Can MSMEs Work from Home? (#WFH)

#WFH has been the buzz word across the globe for close to a month now. From the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, IT and IT enabled organisations have been quick to adopt Work from Home (WFH) with ease. While the Govt and International Organisations also promoted it extensively, critics have also pointed out that work from home is a luxury that is not open to all. According to AIMO- (All India Manufacturers Association) work from home is applicable to less than 8% of the core MSME (Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and services sector.[1]

This blog is an attempt at helping you understand – ‘if and how’ work from home is possible to you or your business.

Before you read furtherFor most MSMEs, survival is the only important thing during this testing time. Survival depends on cash flow. We strongly recommend that you plan your cash flow for the next two months at least, keeping in mind salaries and wages (Read: Govt.’s EPF contribution[2]), loan repayment (Read: Moratorium on EMI[3]), supplier payments, rent, insurance, etc.

At the outset we would like to acknowledge that for the majority of MSMEs most of the critical and operational functions cannot be done remotely. However, we would like to narrate a few instances where the necessity has forced MSME organisations to innovate and evolve.

For instance, one rice manufacturer from Theni has implemented work from home for his second line leaders and office staff (Production Head, Accounts Head, HR, Executives and Data entry operators) though the operational staff have been given leave (with pay). They have made the best of the situation and are using this time to migrate data from their legacy ERP to a newly developed cloud-based ERP and are also testing the same. The HR has been active in handling the crisis situation and also coordinating with a HR consultant to develop and implement best HR practices including creation of Role Clarity Document, identify KRAs (Key Result Areas) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and developing a performance appraisal system (Performance Score Card). They are also looking at developing Process documentation and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) in the coming weeks.

The director of the company, who is an alumnus of Journey in Joy (Leadership Transformation Program), says though there are difficult times ahead of us the work their team is putting in during this one or two months will help them come out of it stronger than ever.

Interestingly, in this example, most of the employees had their own personal laptops to work on and desktops were set up in the houses of those who didn’t.

Another interesting example is from an Architect’s firm in Madurai which has started a research to understand their customers preferences through an online survey using google forms in addition to regular drawing work.

These are normal MSME players who up until they were pushed against the wall had their reservations on the possibility of doing any work from home.

We ourselves at Poornatha have been working full-fledged from home. In addition to our regular work, we are working with third parties who are also working from home on: 

  1. developing a Business Assessment tool for MSMEs with our partners from MADE,
  2. developing multiple online portals for knowledge sharing with two different tech companies.
  3. designing course material and books through designers
  4. streamlining processes and creating SOPs, preparing checklists for our various activities

We do understand that for most MSMEs, some IT infrastructure upgradation and reorganising is required to be able to work remotely– and that’s easier said than done. Business owners also worry about communication problems, employee isolation, data security issues and diminished productivity.

To make the best of the situation the following are some areas we think MSME Leaders and their teams may try working from home:

  1. Write a Business Plan that you have always wanted to but never had the time
  2. Come up with a Marketing plan or a Sales Plan
  3. Do a Market Study on the internet
  4. Learn about the various government scheme and benefits applicable to your business or industry
  5. Understand the laws and regulations that your business has to comply with
  6. Learn best practices in your industry from across the globe
  7. Learn online marketing or simply create an online presence for your business
  8. Write SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) for your core functions
  9. Write down HR processes and Policies
  10. Develop or update your website (most web-developers and content writers are Working From Home, this is the best time to get this done)
  11. Explore productivity apps to better manage your team and your work (Example: todoist, Microsoft Planner,, Trello, Asana)
  12. Read and discuss industry related-articles with your team

Though this list may seem long, after you talk with your employees it will seem too short 🙂

Get on a call with your team, give examples of work that you think can be done remotely, give them one- or two-days’ time to come up with a list, they might actually surprise you. Because necessity is the mother of all invention.

There are more than enough articles on the internet outlining the Do and Don’t of Work from Home for both the employer and employees which generally seem to include

  • Maintaining a regular schedule
  • Having a private workspace setup (as much as possible), with a good chair desk and lighting if possible
  • Frequent calls with the team including video calls to bring the human connection and seamless communication
  • Setting expectations and clarification with family members

Working from home or not, being in regular touch with your team through texts, calls and video conferencing is very important to keep the team together.

Once the situation normalises it will again be a sprint for survival for most MSMEs. However, it might be important for MSMEs to identify and try-out tasks that could be done remotely. It could open up new avenues and change the way you look at staffing. Location might not be a constraint for some roles. Some of these tasks could possibly be done by a part-time employee who might be sitting in another city. Remote companies gain competitive advantages, like the ability to hire from larger talent pools and reduce their utility and equipment costs.

At the cost of sounding clichéd, when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Let’s make the best of the situation and come out of this lockdown stronger and wiser.

#Blog written from home! ?

#StayHome #StaySafe




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