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Disruption and delay? Swap travel frustration for remote collaboration


They say that lightning never strikes in the same place twice.

It may be true of lightning, but not so with strikes themselves: industrial strikes – because these are due to take place again in France this week with a national transport strike beginning on Thursday (5 Dec) and ongoing until called off. It’s set to affect the Metro and RER services in Paris, and trains to and from all destinations. Eurostar trains and domestic and international flights will also be affected, and there will likely be huge problems on the roads, with disruption and delays in store for disgruntled drivers.

Not that France is the only place affected: commuters in England using the South Western Railways network are also bracing themselves for what is set to be the longest-ever rail strike in British history, 27 days across the month of December. Customers are advised that only about half the timetabled trains will run across services traveling to and from Waterloo, the UK’s busiest railway station.

Chaos, confusion, and calamity

Millions of people will need to adapt and work out what it means for their work, family and personal lives. Many will balk at the long or impossible journeys that lie ahead yet have to struggle into work. They will need to get to their normal place of work because they are just not set-up to work remotely or because their organization insists that they are in situ. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone, and whilst an employer could be relaxed about late-running staff, and swallow the lost productivity, it can and will vary. In some organizations, employees could be asked to work extra hours or to forfeit wages to make up for the lost working time.  

There’s no doubt that in such circumstances, remote working – télétravail in French – can allow more to get done and cause a great deal less stress. Employees can simply work from home and – without any real chaos, confusion or calamity – swap one desktop environment for another, carrying on with business as usual – and no doubt thankful for having saved on additional and uncertain commuting time and all the additional stress that goes with it.

Flexible, agile, and connected

Moving to a unified communications platform – such as those offered by Cisco or Microsoft – means an organization can deliver a flexible, agile, connected, working environment. In short, a truly Intelligent Workplace wherever the workplace: office, home, train, plane or somewhere in between. With a unified comms, all the ways to communicate are brought into one system – and new efficient ways of working can emerge. Messaging can reduce email overload, allowing quick queries can be asked and answered in real-time; presence information can alert you as and when colleagues are available; files can be shared, edited and commented upon by teams of colleagues with proper access permissions and complete version control; meetings can be scheduled and launched with a click of a button; and calls not just audio but video also can allow people to meet with colleagues in a more immersive and engaging way.

What’s more, when it comes to meetings especially on days when travel is somewhat precarious at best, impossible at worst, it means zero wasted travel time and expense, and no risk to you or your guests of someone not being in the right place at the right time. You just send them a link to join your meeting, wherever they are, on any connected device.

Digital transformation ahead

Many organizations will cope just fine with these strikes – but for others, this kind of digital transformation still lies ahead.

It’s a question of investment – in equipment and technology, but also in company culture and ways of working – and means change management and training also need to be considered. There are many benefits to be gained – from improved staff morale to energy saving – but also challenges to overcome. Until then, many organizations that will be caught up and affected by the strikes will perhaps just have to rue the disruption; the lost and wasted working hours; and the overall cost. In the UK, City analysts have estimated these domestic strikes could cost businesses up to £25m a day, and £400m in total.

If there’s a bright side for many businesses, it could well be that these strikes are another nudge at why and how to best enable their employees to communicate and collaborate – and to initiate a change.

If that applies to your organization, the very best time to do it was several years ago.

The second-best time to do it is now.

To coin a phrase – it’s time to strike while the iron’s hot!

About the author

Simon Sanders is Social Media & Content Manager at the Cloud Communications division of NTT Ltd. He has more than 20 years' experience as a creative marketer helping brands and organizations to tell their story, engage with existing and new audiences, and manage their reputation.

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