A time for flexibility

The turn of a year is generally viewed as a sign of hope, of the potential for change and of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. That was certainly the case as the world clock ticked from 2019 into 2020. The UK’s departure from the EU was on the horizon with a formal leaving date on 31 January to be followed by an eleven month transition period.

As those faltering steps towards a new trading relationship with the rest of the globe began, few would have predicted that the world was about to be plunged into a crisis that would consume efforts and energies not just in 2020 but through 2021 and onwards into 2022. In its wake, plans once thought to be set in stone have been tumbled aside as businesses and individuals have faced up to the impact of successive waves of covid infections.

The start of 2022 has been marked by the Omicron variant. Milder in impact than previous mutations, Omicron is also more transmissible. Not only has this led to higher levels of staff absenteeism, it also has impacted customer and supplier behaviours and outcomes.

But finding solutions to challenges is part of human existence. University of Illinois psychology professor Aron Barbey commented in 2017 [1] “Although researchers have known that flexibility is an important characteristic of human brain function, only recently has the idea emerged that flexibility provides the basis for human intelligence.” And if there is one thing we have all learnt over the past two years, it is just how much we can achieve if we are prepared to be flexible.

Adopting a more flexible way of working doesn’t mean that we throw out all of the good ideas of the past, but rather that we are open to adapting in order to meet changing conditions. For example, home working may have been recommended or mandated at certain stages of the covid crisis. But rather than shutting jobs down, businesses found ways to enable those working from home to contribute fully by adopting measures such as remote computer links and conference calling. Larger organisations may have also adopted company switchboard solutions in order to seamlessly transfer calls to home workers whilst others looked towards options such as straight or group divert in order to better manage calls.

VoIP solutions also came into play. VoIP can connect multiple sites, home-workers and even mobile phones (via a free app) under one system, with free internal calls. This enables businesses to cut calling costs whilst at the same time increasing the volume of calls made across and around the business. And we shouldn’t ignore the part played by answerphone and virtual assistant services; helping to take the strain when staffing numbers are low.

Who knows what direction the pandemic will take in 2022? What we do know is that by continuing to adopt solutions which enable flexible working from home, office, or elsewhere businesses will give themselves the greatest chance to continue to provide good customer service and strong outcomes.

Written by Alison