How are you and your business managing in these very challenging circumstances?

As we all navigate our way through these uncharted waters, we want to use our website news page and social media feeds to share with you what we are doing to look after our clients and employees, and to remind you that we are always at the end of the phone or email to help you wherever we can.

In this piece I also want to take a look at what we have all seen and learnt over the past few weeks. Keeping in contact is very important because we all miss social interactions. My view, and this is echoed throughout ITPS, is that there does not need to be a reason to keep in contact, perhaps someone would just welcome a keep in touch call.

Here at ITPS our support services team has seen a 30% increase in the number of incidents logged, and taken double the number of phone calls in an average month, with the majority of the uplift coming in since businesses started to work from home.

In the normal run of business we don’t support users directly, but rather we support business IT teams. We made a conscious decision to support customers by extending support direct to their home users, to help prevent the business IT teams being over-run.

We have had to be flexible and I believe our customers appreciate this. We’re happy to have helped hundreds of customers, and thousands of individual users, to set up and get to grips with home working so they can keep their businesses running.

For many organisations it has been their first foray into delivering remote working on a large scale, and essentially transforming the way they operate. It has required some agility on their part to adapt, and we’ve been glad to play our part within the spirit of service delivery when and where it’s needed, both inside and outside of contract parameters. Flexibility has been key, for instance we’ve helped customers take crash courses and become super-users of Microsoft Teams practically overnight. It’s vital that service providers like ourselves can flex and adapt at times like these.

An example of this is a recent request from NHS England, who were looking for additional support, concerned about Easter Bank Holiday and weekend cover, and a ramp up of demand over the crisis period. In recognition of the critical work they are doing, we’ve been able to absorb the cost of extending support 24/7 during the crisis. It is more important than ever that we all do our bit at the moment, and our thanks go to those staff who have stepped up to volunteer to cover the extra shifts required to provide the additional support. Not all superheroes wear a cape, as the saying goes.

Security has naturally topped every client’s list of concerns, and we’ve been offering guidance to customers on how to manage their security concerns, as well as tips around what users need to be wary of while away from their normal environment. Many users have also needed help on everyday tasks such as accessing emails, files, firewalls, VPN’s, authentication, and managing processes that were set up for on-premise rather than home working.

I strongly urge all of our customers and all of their remote users to be extra vigilant at this time. Sadly, the undesirable elements of society will still be looking for opportunities to wreak havoc.

Anecdotally, there has been the softer side of home working to come to terms with too. Thousands of workers have had to learn how to establish a professional routine, and look after their health and well-being as well as getting the work done. And some have also had to factor in home schooling for their children – well done to everyone who has managed that particular juggling act.

It’s been a real learning curve for a lot of the working population. Some have discovered that working solo is not their forte and they prefer to be surrounded by colleagues to bounce ideas off, share information with, or even just join in a bit of banter. Others have relished the peace and quiet and having time to concentrate not just on fire-fighting and immediate matters, but on consolidation and growth strategies for when we emerge from lockdown.

Employers have swiftly realised that technology, and cloud services in particular, has a vital role to play in making sure teams can still work as teams, deliver the right level of output, and even socialise remotely. We’ve seen the market leading collaborative platform Microsoft Teams, which we use across our own business, turned into the software of choice for holding daily meetings, and our news feeds are full of people using free software such as Zoom to hold virtual Friday night quizzes and get-togethers that even include sharing drinks and pizza. These products are extremely easy communication tools, and their usage will continue to grow. That said, we strongly suggest that business owners consider that free software, whist functional, can bring with it security risks.

As managing director of a technology business that will be marking its 20th anniversary this year. I saw a comment on social media that really struck a chord. It said something along the lines of ‘Imagine this scenario 20 years ago, you would have been stuck at home with an ancient Nokia and 100 texts a month, and then what would you have done?’ It’s technology that is making working from home possible, as well as keeping families entertained while we are stuck indoors.

At the moment the future timetable remains uncertain. In the UK we could see lockdown and working from home policies in force for weeks, or even months, in line with Covid-19 modelling and government advice.

When society goes back to normal, we may well find that normal has changed for all of us, now that employers have experienced first-hand the commercial, social and even environmental benefits that home working can deliver for their business.

All we do know for sure is that working life is unlikely to ever be the same as it was pre-Covid19. And you can be sure that organisations which innovate and embrace new ways of working and connecting will be the ones that come out of this with a head start.

Garry Sheriff, managing director, ITPS