The ‘War’ on Coronavirus – what part can business play?

By GCI Director, Mark Lee

17 March 2020

Like me, you probably first heard about Coronavirus as a minor news item in a faraway place in early January. To be honest, at the time I didn’t give it a great deal of thought. I remember thinking, and even saying to people “SARS and MERS came and went with no real impact here, this will be the same”. I got a bit more concerned, whilst on a ski trip to Italy in early February, when it was the main topic of conversation on ski lifts and in mountain top bars. But in the last 3 days, probably like for just about everyone else, the reality of the situation has really dawned. Coronavirus has and will continue to have a dramatic effect on every aspect of our lives, including business.

The medical profession, as ever, is stepping up and doing everything it can to help, and the government is asking industry to play its part in helping the country to respond to this unprecedented challenge. Rolls Royce, JCB, Honda, and other manufacturers are trying to adapt their production capacity to produce vital medical equipment. Food distributors and retailers are working around the clock to ensure the supply of food and other essentials is available for everyone. But what about other businesses that don’t have a direct part to play? What can we do as part of the national effort to tackle the threat of Covid-19? Surely the answer to this is we pull together and do everything we possibly can to continue to operate as safely - and as normally - as possible, to limit the economic impact. 

Here are a few of the things we are doing at our business:

  • We have introduced home working for 90% of our approximately 550 staff – to make this possible we had to quickly increase the capacity of our secure remote access services.
  • Over the weekend we implemented a cloud-based contact centre telephony solution to allow our 80 call centre agents to all work remotely 
  • We have proactively switched all external meetings (with customers, suppliers, and others) to virtual meetings (using video/audio conferencing technologies such as Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business)
  • We have also made our virtual consultation technology, OneConsultation, available to NHS Trusts and care providers free of charge for one month. This enables organisations to offer remote consultations to people in need, in under 72 hours of contacting us.

As a technology services company we had many of these things in place, but we had to quickly scale up to support a dramatic increase in remote working to ensure continuation of service for our customers. This is nothing in comparison to the efforts of the NHS and medical staff on the frontline, but keeping the lights of thousands of businesses on across the UK and keeping the wheels of commerce turning is also a critical job at this time. 

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