How 8000 of us at Zoho—across 12 offices—went remote in 3 days

"The time has come to adopt work-from-home as the default."

At the beginning of March, our CEO, Sridhar Vembu, made a company-wide announcement stating that it was time to embrace a "remote-work" culture. With the outbreak of COVID-19, and how uncertain the following days and weeks looked, we made a conscious decision to start working remotely.

8000+ employees, spread across 12 offices in several countries, serving over 50 million users across the globe...all making a sudden transition to working-from-home? To many inside the company, it seemed unimaginable.

But, we made the switch.

3 days is all it took.


Where it all began...

If you've interacted with any of our colleagues, it's very likely that you've heard the phrase—'Zoho runs on Zoho'.

That is true. We run all our operations—sales, marketing, customer support, finance, legal, IT etc.—using the Zoho suite of 45+ applications. Piece by piece and stack by stack, every application that we built over the years was carefully crafted to become part of one powerfully unified ecosystem.

We have...

  • Multi-channel customer experience tools that help us connect, communicate, and engage with potential customers
  • Code-free workflow and automation builders that help reduce manual work and time-consuming repetitive tasks
  • Augmented reality platforms so teams can provide remote assistance from anywhere
  • AI-powered features that ensure less paperwork and provide contextualized data (saving us time from unnecessary back and forth)
  • Accounting software for book-keeping and an expense app to file expenses
  • Project management tools, email campaigns, social media marketing applications...

You get the drift.

Our entire application-suite lives on the cloud. These apps are designed to play well together, and to simplify the flow of information among teams working in different locations. And we're lucky they do, because it meant we had all the tools (and information) we would find at the office instantly available to us at home.

But going remote isn't just a matter of flipping a switch and assuming that everything is business as usual. It took a substantial amount of coordination and effort to ensure that we could continue to serve our customers while also keeping our employees safe.

Curious how we did it?

A peek behind the curtains

The first step was to assess the situation and check if we had all the necessary functionality to go remote. We set up trial runs with selective teams a couple days before making the official announcement. After all, we were dealing with a global health and safety crisis, so we knew every minute mattered.

Our BCP team were swift in gathering information and delegating responsibilities to various departments. This initial stage of laying the foundation and implementing policies was crucial for us, because it determined the stages that would follow. We were definitely on our toes! But, despite having teams working on processes independently, we remained closely connected and kept everyone in the loop.

Operations and collaborations

Right from the start, we used Connect, Cliq, and Mail to collaborate and relay important announcements. Our HR and Admin teams were on the front lines. From logistics to security, they ensured that everybody stayed well-informed. Our in-house medical staff were also quick to establish a care center and to provide on-call emergency assistance.

IT and support

On the technical side of things, sufficient bandwidth for VPN, and digital phones were set up for our sales and support teams to handle calls. We continue to use Zoho CRM to follow up with our customers, Assist to provide remote assistance, and Desk to respond to queries and offer support to our customers.

Virtual meet-ups and coffee breaks

The breadth and depth of our cloud applications enable our teams to constantly stay in touch. Hosting webinars, virtual summits, and video conferencing calls via Meeting, ShowTime, and Cliq, makes it easier. We've had a lot of conversations around the digital water cooler! While nothing comes close to having face-to-face interactions, it's amazing how some of these tools have played a significant role in reducing the loneliness we tend to feel when we're physically apart.


Staying on top of data

We even tapped into data resources such as Worldometer, Our World in Data, and Statista (among others), and created Coronavirus Tracker Dashboards using our BI platform, Zoho Analytics. These are designed to give everyone clear and current information so they can make informed safety decisions and take precautionary measures.

Custom solutions, managing documents, and more...

Creator helped us build a contact-tracing form that captured the details of our travels and those of the ones around us. We didn't want to take any chances. Also, since we already used WorkDrive to create docs and Projects to keep up with tasks, we didn't have to make too many adjustments on that front.

The end result?

The Zoho ecosystem gave us a unified collaborative experience across mobile and web platforms without having to compromise on security, productivity, and quality. In just a few days, we set everything in motion, packed our bags and headed home, all with the confidence that we had the online infrastructure to back us up.

The launch of two important initiatives for the business community

As the sudden onslaught of COVID-19 brought a lot of anxiety and pain to our customers, partners, colleagues, and their families, we decided it was time to do our bit and offer the support we could. We managed to put together some great wins.

Zoho Remotely

We released a remote-working toolkit, put together specifically to help businesses transition smoothly into remote work. We know this isn't an easy feat, especially when many business operations require you to be on-the-ground and have in-person communication. But we hope tools like these will help you embrace the change.

Zoho Remotely is a suite of 11 business and productivity apps—ShowTime, Writer, Sheet, Cliq, Show, Meeting, Sprints, Lens (available for users on US and EU DCs), Assist, Workdrive, and Projects—available for free until September 1, 2020.

And to help people quickly adapt to new working conditions, our Zoho Remotely team interviewed some experts and asked them to share tips and best practices. This was done to help businesses navigate through such rapidly changing professional situations.

If you're new to this set up, we hope Zoho Remotely provides you with some relief.

Fun-fact: The Remotely suite was assembled in just 6 days! The whole process, from the ideation to the public launch, was all done working remotely!

Emergency Subscription Assistance Program (ESAP)

As an entirely bootstrapped company for more than 20 years, we're quite familiar with the challenges and difficulties that growing businesses tend to face. We owe our customers a lot, and to help weather this global crisis, we launched the Small Business Emergency Subscription Assistance Program. Our goal is to lighten the financial load on those small business customers who have been severely impacted by the economic disruption.

With ESAP, we're offering a 3-month subscription fee waiver on all the applications our small business customers currently use. This will be applicable for up to 20,000 qualified customers that have 25 employees or less. Our customers have always supported us. We wanted to do our bit by standing by them.

Here's a direct message from our CEO.

Initiatives like these help keep our spirits high. Think you can benefit from this program? Here's how to apply.

Our employees and coworkers chime in...

We reached out to some of our colleagues who conceptualized and spearheaded critical operations at Zoho during these trying times. Take a look at what they have to say about working from home. Most of them have never worked outside of an office for this long.

Where do we go from here?

Everyone is working to stay afloat given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Even maneuvering through everyday life and taking care of business right now can be challenging. You might feel uncertain about the future; we do, too. But, what we're sure of is this: we're here to support businesses in the best way possible, and we will continue to do so.

Moving towards 'Zoho on Zoho' over the years helped make this latest transition easier and quicker than it otherwise could've been. Long after this virus becomes a distant memory, we intend on continuing our efforts towards making our ecosystem powerful and comprehensive. Whether you're a team of two or two thousand, we're ready to support your business.

Moreover, we're continuously using our products, putting them to the test as we identify gaps, strengthen our stack, and work to make every integration so seamless that businesses of all sizes can work hassle-free, online.

We hope this crisis ends soon. Until then, stay home, stay safe, stay strong.

We're all in this together, and we're here to help.


7 Replies to How 8000 of us at Zoho—across 12 offices—went remote in 3 days

  1. Excellent sharing and Amazing thoughts Sridhar Vembu sir?. Kudos to you and your ZOHO Team. Good luck in the days to come

  2. Brilliantly essayed blog. Putting together all the pieces appears easy in hindsight. Zoho took the lead way before the world reacted. As we say the proof of the pudding lies in eating. Zoho has demonstrated this well by leveraging all the Zoho stack application to effectively transition to the new norms of working. Good luck to team Zoho

  3. I run a real estate company that runs on zoho. I have never seen such a good and impressive software company. They have changed our business making us more productive and a much more customer centric company. And they have done so not just by helping us become more efficient but by example. We have been helped with 3 months for free from zoho so that we can continue to operate and reduce our expenses. I really couldn't think of a better software company and I couldn't imagine running my business without zoho. I hope other people come to realize what zoho can do for their companies. Keep up the good work because you are changing the world! Thanks Zoho thanks India.

    1. Amazingly kind and wonderful of you to say that, Eduardo! Such great feedback and support from our customers is what keeps us going. Thank you so much. We're always happy to help. :)

  4. This is Zoho being Zoho. I´m a Zoholic since day one, back in January of 2017 when i was given the possibility to run all things related to Zoho at LOBA, the oldest Zoho Partner in this small country called Portugal. Just want to say that our 97 employees are all working from home, using Zoho Apps, like CRM, Projects, Connect, Cliq, Desk and Workdrive. Thank you Zoho. Namaste.

    1. Hey, Luis. Wow. That's amazing. So glad to have you as our Partner. :) Thank you so much for your continuous support. We really appreciate it. Stay safe!

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