Agile put to the test
Working from home is now the new norm for many workers across the country. The pace at which Coronavirus has accelerated this new norm could be the largest mass exercise in remote working in corporate history, according to the Daily Telegraph.
If organisations had roadmaps to become fully flexible and agile over the next two to three years, Coronavirus turned this vision into a reality almost overnight.
A reliable video conferencing service has become the staple of remote working since the country was put on lockdown; even government and mainstream media is now conducting most of its business this way.
Video conferencing apps saw a record 62m downloads during one week in March, according to Tech Crunch. It’s no surprise then that meeting Apps such as Teams, Zoom and VooV meeting all took spots in top 10 app downloads for App Store and Google Play for March. (there have definitely been some winners during Coronavirus!)
For Halton Housing, we’ve had a longstanding reputation for our agile and flexible working, which began at the beginning of the last decade. Through our Digital First programme, by 2016, agile really was the norm for most of our colleagues.
We recently contributed to an Inside Housing piece on how social landlords are shifting to remote working, sharing some of our insight and learnings. Transitioning to working fully flexibly at home in the wake of Coronavirus was therefore relatively seamless.
Our colleagues are equipped with all the kit they need to do their job from any location with laptops, iPads and mobiles rather than dedicated desks with desktop computers. Our Customer service team are able to deliver fantastic customer service from any location.
We have been using Office 365 now for a number of years, but it has now become more important than ever. Documents are stored using SharePoint, allowing colleagues to share information quickly and effectively, whilst ensuring ‘one version of the truth’.
Our colleagues are highly engaged users of Yammer – our core internal communication platform. Like all other company updates, it has been the most sensible option to post all our Coronavirus updates on there. (If you are not fully utilising Yammer or have yet to sign your organisation up, we really would recommend it!)
Perhaps it is Microsoft Teams which has emerged the biggest hero of the hour! With 330 members of staff all working in different locations, how would colleagues meet and engage with one another?
Halton Housing’s ICT Services Manager, Joe Saleh explains the quick-fire action from his team to ensure we were geared up for remote meetings with Teams:
“Ensuring we were geared up for remote meetings was probably the biggest challenge for our ICT team. We have had Microsoft Teams for several years but only a handful of teams such as ICT and our Growth and Development team were really utilising it. Coronavirus changed all that! Plans were in place for a company-wide roll out during 2020, but we quickly realised that we needed to get all colleagues signed up, trained on it and using it to connect to remote meetings.
We created an engaging Sway Presentation to give colleagues an overview of Teams, sharing it on Yammer so it was accessible to all.
Not stopping there, a collaboration between ICT and Learning and Development teams to support this transition saw the launch of virtual Teams training sessions. Feedback on the software, and our support has been extremely positive in supporting colleagues with the software.”
Just some of the comments from colleagues about using Teams:
“We have used Teams meetings on a couple of occasions now successfully and will be using it more frequently now more and more meetings need to be done remotely. Sharing your screen with the other attendees was also useful. If I can use it it’s certainly simple and user friendly.👍”
“Fab thank you for the training session yesterday using Teams…it was great – so easy to use and not clunky like Skype can be.”
“Just to say that I sat in on the Teams training session today and found it very worthwhile. I can only encourage you all to use Teams going forward. Also, to sign up for one of the future training sessions, especially if like me you are a little unsure on how to use it!”
Teams is not just being used for formal meetings and catch-ups; it is also helping to support colleague mental health. Colleagues are using it for virtual coffee meetups and fun lunchtime quizzes. It’s helping to limit the impact on productivity but also offering a fantastic way for colleagues to support each other, laugh together and take care of each other.
What about life after Coronavirus?
What does the future hold once restrictions are lifted? Well, it’s safe to say that many organisations have managed to achieve in weeks (sometimes days!) what they thought would take years.
Once the world returns to normality, remote working will no longer be unusual. What many believed could never be done from home, actually can be. Remote working will be high on prospective employees’ radars when looking for new jobs, and employers must adapt to this new norm.
A pivotal shift has taken place. Agile is the new norm. Is there ever any going back now?
Debbie Trust-DickinsonInterim Chief Operating Officer
Debbie oversees the programme of work arising from our recent IT review, the next phase of our Customeyes programme, our repairs service and ensuring that our compliance processes and systems are robust.
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