Mike Odysseas, managing director Odyssey Systems, discusses how advances in technology can make remote working very simple following the coronavirus threat
Send everyone home right now.
That’s not an over-reaction to the spreading coronavirus but part of the forward planning necessary to ensure our services are maintained. In an ideal world, organisations would test their procedures and infrastructures by insisting anyone able to fulfil their role from home does so immediately. This would quickly confirm that the technology works, that employees possess the necessary training and provides the time to address any unforeseen issues. It would also further reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
Several high-profile businesses in the United States – including Twitter, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook – have already asked their employees to work from home. Meanwhile, an increasing number of businesses and organisations in the UK are offering staff the option or certainly drawing up contingency plans, a figure expected to rapidly increase in the weeks ahead.
The government has already warned that up to a fifth of the workforce could be off sick during the peak of any epidemic, while prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that enforced home working is an option should the situation worsen.
Agile internet telephony technology
One piece of good fortune is the impending demise of the outdated ISDN system, which has already prompted many organisations to switch to more agile internet telephony technology, such as SIP. This replaces the traditional landline, anchoring staff to their office desk, in favour of a cloud-based system. This technology delivers advanced remote working capabilities, video and web conferencing plus the flexibility to add or remove users without disruption or extra cost.
Installing a hosted system is both easy and inexpensive and offers complete freedom with the ability to connect staff in the car, at home or across multiple sites via desktop phone, laptop or mobile app – offering the same functionality as an office-based system. Call quality is guaranteed to be superior to a landline or user’s mobile. Any issues surrounding background noise are easily solved with noise-cancelling headsets. So, the technology is available to ensure working from home is not only viable but beneficial – in terms of reduced costs and time saved commuting.
Supply employees with equipment
However, I would advise against organisations relying on staff using their own personal laptops for work purposes, instead supply them with basic laptops to retain control and ensure they are protected from cyber-security threats.
After all, there are other viruses to beware of.
The other thing to consider is that IP telephones, also referred to as VoIP, that use internet protocol require a special power supply. They are already in short supply, being sourced from China, so it would be wise to order them as quickly as possible. Even better, use a telephony app or have calls diverted to an employee’s mobile.
Remote working lifestyle
The current coronavirus outbreak may signal a sea-change in the UK’s attitude to home working. Once the health concerns have receded and the technology has been proven, remote working may become more of a lifestyle choice.
The Office of National Statistics is already predicting that 50% of UK employees will be working remotely by the end of 2020, while 90% of employees say they’d like the opportunity to work remotely, at least part-time.
Modern technology makes it possible for any organisation to follow the lead of Twitter and Google by having their staff work from home – or virtually any location. Such a capability is crucial when it comes to preserving the economy and maintaining services should the UK fall victim to an epidemic – but it can also save both businesses and their employees time and money.
Various studies have found those working from home are more productive and so the practice can have a positive effect.
We have simply grown used to operating as part of a team in a fixed location, but everyone can learn to work differently. Once this current situation is over, I believe it will usher in a new era, with more organisations adopting a positive attitude towards remote working as cloud-based solutions grow and reshape every sector.
As well as saving time and money, this technology can make a positive contribution not only to our work life balance but in reducing our carbon footprint.
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