Business Continuity is Snow Joke
Three in four UK employees claim to have been affected by the recent bad weather, with just over one in ten not able to work at all. This disruption to UK businesses, as well as the wider economic climate, has emphasised the need for companies to develop a robust business continuity strategy.
Developing solutions involving an adaptable workforce that can function with equal efficiency both inside and outside the office is one way of ensuring customer service isn’t compromised, come rain or shine.
This is especially important considering the majority of employees – 55% according to a survey – now expect to work from home more frequently.
But there are wide-ranging issues when it comes to flexible working, like trying to monitor staff away from the office and ensuring employees are available to managers, clients or customers throughout the working day, no matter where they are. Accessibility is especially important for small businesses with high standards when it comes to efficiency, service and personal contact.
Tune into this WebTV ‘connectivity clinic’ with Dr Rob Matthews, of Vodafone UK, who will be offering advice and top tips on how best to incorporate flexible working plans and digital technology into small businesses.
Dr Rob Matthews joins us live online to discuss staying connected to a mobile workforce.
For more information visit www.vodafone.co.uk/suresignal
Sure Business Webchat
H: Vicky Letch, host
R: Dr Rob Matthews, Connectivity expert, Vodafone
H: Hello I’m Vicky Letch and welcome to the Business Show. With three in four UK employees claiming to be affected by the recent bad weather, there was a huge knock-on effect to businesses and particular SMEs. Many firms have realised they need to adopt working practices which ensure their service delivery isn’t impacted by employees unable to get to the office. Developing systems to enable a more adaptable workforce that can function remotely is one way of ensuring customer service isn’t compromised come rain or shine.
H: Joining me to discuss how your business and its people can stay better connected is Connectivity expert Dr Rob Matthews. Hello, welcome to Webchats TV, lovely to have you here
R: Thank you and good afternoon
H: Thank you very much. Do remember of course we are live, thank you for your questions that you have pre-submitted but because we are live of course if you have anything that you want to ask Rob now or any comments, do indeed pop them in the box below, click submit and we will answer as many as we can. So Rob, obviously let’s just kick off by saying we all now know that working from home is something we might have to do, weather permitting – because the weather’s been unbelievable this year, snow means lots of people have been working from home
R: Absolutely. I was one of those people. My daughter was off from school, I was snowed in, couldn’t get off my drive, and basically I could do everything I would do in the office from home
R: It was really important I had a good signal using my laptop, my mobile phone, I could do everything that I could do in the office but at home
H: Ok. Obviously it happens, it does happen, we’ve seen it –
H: With our very own eyes. But what can employees do to make – employers do sorry to make sure their employees have everything they need to work effectively from home?
R: Well I think in the world as we start to move towards unified communications, everything you would have in the office is now actually transportable to work at home, so whether it be a laptop, whether it be a mobile phone, we can get dongles that connect onto the mobile phone network to be able to access into the secure networks, and where there are issues of coverage, we now have a number of products that can make sure that there is a guaranteed signal at home for people to be able to connect on and be able to do everything they do at the office at home
H: Because of course it’s all about keeping up a certain level of service
H: There’s no point taking the worker out of the workplace if the customer involved then isn’t going to be receiving that same level of service that they will expect
R: Absolutely. You know – and in this sort of environment you could be a home worker, you could be someone running a business from home, or you could be a small business itself where making that call can make a difference between getting that contract or not, and a lot of that is about having mobile phone coverage and having the signal to be able to take the call. Now at Vodafone we work very hard to make sure that there is this blanket coverage. In the last year we’ve rolled out about 1500 sites, and we continue to roll out sites, but there is a real difficulty if you live in a heavily built-up area, maybe your business is based in a basement flat or the top floor of a tower block or whatever, and actually all the networks struggle to get signal into those areas
R: And what at Vodafone we’re trying to do is develop new products and services such as the Vodafone Sure signal, that will guarantee and give that coverage to people in those environments where even if you walk outside your front door, you have coverage, you will still have it in your property, where perhaps in the past you haven’t had that before
H: Yes. And of course vital for everyone, but we probably have to focus a little bit on those sole traders, on the small business owners
H: That are responsible for their business
H: ie. If they do get their calls diverted, if they aren’t able to actually receive the calls, they could be in serious trouble
R: Oh absolutely, and what’s even more frustrating is, if they can get the call but then it cuts off halfway through because that’s embarrassing for people, it’s frustrating for the people that are trying to do the business with that person, and you know not having htat signal is – can be really detrimental to small businesses, and you know we move towards unified comms now where you can put your landline, you can make sure that if you don’t answer it, it transfers to a mobile, and making that call can make the difference between getting that contract and not
H: Yes absolutely. So hit me with it – how does the technology work?
R: Well basically it’s a small box that’s just like a wi-fi router that you would have at home. It provides dedicated coverage or signal to a small area, about 30m sort of in diameter, it locks down to a certain number of phones you can actually have up to 30 registered numbers, 4 phone calls at once, and it uses your broadband line to carry that phone off into the external network, and onto you know your customers and your suppliers, that ensures that you stay connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And as I say it’s dedicated so what I found, personally at home was, in the snow I was on a call but everyone was trying to do it, and sometimes when everyone’s trying to connect onto the network, there’s a big problem, that you can’t make that call you know, how many times have we looked at our phone, maybe you know you might have been in a car, in a car queue and you look, network busy, can’t make the call, very frustrating. What the Sure signal will do is, it gives you that dedicated signal at your office or at your home, to mean that you can take that call and you can make that call. You know your next door neighbour won’t be able to connect onto it, and that gives you what you need to be able to take that call
H: Absolutely. And I have to say I have seen it, it is incredibly compact, and very tidy, these things are important to quite a few people. So it also looks nice which is important
R: Absolutely. It’s two wires. Power wire and the connection into your – sort of your broadband, sort of router. And stick it in the corner of a room, you won’t even notice it there but you will notice a difference, because all of a sudden your phone may go from one or two bars to five, and you’ll be able to make that call, the signal will be good. You know it really, in urban environments, it really is difficult for all of the networks in a basement, in a high-rise flat, and you’ll be quite surprised actually, even in really dense foliage and trees, it can have a big difference to the, to the signal you receive in your property or in your home, and this is going to be able to help you make sure that you can take that call when you really want to and when you really need it
H: Brilliant, thank you very much. Obviously don’t go anywhere – still so many things I need to ask you. Just a reminder for you at home, we are live so if you do have any questions for Rob, now is the time to make sure you pop them in the box and click submit. With that in mind, let’s get underway with this from Steven Harris, thank you Steven, he says “I’m uncertain if my phones are 3G and don’t really understand what 3G is.”
R: Ok well 3G is a third generation. We started off in the very early days – Vodafone is now 25 years old, we set off in the first generation which is a network we put up with the really big sort of base stations. You can probably see a couple around, cover wide areas. We then moved to sort of the digital age where we moved to second generation, which was mainly sort of voice and text, and now the third generation is majority data, and what the Sure signal is, it’s a 3G box so you do need to actually have a 3G phone, but you can usually see that because in the corner of your phone it will say 3G so you’ll know if you’ve actually got a 3G phone, but you can actually still make calls over the 3G network. But the advantage there is you can actually seamlessly transfer between calls and also data, so you maybe actually out looking at products for a customer, and you may actually want to take a picture and send it and that, you know the 3G network will allow you to actually do that, but it will also allow you to make a call at the same time
H: Ok brilliant. Jonathan Gilbert, thank you very much, Jonathan says “I’m increasingly finding it hard to stop looking at my Blackberry in the evenings, so I’m effectively still working. My employer is obviously grateful, but it’s eating into my own time. What’s the best approach going forward?”
R: Well I personally have the same problem
R: I have a Blackberry and I find myself looking at it at half past ten at night, and the only advice I have perhaps to someone is to switch it off
H: Yes. I agree
R: Once it’s off – you still get – once you switch it back on again you’ll still get all your messages
R: But in reality, you know once it’s off you don’t feel that heat. But I think that’s perhaps just a comment there around how valuable it is to stay connected and how you know, how it actually enhances, you know, sort of the business side. But I personally switch it off. I have a 5 year old daughter, whose very demanding and I’m trying to sort of play with her and Blackberry in one hand –
H: That’s another job in itself
R: Yes exactly. I’m a man – I can multi-task! And so I do this and yes you go over there – and people say we can’t but we can
H: No I know you can, I agree. Obviously Jonathan’s a conscientious worker as well, which is nice for your boss, but it’s important to have your down time too
R: Absolutely but you know what it does do also as well is, it does actually allow you to look at your home / work life balance
R: So in reality what I find myself doing is is I perhaps maybe do something during the day, so perhaps I take my daughter to school or pick her up, and perhaps I have a couple of hours where I’m actually doing things with her, but actually having good signal and good coverage in my home allows me perhaps to do a couple of hours work in the evening, so Vodafone as my employer still gets my working day but perhaps it’s just spread out over a day so it helps me because it helps my home / work life balance, so there is sort of a double edged sword to that sort of question there
H: Brilliant, good. Right Christine, thank you very much Christine, she says “what’s the best way to monitor your staff when they are working remotely?”
R: I think it’s a trust issue. My question to Christine is how does she monitor her staff when they’re actually working in the office and ensure what they’re doing?
R: I think ultimately is you can see what the output is. But then again it’s that trust issue. You know I have it with my staff at home, they work from home and I trust them to be able to do the work that I want them to be able to do, and actually what I find is, is if you allow them to do it at a time that is convenient to them in terms of their home / work life balance, actually productivity goes up, because they really feel passionate about doing the things that they actually want to do, because they can really feel that you know they’re being valued, they can work from home, they can do the things that perhaps they need to do in their life to make it actually more enjoyable for them.
H: I have to say that’s really important, I think that’s vital because with the recent snow I know someone who did suffer some woes with her boss, who was uncertain if she was doing her work from home, which was astonishing because she is an incredible worker, she’s incredible at her job and so dedicated to it, so I think building up that relationship is important isn’t it, and then you get more back
R: Exactly. I’m taking a risk now, I’ll admit to you, when I was in the snow, my daughter was off, I did actually take an hour, I went out and built a snowman with my daughter during the day
H: I think that’s alright, as long as you were eating your lunch at the same time
R: Well I was of course
R: But you know what I did do is I logged on in the evening and managed to get my emails, do what I needed to do, when at a time that actually is fitting in with my life. And actually I felt so much better, you know – on my screen saver is my daughter and me and her with the snowman that we built. But that’s what it’s all about, that flexible working and being able to enhance people’s lives and make sure they’re connected when they need. Small businesses need to stay connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that’s what things like the products with the Sure signal will give them, whether it actually be in the house or garden or offices or whatever, it will give them that dedicated signal, so they can make those calls and take those calls and make the business.
H: Brilliant. Simon, thank you Simon. He says “this new booster device sounds amazing. My house isn’t very big but I’ve got a long garden, how far will the coverage go?”
R: The actual signal itself will travel about 30m, so I’m not quite sure how –
H: How big is the garden, yes
R: How big his garden is, but you know in reality it will definitely cover the house and out into the garden. It’s a bit like really if you think about it, your wi-fi signal at home, where you can take your laptop will be about where you’ll be able to take your phone, they’re pretty similar sort of powers, they’re pretty similar sort of coverage areas, so that’s a pretty good analogy in terms of where people are going to be able to go. And just to say it’s not an actual booster, this is giving dedicated signal to the individuals, it’s not taking a signal and boosting it, it is a sort of a source in its own right to make a dedicated capacity and signal
H: So who are the people that you think are going to benefit from this product? In what ways as well, what sort of changes do you think it will make to their lives?
R: Well I think you’re talking about sort of maybe the sort of home workers, the people who run their sort of their business from home, the small and medium enterprises that basically have struggled in the past where they’ve lost business because they feel frustrated at not being able to take a call or losing a call. It’s going to really help them stay connected because it will give them that guaranteed signal, so they can actually make the call and take the call at a time that – when the customer wants, and that’s the important thing is, we’re now a worldwide business, so there could be someone phoning from Australia at 7 o’clock in the morning, you know and that call could be big business for you, so I think that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is a really important thing for those businesses to stay connected
H: Ok and obviously now we are in the presence of a connectivity expert, it would be wrong and a sin of me not to ask you, going forward ,in the future, what do you think we can look forward to?
R: Well I think if you look at the way the industry’s going is, is that the data rate’s going to get faster and faster and faster, and it’s interesting I was attending a sort of presentation from some Vodafone group employees who said things like, you know are we going to see things like the glasses with built-in sort of you know built-in sort of mobile phones with heads-up displays? Who knows, there’s lots of very, very brainy people working at where we’re going to go. I think that ultimately is we’re going to move into an area where people are going to be able to do more wherever they are and be able to do it wherever they want
H: Rob thank you very much for your time. For further information on how to ensure you stay connected, visit vodafone.co.uk/suresignal. I’ll see you next time, goodbye