7 Actions Telecoms Businesses Should Take During The Covid-19 Pandemic

17 March 2020 | João Marques Lima

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With the world rapidly coming to halt and no end in sight, Capacity shares some ideas on how data centre operators can weather the storm.

The world has been taken by storm by the new Coronavirus, Covid-19. With nearly 7,000 causalities and almost 180,000 infected worldwide, governments and local authorities are taking drastic measures, previously unheard of during peace times.

In China, more than 250 million were put under lockdown at the peak of the epidemic. In Europe, more than 100 million people are currently in lockdown, with several million more expected to face the same in the coming days and weeks.

As normal life comes to a halt, telecoms has become one of the key pillars that is holding the world together as people stay at home.

With that in mind, Capacity has put together a shortlist of actions that every telecoms operator needs to consider as we fight this pandemic.

Workforce Location and Travel

First and foremost, your staff are the most valuable asset to your business. Without your workforce, the business would not be what it is today, so their health and safety, as well as that of their relatives, should be your first priority.

Several countries have imposed travel bans with many more forcing quarantine on travellers upon arrival at their airports, seaports, and so on.

At this point in time, it seems to be globally accepted that only urgent travel shall take place. Each business has to decide what constitutes “urgent travel”, however, in a connected age like the one we live in, taking into account how fast the situation is changing, most business can be done without the need for travel. Your customers and partners will understand, and they themselves will have put such measures in place.

Remember, this is not a one company, one region, one country problem, but a global threat. Almost everyone around the world is, or soon will be, affected, directly or indirectly, by Covid-19. Whatever your business can do to help mitigate the risk to your workforce, their loved ones and everyone else they could come across on their trip, is a case of leadership, compassion and looking at the bigger picture.

If you operate in a region where a local outbreak has been confirmed by the authorities, you should consider allowing staff to work from home. You can introduce such a measure by firstly allowing those who do not feel comfortable to leave the house to stay at home. Once authorities suggest so, then everyone will follow suit.

It is also important to make sure that 1) you have provided your workforce with the right tools to work remotely (including access to any critical systems that in other situations might not have been accessible remotely – but without forgetting security!); 2) you and your IT team have trialled and confirmed that every member of staff can use the systems and collaboration tools.

Traffic Increase

The pandemic has had an effect on the world’s economy and the supply chain has been affected, especially during the outbreak in China. As the virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, it is key that telcos review their supply chain arrangements and plan for disruption. Expansion projects could also be affected in the long term.

However, with millions staying at home, millions are turning to the internet. Traffic spikes have been reported in several countries, especially in China and Italy, with massive scale lockdowns taking place. From remote working to pleasure, the internet is in some way becoming the real world these days.

For example, DE-CIX (the Deutsche Commercial Internet Exchange) in Frankfurt has already set a new world record for data throughput driven by increased internet usage related to the Coronavirus outbreak. At 9.1 Terabits, it broke its 8 Terabits-per-second record from December 2019.

Telcos, as the powerhouses of cloud and connectors of the internet, are obviously going to feel this same effect.

Therefore, it is important that operators and service providers take all the necessary steps to prevent any downtime – even though measures should have already been in place from day one.

Digital Media

With many events being postponed or cancelled, getting people in the same room becomes harder to achieve, meaning social media can be your best friend more than ever.

Changing the narrative to a positive message in times like this can help not only grow your brand, but also help people escape the constant, 24/7, news deluge on the Coronavirus. But it is important to keep the messages sensible and not ignore what is happening at the same time.

Do you have use cases in the draw that you haven’t been able to release previously? This is your chance to get going. The world will only come to a halt if we allow it to.

Communication Channels

During periods of crisis, it is important to keep staff updated on a regular basis, especially with such a fast-moving pandemic as Covid-19.

At the moment, daily updates to staff are advisable, and businesses should establish one communication channel – a page on an intranet portal, an email chain, and so on – to make it easy for staff to access advice.

Also, ensure that 1) no one misses any update; 2) no one feels like they are missing an update.

Reassurance, but also reality needs to be conveyed in the messaging, especially for listed telecoms businesses whose shareholders will be closely watching the global market decline.

Step Up Cleaning

Workplace hygiene should always be a priority, with or without an ongoing pandemic. However, especially if your offices are operating, it is paramount that additional cleaning is carried out.

If you only used to clean once a day, perhaps it is time to go into a morning and evening routine. Getting an external company to conduct a deep clean is also another way of giving your employees reassurance that 1) they can trust the workplace; 2) you are doing your best to keep them and their loved ones as safe as possible.

Rubbish should also be taken care of more cautiously, mostly when tissues have been disposed of. Doubling rubbish bags is one way of helping to avoid any potential spread of the virus to those who remove them (although the rubbish should not then be handed by the normal services).

Check with local authorities for the best practice guidelines on how to dispose of rubbish.

Follow local authorities’ advice

Most importantly, it is imperative that you follow local authorities’ advice and act as they say. This pandemic has been labelled by some as the “greatest challenge in a generation” and is leading to many new measures that a large part of the population has never witnessed before.

A balance is needed in countries that are slow to action more drastic measures, but as we live in a global community, your employees will be following the activities in other countries and questioning why things are not changing where they are.

The key here is to ensure they have some sort of decision making and facilitation in case they want to work from home. However, this is easier said than done, and in some countries might no be possible due to current job security levels.

Nevertheless, there is almost no  government that has not acknowledged the pandemic, and a large majority have launched their plans to fight the outbreak whilst also issuing best practice advice.

Several law firms are also releasing a lot of useful information to businesses such as BCLP.

Plan for the future

This is not the first and it won’t be the last time we face a global pandemic. Many businesses will not have gone through one before, others will not have had contingency plans in place.

Although the world today changes at speed, it is crucial that we learn from dealing with Covid-19, and constantly adapt the business world's response to a future outbreak, be it small or large.

This goes beyond epidemics and pandemics, you should also assess several other risk scenarios, either man-made, such as wars and terrorism, or natural disasters.

Ensure your business has at least one person who can efficiently compile all the data and actions taken in answer to Covid-19. While you go through it, you will have put or will soon be putting into place, new business frameworks to cope with the event.

Finally, we will all have something to learn from this experience: whether it’s assessing if, for example, you allowed your workforce to work from home too soon or too late; if your office cleaning standards need to improve going forward; if you need to have an always-available space in the building to isolate someone. The answers to these questions will make your business much more resilient in future.