Can’t travel? Stay connected and productive, despite disruptions

by Martin Cheyne

13 March 2020

A man sitting at a desk and looking at his computer screen

‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ This well-known saying – adapted from an 18th Century Robert Burns poem ‘To a Mouse’ – reminds us that no matter how carefully we plan, things may well go wrong, often due to circumstances beyond our control.

In recent times, there have been lots of these events: extreme weather and strike action are regular causes of travel disruption, making it hard for people to get to work. Global bugs such as seasonal flu outbreaks all come into play, causing further disruption and distress.

An airplane silhouette from an empty airport room

Travel disruptions often make it hard for people to get to work

Quite aside from the effect on individual lives, when large numbers of people are unable to get to work, or to attend meetings and events, it can also dramatically affect businesses and the wider economy.

The current coronavirus epidemic is a case in point. What began in Wuhan is now of global concern. Airlines have stopped flying to and from China; governments have enforced quarantines; and many companies have issued blanket travel bans. In some cases, business are encouraging their people to work from home and employees and organizations are having to adapt. There’s no denying the importance of meeting face-to-face, but the prospect of travelling through train and subway stations, airports, mingling with hundreds and thousands of others from all corners of the world, and coming into contact with the virus has seen business trips as well as trade shows and conferences cancelled: exhibitors are exiting, speakers are standing down, visitors are vanishing.

Online communication and collaboration – keeping you connected

So, what to do?

‘There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.’ This famous quip from Henry Kissinger wryly pinpoints the inconvenience of unexpected events when already overloaded. Of course, doing nothing is not an option. The fact is, whatever the issue, business continuity, connection and clear communication are vital during times of disruption and uncertainty.

As a business that enables other organizations to communicate and collaborate, there are two observations I can make from the conversations we’re having with clients. Those businesses who have already begun their digital transformation are keen to accelerate the process. It could be onboarding a new team or division; enabling new or untapped features; or enhancing their capability with an additional service or solution such as cloud-based telephony. For others – those earlier in the digital transformation process, and perhaps yet to finalize their roadmap – there are still easily deployed, quick-wins that can be made using readily available cloud communications tools.

A woman sitting on a chair with her laptop on her lap

Working remotely – even when not able to reach the workplace

With the right stakeholders engaged – whether operations, IT, or HR – organizations can ensure that employees can still communicate and collaborate with clients and colleagues, even if – for whatever reason – they can’t physically attend their usual place of work. 

The technology is certainly here and available: to host online collaborative meetings, to enable remote working, to streamline file sharing and editing, and unify messaging, voice and video calls. Not only are the tools mature and credible, but they can enable transformative journeys that can reduce the need for real-life journeys!

Online events – removing the uncertainty of travel

For many businesses, digital events – hosted online – offer another outstanding solution when travel isn’t an option. They can be used for external or internal purposes and deliver engaging and interactive events. Sales and marketing presentations, training and continuing professional education sessions, and seminars and conferences can all be delivered via webcasts as can virtual conferences, programmed across several days with multiple presenters all contributing to a cohesive schedule. Not only can this cut down on all the hassle and uncertainty of travel, and the expense, the content can also be repurposed for on-demand access.

Computer screens

Digital events can deliver to any device, anywhere – live or on-demand

Overcoming unforeseen challenges

Digital events work incredibly well for corporate communications and internal communications too. These can range from senior management ‘town-hall’ broadcasts from the central HQ, to summits featuring multiple guests presenting from different locations – again without any travel involved.

There are a wide range of possibilities and capabilities, but for immediacy, visibility and engagement, digital events shrink the world, bringing together far-flung divisions. They offer the means to bring teams together, ensure consistent messaging, give opportunities for employee interaction and engagement, and solid metrics to measure each event’s success. Again, the ability to make content available on-demand, or to repeat the event at different times of day, means that colleagues or other stakeholders unable to join an event live, won’t miss out.

Of course, back in the days of ‘Rabbie’ Burns, there wasn’t this type of technology. The mouse he was addressing in his poem wasn’t the kind you can point with, or click, or which enabled digital interactions. The world has changed in so many ways since then, but his words are just as relevant today.

Somewhat less poetic – but perhaps equally worth bearing in mind – is this saying, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’

It’s a cute turn of phrase, but it serves to remind us that – whether it’s the weather, illness, or other circumstances we can’t foresee or control – there will always be challenges that as businesses we must meet, adapt to, and try to overcome with the help of the technology at our disposal.

See if you qualify to receive a free Workplace Exploratory Workshop.

Martin Cheyne

Martin Cheyne