[This post is part of our COVID-19 response. Click here to see all posts on this topic]
Businesses and individuals around the world are trying to figure out exactly what impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic means to them, and how best to prepare for the virus and resulting restrictions and lockdown.
As part of this, we felt it important to keep you updated on the decisions we are making for the safety of our staff, clients and community, and provide you with important information on how you can prepare your business.
We are in uncertain times but it seems very likely that restrictions are going to quickly escalate in the coming days and weeks, which will dramatically impact life and business for all of us.
We are ready. We are prepared and available to support your business during this uncertain time. As a born-in-the-cloud IT firm, we designed our systems to operate with a remote workforce from the ground up. The pandemic is forcing a lot of us to reinvent how we live and work, but we are ready. This is not business as usual, but all of our support functions are fully operational.
We are not taking this lightly. We are prioritizing the health and safety of our team, their families, our clients and our communities.
We are focused on supporting our clients. Our top business priority is to ensure that we can continue to support you and your business continuity plans. Our team is meeting (virtually, of course) twice daily to review the situation and our clients’ needs and plans.
In line with PHE guidance, we have switched to working from home. We are fully operational and as most of our work is delivered remotely, there should be very little impact on the service you receive from us. This is not business as usual, but we are fully operational.
Onsite assistance is currently still available but will be based on severity and a risk assessment. We remain committed to delivering a great service and keeping our staff, clients and communities as safe as possible.
We are switching to video calls by default instead of in-person meetings. We understand this is not always possible and will consider in-person meetings on a case by case basis, and continue to follow PHE guidance on the subject.
Global IT supply chains have already been impacted (and in the case of China are already recovering) so we are seeing longer lead times on hardware. Software and cloud services are for the most part still available as usual, but we are also seeing the increased remote working load taking a toll on cloud services. We do expect major cloud providers to respond and scale infrastructure very quickly and trust that any short-term blips will be resolved fairly quickly.
One of the key things we recommend you do is to look at your business continuity plan and assess your remote work readiness.
Many of our clients are already working remotely, especially if they’re in the cloud. If not, VPN, remote desktop and other remote access solutions are available and can be deployed quite quickly. Of course, some businesses don’t translate 100% to remote working – so operating a mix of staff onsite and offsite, or splitting your onsite workforce into multiple shifts, with only some coming in at any one time to increase social distance and limit the impact of what happens if a team member starts to feel unwell.
If you’re not sure how to start with your continuity planning or remote work readiness, please get in touch with us and we will help you with this. This is absolutely free of charge. Alternatively, here are some resources to help you get started.
First and foremost, ensure your lines of communications continue to remain open and working well. Phone and email remain the primary channels for direct public communications. Chat and video are great for internal communication between remote teams. Use all your public communication channels to let your audiences know what you’re doing.
If you use our CloudVoice phone system, for the next 3 months, we are giving you free access to our computer and mobile apps which give you full ‘desk phone’ functionality regardless of where you are. You also get additional features such as video calling, conference rooms, content sharing and more. Simply email [email protected] and request that we set you up.
CloudVoice users can also take your desk phone home with you and plug it into your internet router at home. You will likely need an additional power adapter – please email [email protected] and we should be able to ship these to you on a next-day basis.
If you’re not on our system, check if your system supports mobile apps or if there is a control panel you can use to set up diverts. If nothing else, if you can set up a divert on your landline, we can set you up on our CloudVoice platform in a matter of minutes at a heavily discounted rate to quickly give you a full cloud-based system with the ability to do anything we want with calls including setting up custom welcome messages, auto attendant (IVR), schedules, smart routing of calls to people and apps, visual voicemail, voicemail to email, and everything else a modern system offers.
Make sure your emails continue to work, and set automatic replies as appropriate. You may need to set up new procedures to ensure emails are being dealt with, especially using shared mailboxes. You may want to designate mailbox delegates to allow a ‘buddy’ to access a colleague’s mailbox in case one of them is unavailable.
We recommend you carry out a full remote work readiness assessment, but here are a few initial things to consider:
- Do your staff have the equipment they need to work from home?
- Will they be using company IT or their own?
- If they are using their own, do you have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in place?
- Do your staff have good internet connections at home?
- Do your staff have a place at home that they can work well from?
Click here for some general home-working tips, thoughts on working remotely during challenging times and tips on staying productive when working remotely with Microsoft Teams.
Schedule regular team calls and check-ins. Remember, staff who are used to working in an office with others may feel disconnected or isolated working from home. Video calls are fantastic for this, much more human than just a phone call.
Cybersecurity is a very important topic as remote working creates additional risk, especially when setting up quickly in response to an event like this. Here’s our remote working cyber checklist.
Health & safety: as an employer, you have a continuing responsibility for the health and safety of your staff, even if they are working from home.
If your offices are going to be empty for an extended period of time, make sure you have thought about the security of your equipment and premises, locks, keyholders and emergency access, alarms and codes, remote CCTV access, etc.
A number of providers have free options available and we can help you set these up quickly.
Microsoft Teams – now available for 6 months for free. Click here or contact us for help setting this up.
Cisco Webex have upgraded their free plan with additional features and unlimited usage.
Zoom have a free version – there are limits to this version, but it will work absolutely fine for periodic quick check-ins with your team. [Update: Zoom have removed the time limit on free group calls]
If you’re already a G-suite customer, you can get free access to the advanced features of Hangouts Meet.
Wherever possible and depending on your infrastructure, we are going to help our clients set up VPN access with free licences. Please contact us for more information.
Free SimplySecure full device encryption licences during the Coronavirus outbreak. Contact us for details.
There are many grat online training platforms you can use, we won’t try and list them all. That said, for those of you who are already on Office 365 and are transitioning to using Teams for remote working – Bigger Brains Teams Training is probably a great resource for your team.
If you’re thinking of using the time to improve your digital presence, DigitalMarketer.com has opened up their fantastic library for free to help those impacted by Covid-19.
Facebook Business Grants: $100M in cash grants and ad credits
And of course, the government announced a £330bn package to help ease the economic impact of Covid-19.
If you can, please reach out to your customers and community to see how you can help. Share ideas, knowledge and positivity. If you need help, reach out to your community and ask for help.
Take the time to think about how to improve your digital presence during this time. Or, take a course, whether it is acquiring new work skills or finally learning to play the guitar. There is a lot we don’t know, but we know that we are not going to be able to stick to our usual routines during this time. If we can accept and embrace that change, we will be in a much better place.
If you can afford to, pay all your staff even if they aren’t delivering the same service. Tech giants are a great example of this – yes, they can afford to. Pay your suppliers (especially smaller ones) on time or quicker. Morrisons are a great example of this.
On the other hand, if the responsible choice is to limit the impact to your payroll, consider asking staff to take their holidays during this period.
Think about the mental health of your remote team and remember to stay in touch. Video conferencing is a great tool for this. There are many questions in everyone’s minds at the moment – how long will this last, how will we manage, what will happen to our finances, business, families? We don’t know the answers but we can focus on having the best day we can today.
Read the news for information and updates – once a day after the daily PM’s briefing is probably enough to keep up with developments. Constantly looking at breaking news, social media and WhatsApp forwards can really upset our brains and doesn’t help at all. Find an inspirational book to read and turn to that instead of reaching for your phone and news / social apps.
Whether enabling a remote workforce, ensuring business continuity or providing simple, human advice, support and friendship – we are here to help.
We give you our thanks for everything you are doing to protect your communities during this difficult time. It is our privilege to do our part.
Thank you for the trust you put in us.