Posted: 14/05/2020

James Baker, Business Development Manager at C5 Alliance, shares his experience of supporting businesses in lockdown to ensure staff remain productive and the technology continues to work.

I went into lockdown thinking managing the technology would be the biggest issue. I quickly realised it’s managing the kids, and their boredom, that was the biggest disruptor of all.

I regularly check in with my clients via video call for what I’ve dubbed ‘a coffee in the cloud’ where we get to chat through the problems they’re dealing with and find solutions that work for them.

It quickly became clear to me that many of them are rooted in families managing being at home all day with their children, juggling the need to get their work done and ensuring the schooling is happening.

That in turn has led to some unusual shift patterns; for example, mum working 5am to 12noon and then dad working 12noon to 7pm. It solves the problem of being there for the kids, but create a whole new set of issues, not least who to call at 5am when your password doesn’t work or that authentication token won’t do its thing.

I feel lucky to have worked remotely for many years before joining C5 Alliance. Many of the frustrations I hear from clients are ones I’ve experienced myself, over time, so it’s helpful to have been in their shoes in the past and be able to offer solutions now.

That split shift approach, with some very early starters or very late finishers, means the usual collaboration among teams becomes an issue. Quite simply knowing who’s available at what time becomes more essential than ever. Internal communication on that front, and more than a sprinkling of understanding and flexibility from others, is key.

While a workplace’s own service desk may not open for business until 9am, if you’re a 5am starter who’s locked out of their systems, can’t log on, or can’t make it through to their desktop through Citrix, bolting on an ad hoc support system can pay dividends in terms of productivity.

I’ve moved a number of clients across to our services which are available 24/7, with our teams working from both our usual Rue des Pres support site and from home, to ensure constant resilience.

But we’ve also seen growing demand for our Healthcheck Packs. We have one that focuses on GDPR compliance, and another on cyber-essentials. They’re proved invaluable in going through a methodical process of compliance checks, even more important when staff are suddenly using their own laptops and mobiles, with little or no time, upfront, to consider the implications of that. We work out where the holes in the technology and processes lie, and then work to fix them.

It’s an easy and quick way of offering comfort, confidence and – crucially – compliance, at a time when many businesses are having to adapt in a way they never have before.

I suspect, as a result of all this, we’ll see a shift in the way companies work, with plans that can be rolled out to cope with seasonal flu outbreaks. I’ve seen before the problems that arise when you suddenly lose 5 or 6 people from a team. What this current situation has shown us is that there are ways around this, including pre-emptively splitting up teams, and allowing people to operate effectively from home where they’d normally be sent home sick and productivity would grind to a halt for that individual.

For now, I’ll continue my coffees in the cloud, as the value of staying connected to my client over a cuppa via video call has proven invaluable for both them and me.

While I may not have cracked the problem of coping with the kids’ boredom, my colleagues and I are putting in place practical solutions to the knock-on technology and productivity problems.

So, if you want to join me for a virtual brew, get in touch. At the very least, I suspect, you’ll welcome the break.

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