Businesses have been forced to quickly adapt in order to keep operating during the global coronavirus outbreak. For instance companies that were reluctant to implement remote working policies in the past have now been forced to do so quickly as governments around the world have ordered their citizens to stay at home.
To learn more about how businesses have been disrupted by the outbreak and the complications that could arise while working from home, TechRadar Pro spoke with the president of TeamViewer Americas, Finn Faldi.
How is TeamViewer handling the recent coronavirus outbreak and what steps have you taken to prevent your employees from being exposed to it?
As of late-March, TeamViewer was trying hard to keep up with the torrent of rapid changes affecting the business and social environment resulting from the spread of coronavirus. We have more than 900 employees around the world, including in China. However, our headquarters and our largest number of people are in Germany, where the company was founded and where the coronavirus hit harder before social distancing started in the U.S.
Safeguarding our employees is a top priority for TeamViewer, so we have taken steps to prepare ourselves as best as possible. For example, several weeks ago, we began providing detailed information about appropriate workplace hygiene measures and set up new hygiene stations with hand sanitizers at all our offices. At the same time, we imposed worldwide travel restrictions on all of our employees, either recommending or requiring them to do as much as possible remotely. By now, with the exception of a handful of employees essential for business continuity, the majority of our employees including those from our U.S. office are all working from home.
At the same time, however, we are well prepared for that scenario since our core business is providing connectivity solutions that enable people to collaborate from wherever they happen to be. And we practice what we preach.
In what respects is the coronavirus been most disruptive to your business?
Our normal sales processes globally have been directly affected. For the time being, account managers are not able to travel to visit customers or partners for relationship-building. As a result, some sales methods, particularly those in which personal interaction is needed, have been suspended. And the circle of affected countries is expanding each day.
Also, industry conventions, where we like to showcase our connectivity solutions, are being postponed or cancelled everywhere. However, the demand for remote connectivity has increased as a direct result of the pandemic. Luckily, we can use our own online meeting software – Blizz – to continue to meet prospects and customers virtually, so our business is continuing to move forward at a rapid pace. And we are working hard to service those additional requests as fast as possible and with the quality that customers expect from us.
How can organizations adapt to the need to work remotely as a result of the COVID-19? What complications might arise?
A movement toward increased flexibility for employees, including work from home, was already well underway before the coronavirus struck. There are lots of good reasons behind the move to work remotely, both for the worker and the employer. We are convinced that this emergency will accelerate that movement, making it more common for work in the future.
But will remote work arrangements apply to every business? Probably not. For example, you can’t get a haircut online. Every type of organization has its own distinctive requirements. As a result, the types of jobs being done, and the interactions of employees with one another as well as with their clients, will all be different.
What advice would you give to organizations implementing a remote working policy for the first time?
Knowledge-based organizations in which digital transformation has already begun have a head start on implementing remote working policies because most of their critical information is already accessible through their digital network. But the specific solution chosen shouldn’t be imposed from the top down. One size does not fit all. Department heads and IT department personnel need to be closely involved, both on the technical side and on the policy side, to craft the right solution. Companies will also need to retain the flexibility to revise their remote work practices as experience shows them what works, what doesn’t, and what issues remain to be addressed.
What strategies can smaller businesses (unable to absorb the cost of extended disruption) use to survive an incident of this kind?
Very few businesses, regardless of size, are able to comfortably absorb the cost of an extended disruption either to their productivity or to their customer patronage. That said, effective connectivity solutions for business are almost entirely independent of company size: affordable solutions that make sense are already available for small organizations as well as large ones.
TeamViewer is offering attractive entry level home office solutions and discount packages to make remote work easier for all of a company’s employees, even after the pandemic has passed. Our Blizz online phone and video conference platform will continue to be available free of charge for up to five participants.
Those same technologies can also be scaled up for online meetings, telephone conferences, video conferences, and screensharing involving hundreds of participants at the same time. Although there are multiple providers of those services, a huge benefit of TeamViewer is that we provide a single tool that can perform all of those critical work from home functions.
Many events have been canceled as a result of the outbreak, and others have gone “digital-only.” Could this be the start of a trend that sees the world’s largest conferences take a different shape going forward?
The technology for including hundreds of people in an interactive electronic conference is already available; there is no limit on the number who can be included in one-way communications. Some organizations may find that digital conferencing works well for its stakeholders, and therefore would continue offering it as a format into the future – either as a primary or supplementary way for people to meet.
Most conferences and conventions also include dozens of vendors eager to give prospects a close-up, hands-on look at their offerings – something that would be difficult to simulate online. So we don’t see live, in-person conferences ever completely vanishing.
How might the possibility of COVID-19 becoming an annual recurrence affect long-term business strategy and arrangements between business partners?
Without an effective, widely available vaccine and global immunization program, a repeat occurrence would be massively disruptive.
For one thing, it would dramatically shorten the horizon for making long-term investment decisions. Any service business where face-to-face contact with customers is involved would be heavily impacted. Whole segments of the economy involving close contact between individuals such as healthcare, fitness, or grooming, as well as those that involve assembling large numbers of people in the same place, are already experiencing disruption. Some may not survive, at least not in their present form. With global supply chains and worldwide travel now baked into the economy, regional solutions may not be sufficient or even possible.
Getting through the coronavirus crisis will be a test of national character as much as of technology.