The pandemic and lockdown has forced many companies and organisations to rely on remote working for the past few months.
Business leaders in Wearside say employers and their employees’ have embraced the change to work from home.
And the ability to adapt to change has helped them cope with the crisis – and will shape the future of business in the region.
We asked these business leaders, how has your company adapted to people working from home during the pandemic and how do you think remote working will shape the future of the workplace?
Geoff Burns, head of sales and customer experience, Nice Network
As a company specialising in providing remote working solutions and unified communications, the world we were operating in during lockdown was second nature to us.
Due to the requirements of their roles, our business development team have had the option to work remotely for some time, therefore it was only our engineers, business support staff and general office workers who we had to help adapt to working remotely.
However, thanks to collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and remotely deployable IT solutions, it didn’t really take us long at all.
Looking forward, we will continue to operate from Comms House, however the extending of our remote working policy beyond the business development team is certainly something that we’ll be considering over the coming months.
The pandemic has forced organisations the world-over to adapt to remote working and for many, the way their employees work and communicate with one another will never be the same again.
With the right connectivity and with applications such as Nice Network TeamsTalk, businesses are realising quickly that their employees can work from anywhere, be it at home or a café, which reduces operating costs and increasing productivity.
Paul Carmody, head of IT, Esh Group
The impact of the pandemic has been adopted amazingly well by our employees at Esh and we shifted an entire business to home working within a matter of days.
The majority of meetings, both internal and external, are held using Microsoft Teams and we are now looking to leverage Teams further, replacing the traditional telephone with a scalable cloud voice platform.
This will further support our objective of having a fully scalable IT infrastructure and frictionless set of services for our business and staff.
Esh Group has introduced home working as a policy, giving greater flexibility and choice to our employees, which in turn acts as an incentive to attract the best talent into our business in the future.
It is inevitable that the pandemic will cause a permanent change to our future workplace culture, with all documents eventually stored electronically and offices being re-designed for occasional visits, necessary face-to-face meetings and hot desking.
At Esh, we envisage a future where anyone can work from anywhere, underpinned by robust technology, appropriate governance and IT security controls.
Louise Bradford, managing director, Creo Communications
As a creative communications agency, we believe the best workplaces are those that foster free-thinking; spaces that inspire and drive imagination and productivity.
While remote working may not be for everyone, for some, home is the place they feel most comfortable and relaxed – and that might mean they work more effectively from there.
Everyone is different, and many modern businesses that have the freedom to do so recognise that responding to those differences by operating in more flexible ways supports employees to perform at their best.
Creating opportunities for people to work from home is something we have always embraced, and we will continue to do so as we look to the future.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that video conferencing platforms are a great way of reducing your carbon footprint, cutting costs and working more collaboratively – and they will no doubt play a key role in helping shape the workplace of the future.
But I firmly believe that there is no replacement for people coming together face-to-face, which is why we are preparing to move into our new city centre office which is currently being renovated and includes collaborative spaces for our team and clients to make use of as and when we can.
Stuart Hylton, managing director, Artech Lighting
As a true UK manufacturer based in County Durham, the initial impact on our business from the pandemic was minimal due to our low reliance on imported components.
However, the introduction of social distancing measures presented us with a whole new challenge, especially in terms of our business development teams.
Prior to the pandemic, most of our client interactions were face-to-face but during lockdown, our management team quickly realised that a new way of working was required.
As a result, we have embraced remote working and video conferencing and have allocated funds to create up to six new positions at our Durham headquarters as part of our soon to be launched in-house sales team.
While some of our business development teams will continue to conduct face-to-face meetings with clients and partners, we have been impressed with the cost and time savings associated with video conferencing and are confident that it will play a key role in helping grow the business as we look to the future.
Ali West Scott, All Together Better
We have been conducting all our client work via telephone and video calls during the pandemic. The fundamentals of the counselling or therapy remain the same, but we are not driving to work and back and seeing clients in the same room.
It did take a little bit of adjusting to but we soon settled into it and it works very well. I am really enjoying working this way and, although it is not the full face-to-face experience, it is not far from it.
I also find that some clients feel more deeply engaged and able to open up more when communicating remotely. The containment and familiarity of being in their own safe space helps them get more out the sessions.
I feel that some of our preconceptions about telephone or online working have probably been completely busted by our experiences during lockdown.
Offering remote working to all of our clients in future is a real benefit. There will obviously be clients who need that face-to-face interaction, but many will be comfortable to continue remotely.