Asian office allowed Cranbury-based tech firm to get early look at COVID prevention measures

When New Jersey went into lockdown mode in mid-March to contain COVID-19, a company in Cranbury Township already knew what to expect.

The global technology company didn’t have a crystal ball — it had an office in Asia.

While perhaps not a household name, Infragistics is an industry leader in user interface, or UI, tools for some well-known apps, such as Intuit’s TurboTax. It also has offices all over the world, including in Tokyo, which was put on high alert sooner than the United States was during the pandemic.

“And that was actually helpful for us, getting that early warning in a different part of the world,” company founder and CEO Dean Guida said.

Guida said his company was already getting prepared as early as January for the remote work arrangements that nearly all local companies would eventually have to adopt.

Companies of all sizes, in almost all locations, have had to come up with work-from-home schemes to function as normally as possible during the pandemic. Experts believe this new style of working could be the new norm after COVID-19’s spread subsides.

But, in the process of implementing those arrangements uniformly across Infragistics’ own international workforce, Guida said some issues came up. What this global company leader learned is that there’s varying levels of comfort with working from home, regardless of how in-demand it’s said to be for local young professionals.

“Being asked to work from home is different in every area of the world,” he said. “We have some offices in major cities, such as Tokyo, And there, it’s kind of difficult. They want to work from home for safety. But being in a small living space without human interaction isn’t easy.”

In some developing economies, the concerns are less about how much space someone has available for a home workstation and more about available internet speeds. Whatever the reason might be, not everyone in the workforce of a company’s global footprint is approaching remote working with the same enthusiasm as Silicon Valley.

What hasn’t been an issue anywhere that Infragistics does business is employee productivity. Guida believes his workforce is as productive as ever. They’re also still able to participate in the collaborative process involved in building software, Guida added.

In fact, he’s concerned workers aren’t stepping away from their home workstations enough.

“We’ve tried to be conscious of that,” he said. “We encouraged taking some days off and also disconnecting from work by establishing a routine. It’s so easy to flow day into night without having that disconnect, which isn’t healthy in the long run for productivity and our teams.”

Regardless of the fact that there might be less of a one-size-fits-all approach for global businesses rolling out remote work, Guida is one of those that expects to see more companies doing it in the future.

“I think even for those conservative companies that weren’t sure about working from home, seeing that employees are quite productive right now is accelerating adopting of this,” he said.

Hack attack

During the race to find answers to the global pandemic its economic turmoil, technology-focused institutions are running hackathons, sprint-like competitions in which teams develop software solutions.

A pair of “COVID HealthHack” events were held at Stevens Venture Center, an incubator associated with Stevens Institute of Technology. The event asked participants to develop tools to help address remote working, crowd monitoring, telemedicine and symptom tracking.

The winner in one category of the most recent challenge, which brought 500 virtual participants on May 15, came up with an interactive remote learning platform for elementary school students and teachers.

Infragistics sponsored and supported the most recent event, providing participants with it is suite of software development tools.

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