Babble chief executive: “Remote working is more a behavioural change than a technological one”

Published by Matthew Parker on April 22nd 2020, 7:00am

Writing for the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Matthew Parker, chief executive of cloud solutions specialist firm Babble, discusses the fresh outlook on remote working that has come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the advantages of working remotely, and why it could become the new normal in the business environment even after the lockdown ends.

Last week, I joined a panel in a special Travel Weekly Covid-19 webcast on the new skills that the lockdown caused by the pandemic is demanding from travel professionals. The topics that were discussed were very relevant to every industry.

The Covid-19 crisis is forcing companies to tackle the behavioural change that remote working requires more so than the technology to support it. With firms forced to support entire call centres, office and shop staff from home, communications technology has become a vital part of their business resilience.

Using technology effectively is about how you use it rather than all the tech features. The tools that we are all using today are the same ones we used six months ago, or a year ago.

Enabling ourselves to become comfortable in a different working environment is one matter. There’s a whole question here around whether we are happy being videoed, and whether we are happy being able to see ourselves on a screen when we are talking to somebody else.

You don’t worry about what’s behind you when you’re standing chatting to somebody in the office or when you bump into somebody in a hallway or in a lift - so we must ask ourselves why it should be any different when you’re doing things remotely. It does not really matter about being presentable for video, as long as you are not dressed for the hot tub.

On a call, I want to talk to and see you. I genuinely don’t believe that the tool itself matters; we all need to replicate the face-to-face interactions that we can’t experience at the moment. Otherwise we would become lonely and even further removed from society.

The small extra costs for adding remote working features should never even come into discussion. As a business, we have been delivering cutting edge communications technology to businesses for 20 years and in that time, firms have often looked to minimise expenditure.

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, I had some bizarre conversations with organisations about not spending an extra few pounds a month to give staff remote access communications tools. What we found was that some organisations are deploying the bare minimum and saying that we don’t need this or we don’t need that.

If as a business leader you think about the amount of money you invest in your workforce every month, another £2, £3 or £5 per person is neither here nor there for features that are so valuable during business continuity. Especially ones that enable your business to survive.

Organisations that did invest from the start, are realising that they have something that will help them, but maybe they just haven’t fully used or deployed it yet.

Culturally, we have this certain perspective about working from home. There’s always a wry smile about the prospect of working from home within certain older age groups, but the reality is we find ourselves in a situation where everyone is now working from home. We are going from a situation where we allow our employees to do it where appropriate, now and then, to one where it is happening every day.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 is forcing firms to play catch-up on new ways of working, which are here to stay post-pandemic. The business environment will never go back to being the same as before.

At Babble for instance, I don’t think we will ever again open a new fixed office. The way our employees have adapted and proactively dealt with the situation has been fantastic. It’s shown us that this way of working is the new normal, and we will 100 per cent promote this behavioural change to all employees. Technology enables us to do this, but the mindset of the leadership and the employees makes it so successful.

We are busier than ever, working to quickly roll out the technology we use ourselves, to our customers. The majority are finding that their business is less disrupted than expected. 

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Authored By

Matthew Parker
Chief Executive at Babble
April 22nd 2020, 7:00am

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