What we’ve learned about remote working
Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice president for Microsoft 365, shares what he and his team have learned from working apart.
“The ongoing health emergency has led to new ways of working for organisations all over the world,” says Frank O’Donnell, Public Sector Lead at Microsoft Ireland. In responding to COVID-19, workers across all industries have been forced to adapt their daily routines.
But when the services your organisation offers are vital to people’s health and well-being, the need to adapt becomes even more imperative. This is the scenario that public service organisations the world over find themselves in.
Mayo County Council in Ireland has been using technology to continue to keep its 1300 staff able to deliver key services to its constituents, despite having closed the doors to its office in the small town of Castlebar, County Mayo.
It is in keeping with the organisation’s growing reputation as a model of how technology can be used to innovate.
“Mayo County Council is one of the most innovative organisations we work with,” says O’Donnell. “And to be one of the first organisations worldwide to integrate Microsoft Teams into their call centre is no small feat.”
When the Irish government imposed restrictions on businesses and the movement of people to protect its citizens from COVID-19, Mayo County Council faced a tough challenge to continue to reach each of its approximately 130,000 inhabitants.
The organisation had to find a way to remain connected to the community and ensure the wellbeing of its residents, even while its staff were working remotely – something that seemed unthinkable even 3 months ago.
“Remote working wouldn’t have been something we would have previously considered for a local authority in County Mayo,” says Danny O’Toole, Head of Digital Transformation at Mayo County Council.
“But using Microsoft Teams we have proved that we can do it, and do it securely, resulting in a better-connected Mayo.”
In a time when people are being asked to physically distance from one another, communication becomes even more important. For Mayo County Council, as with so many public service organisations, maintaining an open and secure line of communication with residents was a vital aspect of their adaptation.
To do this, Danny and his team used Microsoft Teams to set up a helpline that enables staff at Mayo County Council to connect with residents and communities across the county. Constituents are now able to call the helpline and connect directly with council staff on Microsoft Teams.
It has been crucial for those most at risk, such as the elderly and other vulnerable people who find themselves isolated. By linking them with essential services made available by voluntary community organisations, as well as the many individuals in the county that are lending a helping hand to ensure people have everything they need when self-isolating, the helpline allows access to crucial amenities like medical prescriptions, hot meals and groceries.
Run seven days a week, the helpline is available for everybody, although Mayo County Council have found that older citizens use the service frequently.
“The helpline has proved invaluable to the most vulnerable and isolated,” says O’Donnell.
While everyone working at Mayo County Council could immediately see the need to adapt to stay in contact with both each other and their community, adopting new technologies had proved to be a cultural challenge for the organisation in the past.
But with the local authority having to ensure that its core services such as Housing, Planning, Water, Environment and emergency call outs still remained available, as well as dealing with the impact of COVID-19 in their area, there was no room for an adaptation period when Microsoft Teams was implemented across the organisation.
To overcome this challenge, O’Toole and his team worked with other leaders in the organisation to establish policies to support the roll out of the new technology and ensure staff could work securely from home. And because the council already used Microsoft 365’s cloud-based platform and security systems, they were able to introduce the solution in a matter of weeks – compared to the many months they predict it would have taken otherwise.
With more than 400 people now working remotely, and the council still providing its vital services to its residents, as well as additional support during the current health crisis, the solution has proved to be a resounding success.
“We look forward to continuing to support local authorities such as Mayo County Council, who are working around the clock to help people through this crisis and beyond,” says O’Donnell.