Reflections During Lockdown

Having had one of the busiest and most intense periods of Nitec’s operational history, frantically helping our customer base navigate the challenge of COVID-19, and with due regard to the fact that many of our clients still face testing times ahead, I thought I would comment on some of the lighter moments that have accompanied the cultural transition that has occurred as almost all of Nitec’s staff team have ended up working from home.

All of this has been possible as a result of the business-saving capabilities of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Business Voice - a suite of highly secure and productive applications that, back in March, facilitated Nitec’s wholesale deployment of our day-to-day business operations outside of our Antrim and Coleraine offices, with the exception of a small dedicated crew of three keeping the lights on at Nitec HQ (Thanks Colin, Christina and Tommy).

So, how have we maintained and, in many ways, improved our interaction and morale as a staff team over the past three months or so, especially when that has also included the onboarding of new staff members?

Connecting Our Team with Microsoft Teams

Well, who knew that Microsoft Teams, for all of its one-stop shop versatility, would provide a platform for so much comedy gold? I can't remember the number of times during our regular staff catch up video calls I have been reduced to tears of laughter at the hilarious backgrounds, photos, memes and video clips shared by various colleagues during the meeting. One of our Team Leads may be briefing us all on a new security vulnerability that we have successfully defended during the week, but it is hard to keep a straight face when President Trump spontaneously appears over someone's left shoulder.

Nitec staff using filters on Microsoft Teams
Nitec staff using filters on Microsoft Teams

And then there have been our surveys using Microsoft Forms. For example, who knew that the chocolate chip cookie was Nitec’s biscuit of choice during lockdown?

Guest appearances from the junior members of Nitec’s wider family circle have also been a regular feature of Teams conference calls. Apart from the sheer fun of seeing them perform it has certainly helped us all to appreciate the challenge that our parents of school age children have faced juggling their work and home-schooling responsibilities, and I pay tribute to them all. As a little token of appreciation, we dispatched little goody parcels containing age appropriate activity books, bubbles and board games to help brighten up any growing sense of cabin fever. If only they knew it was all a clever long-term recruitment campaign.

Connecting with Clients ‘At Home, From Home’

But it wasn't just between ourselves we enjoyed interacting virtually. More than ever before, Microsoft Teams has played a vital part of helping us communicate effectively with our customers. Whilst many were already experiencing our unique style of account management through our monthly security and productivity review calls, lockdown has resulted in many more ‘visits’ to your homes, and isn't it interesting that even amidst the urgent business concerns that have been addressed on those calls, there has been something both rather disarming and yet charming about the informality of a home setting. I guess swapping the boardroom table and business attire for a dining room table and leisure wear has certainly helped create a sense of shared humanity in these trying times.

And so, as things begin to edge ever so slowly back to how they were and we all contemplate the new normal that awaits us, one of the many reflections of lockdown will be the mixed blessing of virtual reality. I haven't seen my fellow directors, Nigel and Gavin, in person for over 3 months now and I miss that, yet ironically we have had more productive face-to-face time during lockdown than ever before, resulting in the creation of exciting new work streams that all too often get stifled in the frenzy of office life.

And today as I write I particularly miss not being around to celebrate the special birthday of one of our managers, Peter Fleck. But I tell you what, I bet he can't wait until the next staff video meeting, because there's nothing quite like a rendition of happy birthday being sung by over 50 of your colleagues over Teams, with Donald Trump in the choir!

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