//Ask the ABTA expert

Ask the ABTA expert

Can I improve remote working for my staff?
The current coronavirus pandemic has forced me to shut down my high street shop. This has caused me many serious logistical problems, plus my staff are feeling increasingly isolated, although we do our best to keep in contact. Are there things I could have done better to prepare or things I can still do now to improve matters? Anon

I can give you some examples of what we’ve done and are doing at ABTA, which hopefully will be of use.

 We have worked hard over the years at ABTA to make sure that if the office were unavailable, for any number of reasons, we would be able to carry out most of our business activity remotely. Staff would either work from home or from a secondary location at a partner’s office. We also moved to a cloud-based telephone system so people can have handsets at home, or an app on their mobile, to continue answering calls unimpeded.

Built into our plan is an understanding that there would be some things that are not available, or possible, for the duration of the incident, but, what we’ve actually managed to do is displace the whole company and provide a near complete level of service to our colleagues and members.

The first thing we had to think about before we started sending people home was what they were going to use to access the system. About half of the ABTA team already use laptops in the office to support our agile working environment, so these have access to our VPN, but that meant ensuring the other half were able to work on their own equipment or we had to hand out some spare laptops that we had in the office. Next, we had to think about whether the screen size of their laptop was “good enough” or if we would need to give them the monitor from their desks to take or send home. Then there are considerations about the space people have at home and whether that’s even suitable to work in.

We were able to expand our remote desktop infrastructure, giving people near to normal access to the system, but what we hadn’t accounted for was the inbound bandwidth limitations on our firewall. We had major speed and reliability issues. Fortunately, our internet service provider has put together a special package to temporarily expand the bandwidth and throughput of our firewall.

After all of this, you need to be sure that your people can stay in touch with each other. The unexpected saviour for us has been Microsoft Teams. We have daily conversations in our teams, weekly huddles with the management team and even quiz nights. You have to remember: it’s good to talk! Mark McDonald, senior IT Manager