Geek Guru is a Midlands based IT support company with a team of nine engineers operating across the and UK. We’ve been operating since 2006 and before lockdown predominantly worked within a single, open plan office space where informal communications were widespread.
As an IT company, with the majority of our IT systems already in the cloud, we were fairly well positioned for the challenges of lockdown. We already extensively used Office 365 and all our software is cloud based or hosted externally. That being said, I think we were still surprised at how easily we managed to convert the entire office to working from home in just 2-3 days. If someone had asked us six months ago if we could operate with the entire team being remote, I would have said technically yes but it would be tough long term. Being forced into these changes has opened our eyes to new ways of working but these new ways do not come without some challenges.
By far the biggest challenge we have faced within the team has been communication. We were already using Microsoft teams, but predominantly as a way to communicate with offsite engineers. It was a natural process to extend that out more generally so that all team communications happened via Microsoft teams. This added a small overhead to our day-to-day operations but not as much as we may have expected. I guess we are fortunate in that we are a technology company and as such tech comes easily to all our employees. Communicating virtually is therefore pretty natural.
We were in the happy position of having grown considerably in the last 2 to 3 years. On the back of that growth we had invested in IT systems and processes to help streamline operations. This included systems that assisted with knowledge capture, systems to facilitate parallel working by multiple engineers and systems to track time and monitor support ticket progress. What this enabled us to do is continue operating as a team whilst in reality operating as a group of geographically dispersed individuals. Without the work we had done previously on optimising our internal processes this transition would have been significantly more complicated – especially as lockdown progressed so quickly.
Throughout lockdown, client communications have largely been unaffected. Already having an Internet-based phone system (VoIP) meant we could continue making and receiving phone calls with our engineers working from home with headsets. We know from feedback we’ve had from clients that still being able to call us at every point during lockdown has been instrumental in maintaining positive relations. Even if clients choose to email or use internet tickets, they very much valued our being on the end of the phone if needed.
As lockdown has been lifted, we are planning to continue largely operating remotely whilst there is any degree of risk from covid-19. Working remotely has been so successful we also plan to introduce a flexible working policy to enable engineers to work from home on a more long-term basis (perhaps a few days a week).
One challenge we have not yet had to face is that of taking on new engineers or employees. We have found the first 6 to 12 months of any employee joining the company is taken up with a mix of formal training, informal shadowing, and an almost passive absorption of the company culture and ethos. This is very difficult to achieve with engineers working from home. What would in the past have been something that happened alongside day-to-day work, with new engineers absorbing skills as they go, will most likely now have to be a much more formal process. The question about how to impart a company culture and ethos with engineers working remotely is not an easy one to answer but I am sure is one facing many businesses across the world.
Tim Goldfield – Managing Director
Geek-Guru ltd – www.geek-guru.co.uk