Businesses busy solving your WFH challenges

1 July 2020

Since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, remote working has gradually become business as usual for many workforces. While some businesses have struggled with shifting to WFH mode, others have transitioned smoothly to the new reality of remote working. We met with Åke Nilsson, Director of SCC member Gecko Technology Partners and Andrew Hamlett, Head of Technical Operations UK at SCC member Telavox, to discuss what this experience has meant for their clients, how the social aspect of remote working can be as big of a hurdle as technology, and what working life will look like when we start emerging from lockdown.

Telavox is the market-leading Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) platform in Scandinavia and is rapidly gaining ground in the UK. “We offer a hosted telephony solution with mobile-centric management over a simple management user experience,” Andrew Hamlett, Head of Technical Operations UK at Telavox, explains. With Telavox offering a Cloud Service Provision, its service can be accessed from any device and location with an internet connection: “Remote working with Telavox is a reality. We not only offer voice, but embedded video, instant messaging and web chat, along with integrations to other collaborative and analytic desktop business tools.”

Collaboration at the heart
“Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. We provide solutions for enhancing collaboration in a very cost-effective manner whilst encouraging a video-first culture,” says Åke Nilsson, Director of Gecko Technology Partners, Google’s largest partner for Google Cloud Meeting Solutions outside of the US. The main product provided is Google Meet, formerly known as Hangouts Meet, which is Google’s Video Conference Solution for meeting rooms. “Whilst there is no ‘typical client’ so to speak, every client has an emphasis on enhanced collaboration and improved communication. Everything we offer is based on Google’s solutions where security and confidentiality are paramount and ease of use is key,” Åke says.

Collaboration is key
Whilst seeing a reduction in the usage of meeting rooms as a result of the pandemic lockdown, Åke says they saw a sharp increase in personal use of Google Meet and hence the need of personal collaboration kits, including Google’s Chromebooks. “However, these will be required going forward as well, allowing for flexible working conditions. We will continue to provide advice and to facilitate the equipment necessary to cater for the changed demands in remote working which we are seeing globally.”

Since the remote working challenge was enforced, Telavox has also experienced a large increase in demand. “Collaboration has become key, especially over the last few months,“ Andrew says. “The biggest marker of operational challenges is actually retaining a level of regulation versus productivity and professionalism. Making sure that your staff is in a keyframe of mind in order to conduct their role and bringing a social aspect into that helps. The Telavox instant messaging function enables you to chat, share stories, videos and incentives, which helps keep the morale and productivity up.”

“From a management perspective, it is a case of understanding and accepting that managing a remote team is different from having everybody in the same office. Thus, one has to be mindful of regular communication and checking in on everybody’s wellbeing,” Åke concurs.

Level of preparedness varies
Åke believes that the level of preparedness varies significantly between companies: “Examples of companies being well prepared are the likes of Google obviously, where remote working is in the DNA,” he says. Similarly, but on a somewhat smaller scale, Gecko itself has been well prepared for remote working: “The philosophy at Gecko from day one has been to have a paperless office and to have everything in the cloud. Hence, the closing of the office for lockdown and to have everybody working from home was to a great extent a non-event as far as technology and processes were concerned.”

When liaising with other parties working remotely, Åke does see a variation of preparedness, in the equipment being used, the quality of Internet connection and the environment where someone is taking a call, but says that the biggest hurdle to overcome for unaccustomed remote workers seems to be camera shyness. “At Gecko we believe a video conference is no different to an in-person meeting. What we typically see is that any shyness goes away relatively quickly whilst having the camera on, and seeing everybody you are talking to becomes perfectly natural, replicating the typical in-person meeting. Seeing someone’s body language is such an important element of communication and hence the benefits of leaving the camera on become evident very quickly.”

Andrew agrees that many businesses have not been prepared for the implications of remote working, especially when collaboration between offices is key, both nationally and internationally: “Mergers and acquisitions are prevalent in the industry and the one thing that often seems to be left behind is the mergers within the IT and telephony projects. This can end up causing a lot of confusion and huge loss of productivity, especially if the solutions on-site are legacy and are not designed to be flexible and offer a ‘working from anywhere’ solution.” He adds: “Working from home has been in the press a lot due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although solutions with a true unified communications value, has always allowed you to work from anywhere – not just at home.”

On the other side of the pandemic
Both Andrew and Åke believe that this experience will change the mindset of many businesses and that they will look differently on remote working on the other side of the pandemic. “I reckon this is inevitable and positive in many ways,” says Åke. “Not only does it open opportunities for remote collaboration – companies that might have been apprehensive about homeworking before, now realise this is definitely workable from many perspectives. It allows for the catering of employees’ personal circumstances and lifestyles, and thus, could lead to an increased level of happiness among the workforce.”

According to Andrew, the UK has always seemed to hold off offering the flexible working environment that other countries in Europe have offered for years. “This seems to be down to the misconception that ‘new solutions’ that enable this style of working are expensive and difficult to manage and maintain, when it is actually the complete opposite.” He believes we will see a future with more flexibility in the workplace and a more relaxed structure in the office space, but that cost is going to be key: “As legislation states that if you are a contracted worker and have to work from a non-office environment, the company that you are under the employ of, needs to reimburse you for utilities used. I think contractual agreements between staff members and business will be brought to task and many companies will be offering a more balanced work-life system which will include the provision of a working from home policy.”

Optimistic outlook
Before the outbreak, at the beginning of the year, Gecko expanded by moving into new offices and taking on more staff. “Whilst many businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, I am pleased to say that everyone at Gecko is still fully employed,” says Åke and adds that an expansion to Austin, Texas, is in the works. From having had a slower start than initially planned, the US operations have been catapulted into action, having won the largest individual order in Gecko’s history during the pandemic, to equip 272 rooms with Google Meet video conferencing equipment. “The foundation for further growth has been built while it has been relatively quiet, ready for when the floodgates open.”

Andrew also has an optimistic outlook when talking about the future of Telavox. “We have a strong roadmap laid out for our services. We are introducing enhanced functionality, added integrations and more usability, all becoming a reality over the coming months ahead,” says Andrew.

By: Jonas Eklund


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