letsgo2 is a small independent travel company that arranges 5,000 holidays, with bespoke itineraries and personalised services, every year.
Well, every normal year anyway. It goes without saying that 2020 has been less than stellar for letsgo2 or the travel industry in general. But rather than electing to hunker down and ride out the pandemic, managing director Chris Ward decided to push ahead with some fundamental changes aimed at increasing the company's long-term resilience, the most eye-catching of which is doing away with its office space altogether. From now on, the entire team of sales staff and travel experts will be working remotely.
So far the experience has been hugely positive in both financial and personal aspects, Ward told Computing.
"Ultimately, the key objective at the moment is to conserve funds whilst maintaining service levels," he explained. "We've seen a six-figure saving and everyone's work-life balance is better. People have more time with their families. There's definitely been a considerable increase in productivity."
Having observed how smoothly employees adapted to the new conditions forced upon them by Covid-19, the Chessington, Surrey-based firm decided to cut its ties to bricks and mortar for good.
"We saw benefits really soon into lockdown and after several weeks we started talking about leaving our office," Ward said.
letsgo2's technology stack was an important factor in this decision. The company ran a hybrid cloud architecture with Microsoft and a small data centre housing domain controller and file server for user familiarity and ease of management, all unified by Microsoft AD. The company does not employ any IT staff of its own, outsourcing this responsibility to specialist SME managed services provider IntraLAN, which manages letsgo2's devices through group and Intune policies. It also provides round the clock monitoring and remediation of the system as a whole.
The MSP was heavily involved with the practical details of the move, Ward said, including helping staff set up internet access points for home connectivity: "They quickly gave us confidence that everything would be looked after. We've seen no difference in our service."
As part of the move, IntraLAN engineers physically moved letsgo2's servers into the firm's own data centre, allowing the travel company to serve notice on its premises. The new arrangement took about 12 hours to implement and has so far enabled homeworking without a hitch.
"The biggest challenge was making sure nobody forgot anything when they went home before lockdown came into effect." Ward said. "The migration process was seamless. Most clients are unaware that we are now all working remotely as nothing has changed in terms of how we manage the business."
The move to homeworking has increased flexibility, which should stand letsgo2 in good stead when things return to normal. It has also considerably lessened the prospect of having to lay anyone off. However, Ward acknowledged that morale could be affected over time as people miss physical company.
"Camaraderie and motivation are two things that could flag the longer people are at home. However, we haven't seen this happen yet, and we have plenty of social initiatives planned to keep our team spirit thriving.
"It is a learning curve and the sales team do normally thrive on interaction with each other, but the use of communications tools like Zoom has made the changes easy to adapt to. And the increased flexibility really is something that all staff enjoy."
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