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Remote Working during and beyond the pandemic

By Richard Abrams, Managing Director, Consilium UK Limited. Consilium is an SFHA associate. 

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Housing associations face the same challenges as many other organisations during these difficult times: business disruption and employees with issues around illness, childcare or working remotely. It is a challenging time for all.

In my business, which is IT, we see these challenges every day. Our offices have been shut since March, and our employees have been challenged in looking after children and illness; indeed, some have had Covid themselves or among their families.

Overall, we have tried to be pragmatic in solutions and empathetic in our approach, providing our employees with as much flexibility as we can and providing them with comprehensive tools to work from home in as agile a way as possible.

One client we have worked with for many years is Glasgow City Building (GCB), which has transformed its IT operations in recent years and that really helped prepare it for users working remotely. GCB moved away from traditional PCs for its users to hosting applications and desktop sessions on servers which not only allowed it central control of its security and services but also provided easy access to users from any location. Little did GCB know at the time what a prudent decision that change was, but this has served it very well during the pandemic.

As a second stage, GCB is now planning to leverage Office 365 to provide further collaboration benefits to thei business, using platforms such as Microsoft Teams to help users feel connected, even when they are apart.

From our experience, we have implemented flex time for staff and have gone ‘all in’ on platforms, such as Office 365, to make us more productive during the pandemic. Arguably, we have moved to a point where we are more productive now than we were when office-based. It has caused us to take the time to look at our systems more objectively and to push hard on implementing change.

How can cloud platforms help?

As an example, we have leveraged Microsoft Teams from Office 365 to help us in three core areas:

Instant messaging

At its simplest level, Teams provides a similar platform to the likes of Skype, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. It allows users to have instant conversations between groups and individuals, including text, video, audio and screen sharing.

Team conversations

This is similar to above, but you can organise activity in to different teams and ‘channels’. In our business, we have teams for technical, sales and accounts and channels for a myriad of purposes. We have a channel for each customer (we are business to business) and a channel for each our core work competencies, for example, there are channels for Office 365, IT Support, IT Security etc.

It allows us to organise conversations on subjects with rich information. We can leave recordings of meetings, minutes, documents and conversations all centralised and searchable. Nothing is ‘lost’ in email or hidden to never be found again.

Telephony

The final piece for us was to migrate our phone system in to Teams. Now an external and internal conversation use the same platform. Our staff can use headsets, handsets or their mobile phone, hosting a mixture of internal and external calls on both audio and video.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but the general point is that we have taken the opportunity to level up our methods of working. The impetus may have been the pandemic but the reward is greater than that. Whether you have Office 365 or any cloud presence, this is an excellent time to use cloud services and to garner value from your investments in these platforms. Get in touch to see how we can help transform your IT functions to help you improve productivity now and in the future.

Consilium has joined SFHA as an associate. For further information, please contact: john.mcgall@consilium-uk.com Tel: 0141-847-1545

Website: www.consilium-uk.com 

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