WITH coronavirus numbers on the rise across the North-east is there a need for businesses to start thinking about remote working?
The Scottish Government has warned up to 80% of the population could become infected with coronavirus – which could have a major impact on the workforce.
Aberdeen telecoms company, Sure VoIP, has already seen a rise in enquiries from businesses looking for a way to allow them to have staff work safely from home.
SureVoIP, based in Bridge of Don, uses the internet to deliver telecoms. Calls are made and received via an internet connection instead of a traditional phone line.
Paul Forrest, sales and marketing executive, said: “Obviously the bigger companies are more inclined to panic a little bit just because statistically if you have more staff then you’ve got more risk. We have had quite a lot of requests from particularly our customers in the travel sector and a lot of them are moving individuals into being semi quarantined and working from home if they feel they have been in an at-risk area.
“Or the other option is if there’s been any sign of anybody in that office for any length of time they are actually quarantining the office. And remote working via VoIP has helped us help them with their requirements.”
Paul believes using a softphone could also be the way forward. This involves downloading an app to your smartphone, laptop or desktop which can then link to your business phone number.
He said: “We’ve had a couple of our big clients in the travel sector who have been either wanting to isolate individuals and make them work from home or they have literally been saying to the whole department for everyone to pick up their VoIP phone, take it home and plug it in.
“Or do it through a softphone. A softphone app is downloadable on to a smartphone or desktop. Some people have been downloading software on to their desktop at home and working from home. We’ve had a couple of different response methods to it.
“Up to now, a softphone has really been used by people who are out on the road an awful lot of people that just want to use their own desktop, pc, or laptop. But now obviously it’s starting to become more and more popular.
“Your business telecom system would be on an app. It’s literally like you are in the office. People wouldn’t know where you are.
“Telecoms over VoIP allows a lot more flexibility and it’s the flexibility aspect that really allows us to allow the remote working feature. That’s not and never will be possible with a traditional phone system.
“If you are looking at your options then a VoIP set up if you don’t have one you need to be considering one and if you do have one you want to be contacting your provider regarding physically shifting desk phones if you can or maybe even shifting people over to using a softphone app rather than a physical bit of hardware.
“Because a VoIP phone service uses the internet, it will work as long as you have an internet connection.
“We have many companies with us who operate from a ‘virtual office’. The company workers are nowhere near each other physically, but someone calling their office would have no idea. Calls are received on the company number, go through a switchboard, and reach the person’s extension.
“They can transfer calls to other extensions, and make calls out to customers as if from the company system, displaying the company number, not their own mobile number.”
Paul has seen an increase in enquiries through the past couple of weeks but thinks it’s only a matter of time before there’s a bigger uptake.
He said: “We are looking at a couple of big companies in the travel sector who started the ball rolling fairly early on this, about two weeks ago or so. Particularly if they had people in one of the countries with affected areas.
“Both of them have really calculated either the risk is such for a certain department that they are simply disbanding the department and sending everyone to work from home. Or the others decided to semi quarantine workers they felt were at risk just to stop them potentially.
“We don’t know if they tested positive or not. We didn’t ask. We were allowing them to mitigate the risks to other employees. We are getting a few people, not necessarily in the travel sector, but now just general mainstream customers are starting to make more enquiries into is it ok if someone unplugs their desk phone and takes it home? Is it ok to switch from a desktop phone to a softphone?”
The Scottish Government has urged employers across Scotland to be extra vigilant, including sending home employees who have travelled to infected areas or have been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19.