Written by Rob Quickenden, Cisilion’s Chief Strategy Officer
In recent days, I’ve been drawn to the growing list of conferences and public-facing meetings being cancelled as coronavirus COVID-19 continues its global spread.
High profile events like Mobile World Congress and the Game Developer Conference are off and many more have suffered the same fate in recent days. The Microsoft MVP Summit due to be run for Microsoft’s 1,500 global MVPs in Redmond, Washington has now been turned into a virtual event and we expect other big global conferences to be turned into Virtual or Online events as the threat continues.
Of course, they can never truly “replace” the human interaction element (or networking), but it does allow the intended purpose to continue and some may argue, allows even farther global reach as well as allowing us to consume the content on-demand at a time that suits – there’s also the offset of hotel expenses, air travel and reduced CO2!
The vital role of telecommuting
As the media focus and cases continue to increase, COVID-19 is starting to impact our lives and the way we conduct business across the world. We are seeing a growing number of global firms encourage greater use of telecommuting as they try to minimise the risk of users contracting and spreading the virus. This might be for client and internal meetings, encouraging better collaborative working and even for carrying out face–to–face interviews or appraisals.
It’s not just about people working from home, though this may be part of it – it’s about enabling businesses to be more connected from region to region or office to office, without creating unnecessary travel – after all, no one wants this threat to become a true pandemic and we all have a role to keep our people, our clients and our communities safe! A great example of this comes from GMO Internet Group who has had 4,000 employees based in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, (90% of its Japanese staff), work from home since January 27 in response to the outbreak.
Technology keeps us connected
Like it or not, coronavirus COVID–19 is already changing how and where we work. Collaboration and video conferencing technology such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and new 4G/5G devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro X is rapidly adding to the options we have for corporate collaboration that extends beyond dial-in/audio conferencing.
COVID-19, as well as the growing number of climate-related events, is forcing us to rethink how we promote telecommuting and how remote workers are provisioned. The UK Government has made it clear that we are still months away from the peak of the virus, meaning we need to reevaluate travel, telecommuting, and whether meetings are held on or off-site.
It‘s time we started looking at converged communications platforms so that users can easily collaborate without physically coming into contact with each other, leveraging integrated and global solutions to unify communications, blending visual and audio capabilities.
Making remote working work
Take advantage of Cisco and Microsoft’s offers!
With the news breaking on an almost hourly basis, at the time of writing, both Cisco and Microsoft are offering enhanced licences and features to its free accounts. Our collaboration experts and keeping up to date with all the available offers and you can speak with them by clicking here.
My 4 Top Tips
Aside from the flashy offers, let’s look at how we can leverage (or invest if we don’t use them today) in tools such as Office 365, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams to provide seamless and integrated collaboration to enables us to communicate over voice and video, while also working and co-authoring in real-time.
Regardless of your tool and integrated platform of choice – here’s my tips for staying productive and connected wherever you’re based:
1. Stay Healthy and Active
The move to remote work is about protecting physical health and minimising exposure – that said – my daily commute is my time to reflect, get fresh air and some exercise. Working at home takes this away, so it’s important that my working environment is a place is without distractions – but also somewhere that I can take breaks to ensure time away from screens.
2. Keep Calm and Carry On!
For people or teams that are not used to working remotely, it can be tempting to put things off. Leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams or Webex can enable us to do pretty much everything online. So, if you’ve scheduled large, one–on–one, or client meetings – do them online! You can still share content, co-edit documents, collaborate on a whiteboard and brainstorm.
The key for me is video – use video. You can still see people, see expressions and focus on the meetings rather than keep working in the background while on mute.
3. Prepare and Support your team
Some already work like this – for others, it‘ll be new and daunting, so communication and support is key. Managers and HR should encourage us to have a place to work so we can continue uninterrupted, have spaces to get things done, have a good screen, headset and speaker.
When agile working becomes the norm (even if it’s just temporary), we need to get into the habit of using recording and transcribing features – this way if people can’t attend, it gives them the opportunity to catch up.
4. Remember – even your biggest meetings can be held online
Many us are used to using Microsoft Teams or Webex for quick calls or video chats, but with the low entry cost of formal meeting spaces (Teams Rooms Systems or Webex Room Kit Mini), large and formal meetings can be successfully held online – often with a better experience and facilities than those delivered in–person.
Keys to successful online meetings include setting a clear agenda, practising inclusion by resolving any audio and video issues at the start of the meeting, recording the meeting, and enabling audio captions where possible.
So, Does remote working… work?
While remote working works for some, we need to be aware of long term mindfulness and wellbeing, as well as how we deal with the often negative perception of remote working:
- Though organisations actively promote it, many of them believe that remote workers are disadvantaged, it’s a waste of time or that users don’t focus on work.
- That said, many employees state a lack of work-life and agile working as a reason why they leave a job and many don’t join an organisation due to a perceived lack of agile/flexible working.
- Organisations significantly “talk up” remote working when the job market is tight to attract new talent.
- A recent study shows that there is no career disadvantage to working remotely.
- Although, it’s interesting to note that when telecommuters increased face-to-face contact, either in person or video, they saw faster salary growth.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has already impacted the lives of people and businesses. Many companies and event organisers are now highly recommending travel restrictions as well as implementing new rules on restricting large public gatherings. Collaboration is an incredibly powerful way to help us carry on and manage through the challenges and changing time.
I expect most companies will be too late to embrace significant strategic change, but by recognising something like this is likely to happen again, the corporate world will be forced to evolve to avoid damage from our increasingly unpredictable and potentially hostile future – Adopt and Change will be the way we prevail!
So that’s my thoughts on the current situation, please fill in the form below if you’d like set up a remote working consultancy call with our collaboration experts. As both Cisco and Microsoft Gold partners, we’re in a strong position to help you and have a wide range of expertise to support your users.