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Tuesday 23 June 2020

When home working comes calling

#WeAreInThisTogether has never been a truer statement.  As a Global company Webtec is working hard to ensure its colleagues are safe and well while still supporting its customers from sales to production, as its UK manufacturing facility is still fully operational to fulfil customers’ requirements.

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As the COVID19 virus spreads throughout the various regions, we talked to colleagues in each corner of the World to ask how these unprecedented changes in business and home environment has changed for them.

Asia was the first region to feel the full effects of the virus. Vivian Zhang, Market Development Director East Asia is responsible for the daily operation of Webtec (Hong Kong) Ltd, managing sales activities and distribution channels as well as market and business development for China and East Asian countries. Vivian has and still is working from her home office and although there have been less disruptions, the social isolation has been difficult at times.  As she explains, “I have found that the biggest short-term impact is the limitation in traveling and socialising.  Before Covid19 the majority of our business was conducted through face-to-face meetings but during the pandemic it has been via email and telephone.  I am looking forward to catching up with my friends and customers in person. The first country on my list to visit is mainland China”.

Now that Asia is beginning to operate more normally, does Vivian have any advice for her colleagues at Webtec? Yes simply, ‘keep calm and stay tuned’.

While the US and Europe are both still in the grips of the pandemic, it is true to say that some countries appear to be recovering quicker than others but all have adopted similar social distancing practices including only leaving home where necessary such as shopping for food, medical or travel work, all of course with the safe 2M distance.  Simone Hielscher recently joined Webtec as Sales, Marketing & Operations Co-ordinator in the Leverkusen office in Germany.  Simone is able to work safely from the Webec office where her main focus is looking after German speaking and other European customers.  Again one of the key working practices that has changed is that some customers cannot be reached during regular office hours because of home working and so email is now the preferred option of communication, allowing them to respond at a time that is convenient to them. Like many of us when the restrictions are lifted Simone is looking forward to visiting her parents, family members and friends, but also would like everybody to “stay safe and not take any risks, to protect our health and that of others even if takes a few months”.

Webtec’s production facility in the UK is still safely operating but the Government’s advice to work at home if possible has meant that Webtec’s sales and support teams are now home working.  Two of the UK team members, Anne-Laure Bossé and Sam Drummond, are experiencing working from home for the first time.

Anne-Laure is Sales Co-ordinator for the French Speaking Countries and works closely with customers to raise quotes, orders and general customer service, as well as being responsible for the Sales Quality Procedure Guides.  Both Anne-Laure and her husband are working from home and have been able to set up a dedicated office, which has helped to structure her working day and plan the necessary home schooling.

Working from home has the advantage of not having to commute to the office and offers less distractions but as Anne-Laure also mentions, “it can also be a lonely way of working and you miss the interaction with your colleagues and customers, especially as some of the companies in France have closed for a while and email tends to be preferred way to communicate rather than customer telephone calls”. 

As in most areas the community of St Ives is responding to the ‘Stay At Home’ message, while still pulling together to look after vulnerable people.  Anne-Laure hopes that after the pandemic these positives will  carry on and we all continue to be nice to each other and support our local food providers, which should also include a visit to the local pub to enjoy a nice cooked meal, by somebody else!

For the younger generation, who are more used to using the latest social media to communicate with friends, has this period of lockdown been any easier?  Sam Drummond, Junior Sales Engineer, doesn’t think so.  Based in the UK office Sam is now home based.  He is used to working in the office, apart from when out on face-to-face customer visits with the sales team.  “Keeping in touch with key customers is just as important now as before and because we can’t travel all ‘visits’ have to be virtual” he explained.  “We mainly use skype for business which is great but can have a few technical issues and it has been difficult to talk to customers in Italy and Spain for a while now for obvious reasons”.

Sam has missed talking to his office colleagues in person but there is always the telephone and skype for those who have access.  Talking virtually with friends has been easy with social media platforms such as House Party and Zoom, but this doesn’t replace catching up with them in the pub when this is over.  Sam’s advice to everybody is ‘stay inside and hang on in there, it will soon pass’.

Heather D’Amico who joined the company at the start of the year as Distribution Sales Manager in Webtec’s LLC location finds that working from home has many positives and some challenges. Covering distribution in North and Central America, COVID 19 has certainly changed the way that Heather is working with the channel.  She was due to visit Webtec’s channel partners face-to-face, but this had to be changed with introductions taking place by email and telephone calls.  However, this has helped her to understand how the virus is affecting their way of trading and has proved a common ground for all companies.

Heather’s daily one and a half hour commute into the office is now proving more productive and taking a break to walk out at lunchtime is a great way to focus for the afternoon.  Family time is more appreciated now too, but with one of Heather’s daughters due to graduate from high school this spring this has brought its own disappointment as nobody can tell when or if there will be a graduation ceremony or prom. However, the family pet ‘Buddy’ is enjoying being the office dog and all the extra attention that brings.

Like most of Webtec’s colleagues, Heather is missing her family and will waste no time in visiting her Mom who like many parents has been self-isolating since mid-March. Sending ‘Wishes of good heath to everyone at Webtec’ is another thought that is shared by all

Nobody knows how long this pandemic will continue but with Webtec’s teams firmly in place to help customers and colleagues alike one thing is for certain #WeAreInThisTogether.

Click here to read our story titled 'Production is the beating heart of a company'


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