Nuffield Foundation – IT experiences during the Coronavirus Lockdown

During the covid-19 pandemic, there has been a huge increase in people working at home. From an IT perspective, this was an unprecedented challenge. Most clients that we work with have had some element of remote working for many years, but few have been set up to have 100% of their workforces working from home, and March 2020 will certainly be a month that our IT Support Team will never forget, as they quickly pulled out all the stops to get thousands of end users operational from their new home offices!

We have been pleased to receive a huge amount of positive feedback from customers for our quick response to this very urgent need, and we recently had the opportunity to speak to Elaine Graham-Leigh, who is the Information Governance and Systems Officer at one of our valued customers, The Nuffield Foundation. Elaine told us how the Nuffield Foundation employees are working remotely and how ramsac have been able to help during this time as Nuffield’s outsourced IT managed service provider.

How many employees regularly worked from home before the COVID-19 outbreak?

“Around half of employees worked regularly or semi-regularly from home, a marked increase on even a couple of years ago when it was only a handful”.

Since the covid-19 lockdown was announced, how many employees have able to work from home?

“100%! All of our employees have Nuffield laptops and can get access to the systems they need in the cloud. This even applies to our receptionist. We decided not to divert our main phone number to her personal phone as we were concerned that she would be getting calls during her days off, but she is still able to work monitoring the reception email (given on our website) and carrying out her other admin tasks”.

What were your concerns about having your employees work from home?

“From an IT point of view, we were concerned about internet connectivity and whether employees would be able to get support when they needed it. We also have one system (the Finance system) still on premise and many finance systems still relying on paper, so it wasn’t clear how that would work with remote working. My 2am worries were whether there would be some overlooked but crucial on-premise service that would mean that when we were all at home, systems wouldn’t work as expected”.

“More widely, HR worried about employees being able to fulfil their roles/responsibilities, ability to carry out critical business functions (e.g. grant management, running payroll, recruitment etc), maintaining employee engagement, impact on employee health and wellbeing, how we could continue to effectively communicate with the workforce and work collaboratively”.

Do you still have these concerns, what has changed now we are 6 weeks into lockdown?

“Everyone’s internet connections seem broadly to have held up, barring the odd glitch here and there. We had perhaps more people than I expected needing additional equipment for working from home full-time (including me!) but with ramsac’s help we’ve been able to get everyone the kit they need. We’ve even been able to find and set up laptops for new staff members, which I really hadn’t expected to be able to do.

The finance team have been able to rework their processes to cope with remote working. They’ve been able to use the Citrix server to get access to the finance system. It’s a bit fiddlier for them than the experience for the rest of the organisation, but since they’re only a small team, they haven’t had the speed and connectivity issues we used to experience on it when we relied on Citrix for all our remote connections”.

Naturally the organisation still has concerns as Elaine explains. “We still have concerns: the longer-term impact on employee health and wellbeing, and how we maintain levels of staff engagement. We are working on this, but it is more time-consuming, and will become more difficult as the situation goes on. Otherwise, the organisation has proved it is able to continue to function whilst all working remotely. We are about to undertake a survey of the workforce to get a sense check of how employees are feeling about returning to the office once restrictions are lifted – that may also provide some insight into any concerns employees may have about continuing to be away from the office.”

How has ramsac been able to meet the IT needs of the organisation during this time?

Before the virus outbreak, ramsac has been able to make sure that the Foundation was able to function fully remotely ahead of time, using Microsoft 365. “Fortunately for us, ramsac had done the hard work ahead of time, by getting us into Microsoft 365. That’s the bit that users are most aware of, but really the work to get us into Azure AD, Intune etc behind the scenes has been just as valuable, meaning that we’ve been able to carry on managing users, setting up new users etc just as we did when we were in the office. It’s the sort of thing that you only notice when you can’t do it”.

How have you found the service at ramsac during this global pandemic?

These are unprecedented times for every business in the UK at the moment, however, our aim is to make sure we continue to give top-notch service to our customer where possible. Elaine says “We completely understood that support was overwhelmed by requests from organisations who hadn’t got their remote working sorted ahead of time, so we expected that non-urgent issues would have to wait longer than usual. Having said that, it was impressive how quickly support was able to get back to normal, even to the extent of engineers working from home being able to transfer calls to their colleagues, also at home. All my colleagues have been full of praise for how responsive, friendly and efficient ramsac engineers have been. We’ve had five new staff members in the last weeks and they’ve all said how impressed they’ve been”.

“ramsac’s move to virtual on-site engineer and consultancy days was also seamless and is proving really valuable. It’s great still to have dedicated time from a technical engineer and it’s worked very well”.

How has ramsac made home working easier?

“By working with us over the last couple of years to move our systems into the cloud and all our staff to laptops. We hadn’t quite finished when this pandemic hit, but near enough that we could basically pick up our equipment and go home. This situation has shown the value of preparation and ramsac have been invaluable in helping us prepare, even though we didn’t realise what we were preparing for!”.

“ramsac has also provided lots of hints and tips around home working which they have been issuing to clients every week – I’ve been sharing the blog content, particularly around Covid-19 phishing and it’s had a lot of hits on our intranet. It has helped me shape the messages I’ve been sending out and it’s very useful to have the authority of ramsac behind me”.

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