice the basic needs ) available in your Power BI, you may use custom visualization which are suited to your specific needs, such as KPS, Maps, Charts, Graphs, etc.

Con: Configuration of Visuals

You may not need to configure or optimize your visuals most of the time in the Power BI. However, if you want to, Power BI does not provide many options to configure visualization as per your requirements. This really limits the ability of the user to change the visuals.

Those are pretty good starters for a conversation about Power BI implementation. To make this article lean and easy to digest, I have split it into a series of 3 posts. I will come back to you soon with an update on next set of Pros and Cons of Power BI. Meanwhile, if you are looking for specific information on how Power BI can benefit your business, feel free to contact us here.

Srivatsan Aravamudan
Solution Consultant

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