The coronavirus pandemic threw the global economy into turmoil. In Japan, commercial activities are heavily restricted under the state of emergency declared by the government. As COVID-19 has become an unprecedented situation for all of us, online communication has become the key in keeping people, society, and businesses together. As self-isolation, social distancing and working from home (WFH) become the new norm, technology has come into its own as a uniting force.
COVID-19 is forcing many people around the world to work remotely. Companies confronted with the COVID-19 crisis are trying drastically to change their business models to adjust to this new style of work. The sudden dislocation has put a strain on both IT and security teams who are being asked to provide support for a huge number of offsite workers and their devices.
Helping employees, customers,partners and society in a time of need is one of Cisco’s core values; we can help companies make a smooth transition via a secure video conferencing system, Webex. More, we wish to make a contribution to Japanese society by offering Webex free of charge for 90 days to anyone who contacts us (*1). It doesn’t matter if you are our customer or not. If you reach out to us, we’ll give you access to Webex. We believe now is the time for us to contribute to the wellbeing of Japan in any way we can.
Cisco’s Webex allows you to share your screen on a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device, so participants can view your document, spreadsheet, or application. Hosts can record the meeting so others can get up to speed later. Everyone you invite can join your online meeting, no matter how they’re connecting, including guests. Big crowd? Not a problem. You can meet with up to 100,000 people.
Another factor to consider with WFH is online security. Businesses exchange confidential information that could be put at risk when WFH employees use unsecure wifi, or download an app from the cloud. With Webex, your messages and files are fully encrypted, right from your device to those of your recipients. During Covid-19, and for the foreseeable future, we are expanding our free offerings to include security software for remote employees in our key security technologies that are designed to protect remote workers anywhere, anytime and on any device as they WFH or remotely.
We’re also making Webex available for free to all education customers throughout Japan for 180 days. Cisco, the National Institute of Informatics (NII), and the National Institute of Information and Systems Research are teaming up to provide universities, junior colleges and technical colleges across Japan with a support program as a base for distance learning. Regardless of whether or not you are a Cisco customer we want to play our part. All we seek is to help students, teachers, companies and governments to plot a course through this difficult time.
Currently, the highest priority for us is healthcare workers who need equipment to perform examinations, diagnosis, and evaluations, as well as governments that need to offer services. By using the system, healthcare organizations can manage their communications and collaboration remotely – even among doctors and patients separated by geography and time zone. Doctors can provide consultations and second opinions to patients without meeting face to face. Doctors can use Webex’s secure document sharing to access to share records from around the world from disparate systems. In this way, expertise is available at your fingertips. If technology can help, we’ll do everything we can to make it accessible.
As hard as it has been, the experience in WFH has been fascinating. In fact, our CEO now wants all employees to WFH. Almost 95% of them do, with a few exceptions who are still allowed go into the office. We consider video calls to be far more engaging than audio calls. We also find that more and more people are getting used to video chat in Japan. At first, we saw employees coming on video calls in their proper business outfits, but gradually we started to see them growing more comfortable, and dressing down. Now we even see family members on Webex during lunch. People are becoming a lot more open to the whole experience.
At Cisco, employees are doing fun things together using Cisco Webex. When you’re at home all day or WFH, you need a break. So we provide activities for employees such as a virtual yoga class with a yoga instructor via Cisco Webex, and hundreds of employees have participated. It helps employees be mindful and stay healthy. For them, an improvement in the work-life balance will increase their quality of life, and it may even increase productivity. One thing is for sure. During these stressful times, taking an occasional break is necessary for our employees, partners and customers alike. In that, as in everything else, we are here to help.
Cisco is committed to helping Japan overcome this difficulty and advance the society by supporting business continuity and work style innovation for our customers, patners and society.
(*1) Applications to the Cisco Webex Meetings 90-day Free Support Program will be terminated depending on the situation, including lifting of the government’s declaration of a state of emergency.