The business world was catapulted into turbulence and uncertainty in March when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and companies were forced almost immediately into remote work. Though it has been a highly testing time for many businesses, the crisis has also showcased the virtues of flexible working.
For organisations that had already embraced remote working to some degree, their perceptions of its value have been verified. For those that had resisted or been sceptical of remote working, their views have been challenged having now experienced it first-hand. They may have been forced into it, but they are now seeing positives outcomes.
One of the key inhibitors to companies embracing remote working in the past was a prevailing view that it might hinder employee productivity. However, a recent study of 2,250 office workers by LogMeIn and OnePoll revealed the contrary with 37 per cent in fact feeling more productive in their home environment. They’re also happier. Two in three workers said they are financially better off without daily commuting and lunch bills, and 56 per cent said they are spending more time with their friends and family.
Where challenges have existed in the sudden shift to mass remote working, these are in the area of security. LogMeIn, which has kept businesses collaborating throughout the pandemic with its video conferencing, chat and webinar tools, builds end-to-end encryption into its VoIP (voice over internet protocol) platforms, prevents unauthorised use of its services or compromise of company assets, protects the privacy and integrity of confidential communications, and integrates seamlessly with other networks and security tools.
“Those key pillars are the foundations of how we build our products at LogMeIn across all our business units,” says Joseph Walsh, senior manager for international product marketing, unified communications and collaboration, at LogMeIn.
“We always strive to do what we can to make sure we’re as secure as we possibly can be for our customers, but there are also a number of things our end-users can do. When hosting video-conferencing meetings, for example, they can use features like meeting lock for enhanced privacy and remove anybody who shouldn’t be there. They can implement additional security levels like putting passwords in place for meetings and only give access to content to specific people.”
Though the world was already moving towards a more flexible work environment before the pandemic, with research by Global Workplace Analytics reporting a 140 per cent increase since 2005, COVID-enforced lockdowns have accelerated the trend by several years.
Facebook has led the charge in announcing its plans for a permanent home workforce, with an “aggressive” remote hiring spree driving its objective for half its employees to be home based over the next five to ten years.
The social networking giant has said it is likely to adapt salaries to match local costs of living, but changes will also be required around culture and specific considerations given for each employee’s lifestyle and home circumstances. Employers need to be especially empathetic and flexible to the different stages of life their employees are in while working for them. For example, a parent with school-age children has different needs than a young professional in a house share or somebody living alone in a small apartment.
The future work is going to be a more flexible work environment, something that is dynamic and can adapt to each employee
This empathy plays into a wider strategy around corporate culture. Trust is a massive element of remote working and employees who feel trusted by management will be happier and more productive. Employees also need to trust their management that their output and performance will be measured in the most appropriate way. When LogMeIn’s whole workforce began working from home, it published a content resource centre giving advice to first-time remote workers and those managing remote teams.
“A lot of it is just simple stuff around the importance of getting up like you normally would in the morning, having a shower, having a dedicated workspace and treating the day like you would if you were going into the office,” says Walsh. “That all falls under that cultural umbrella, and trust, maturity and empathy are crucial. Culture will make or break companies as they continue to progress in this new normal we find ourselves in.
“The future work is going to be a more flexible work environment, something that is dynamic and can adapt to each employee. At different stages of our working career, we’re in different stages of our personal life and we have different requirements. Work needs to be flexible and adapt to that because the benefits are universal. An organisation gets more productivity, employees are happier, and that creates a longer relationship between the employer and employee, reducing costs and staff turnover.”
LogMeIn didn’t only seek to provide additional support to its employees during the COVID-19 crisis, but to its customers too. The company made all its tools available for free to thousands of organisations, both existing customers that were consuming some but not all of its solutions and frontline organisations in healthcare and education, so they could stay productive and operating at full force with such a scattered workforce.
While other platforms have struggled with spikes in demand, LogMeIn has led the way in reliability. The constant availability of unified communications tools is vital as companies continue to embrace remote working, and business continuity will remain crucial in the next year to 18 months as restrictions are eased, but a vaccine is yet to materialise. Any business continuity plan needs to place people at the forefront of its thinking, and how they can be supported in their surroundings and work environment.
“You need to empower the workforce with tools like ours that are easy to use and encourage maximum collaboration and productivity,” says Walsh. “We facilitate anything from a large town hall broadcast, addressing 100,000 employees, to team sessions and one to ones. Once you have the empathetic element of corporate culture, you also have to ‘put your arms around’ the IT team.
“With thousands of employees in thousands of different locations, they need remote management and monitoring tools and as much self-service IT troubleshooting and chatbot functionality as possible. We’re the work-from-anywhere company and are here to support anywhere workers in the flexible new normal we’re entering.”
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Sage boosts customer service with industry-first webinars
Accounting software and payments firm Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to help manage their finances, operations and people. Its cloud-based applications have proved invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing small companies, often dubbed the engine of the economy, to continue with business as usual.
When the UK government’s Making Tax Digital scheme went live last year, it coincided with the busy payroll year-end period. Sage initiated an industry-first live Q&A webinar series to manage a tripling in demand for technical support. Via live daily two-hour sessions, the service provided timely demonstrations and answers to customers’ questions.
“It was the first time anyone in our industry had attempted this type of one-to-many customer support and we were so encouraged by the response,” says Jonny Wright, customer services team manager at Sage, which soon expanded the popular service to five all-day webinars each day, providing support for different software packages.
Due to the increased demand, however, problems emerged with the software platform because it was not specifically designed for webinar hosting. It struggled to cope with the increased usage and attendees reported problems downloading the software.
After an initial trial, Sage switched to LogMeIn’s GoToWebinar to host the daily sessions, taking advantage of numerous benefits that improved the experience for customers and Sage’s technicians. Crucially, access via a web browser meant there was no need to download software, immediately eliminating any software-related problems for customers. Attendees simply provide a name and email to gain immediate access.
We believe virtual events are here to stay and that they actually enhance our offering
Sage has continued to use GoToWebinar through the various webinar series it now offers. Its technicians running the live sessions can more easily find unanswered queries and prioritise the most important questions. By using the ‘camera-on’ mode, they can improve engagement with attendees, while the built-in deep analytics means they can measure feedback, gather data on individual sessions and identify common questions.
For customers, privacy is improved since no names appear on screen, which also eliminates any reticence they might have about posting questions in a public forum.
“The transition to GoToWebinar was absolutely seamless,” says Wright. “The platform is extremely easy to use, with minimal training, and we had excellent support from LogMeIn.” Sage has also found it easy to ramp up provision in response to demand, as it has during the COVID-19 crisis, because technicians can quickly learn how to use it.
The Q&A Live service has significantly improved customer service productivity, with technicians fielding three times as many queries as a phone-based frontline agent does in a day. It has also seen a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction, with net promoter scores for Q&A Live growing from around 40 to 60 before the switch to GoToWebinar, to between 70 and 80, and customer satisfaction scores average more than 95 per cent.
“Since switching to GoToWebinar, we’ve had lots of amazing feedback about how much people love this contact channel,” says Wright. “It’s interactive and creates a sense of community, there are no waiting times and questions are answered quickly, so we get a lot of repeat visitors. Sales colleagues also use it as an added benefit to support customers and our frontline call centre teams promote it as a faster way for customers to get their issues resolved.
“Q&A Live is an industry first and I’m confident that by using GoToWebinar we can make it the first-choice support channel for our customers.”
When COVID-19 forced businesses into lockdown, the GoTo solution became an even more valuable tool for Sage, enabling the company to migrate all its physical events seamlessly into a virtual environment, something UK and Ireland managing director Sabby Gill believes will become a more frequent fixture even after the pandemic is over.
“We can do many of the things we would in a live event environment, such as live polls to gauge audience opinions, without impacting the quality of service for our customers and partners,” says Gill. “As we move into a new normal, we believe virtual events are here to stay and that they actually enhance our offering, giving customers the opportunity to attend both in-person and virtual events depending on their needs.”