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Lockdown video calling helps provide key services

Wednesday 20th May 2020 11:00

People using Microsoft Teams to talk remotely

Video conferencing technology has allowed Thames Water staff to continue to provide essential services during the coronavirus lockdown.

Many of the company’s 6,000 staff are working from home to help combat the spread of the virus but have been able to hold vital meetings thanks to video calling services such as Microsoft Teams.

The programmes allow them to speak to colleagues, customers and representatives from external organisations face-to-face, allowing them to carry out vital work while protecting against the pandemic.

Those in the water industry are classed as key workers and Thames Water staff are continuing to work to provide clean and wastewater services to more than 15 million people across London and the Thames Valley.

More than 30 people took part in an online procurement event for the new Guildford sewage treatment works, which provided information on the project to prospective bidders. It was run as a live event through Microsoft Teams, with the project team from Thames Water delivering a presentation and question and answer session to dozens of contractors and suppliers.

Chris Ward, Thames Water’s procurement business partner, said: “Despite being unable to carry out the event the way we usually would, it was a huge success due to our use of Teams.

“The presentation was seamless and the question and answer session worked well, while attendees also commented on how much easier it was to take part.”

Microsoft Teams has also been used to help test new equipment at some of Thames Water’s operational sites, which ordinarily goes through days of testing at the supplier’s premises.

The company used a combination of Teams and remote access to Thames Water’s SCADA system to test a replacement control system for the London Water Ring Main, meaning all the participants, including the supplier's staff, could work from home for the duration of the test.

Thames Water staff also took part in an online careers event for students in Reading earlier this month, which was run on Microsoft Teams and organised by the Activate Learning Education Trust. Ambassadors for the company give an insight into science and IT careers to about 35 students, including students from UTC Reading, a college specialising in engineering and computer science.

Across the business, Thames Water has seen a 104% increase in the use of Teams in the last month, with staff using the service for more than 1.6 million calls, messages and other interactions.

Thames Water’s chief information officer Tony McCandless said: “Having video conferencing programmes like Microsoft Teams available to us during this crisis has been vital in allowing us to keep providing our essential services.

“They have allowed us to continue work as normal and complete tasks that would otherwise have been very difficult. Our staff have adapted very well and really embraced the importance of these programmes at this difficult time.”

As key workers, Thames Water staff will continue to fix leaks, clear blockages and maintain services at reservoirs, treatment works and sewage sites in accordance with government guidelines. Non-essential work, such as meter readings, has been reduced.