During the COVID-19 pandemic many of us cut over to a new work regimen – working remotely, where satisfactory results first of all depended on a rubust circumstance – the availability of Internet connectivity, which should have been both fast and high-quality. Today on our exciting virtual journey we will find out together how our browsers commute us to the websites and systems of our choice within seconds; and how all of us follow the daily hot newsboard on coronavirus and simultanously keep an eye on online education of our kids.

The destination of our visit this time was Beeline Armenia. We shall mention no address here since our visit was not only in Yerevan but to other offices in different provinces. Before sharing details and best work practices with you, we would like to highlight that they have been with us, they worked for us and took care of our safety all this time.

Well, let us go ahead then… off to the adventures, curious scenes “beyond the servers” ?

Thank you, Beeline Armenia team.

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Beeline Armenia’s response to COVID-19

Potential hazards take some getting prepared to. It can be done by simply applying cutting-edge technologies and ideas, trying out new methods. From the very first day we were ready to be working remotely since we had in place the BeFree method of working from home, digital document flow, digital signature, which to some extent we pushed upon our business partners, and many other tools. We just needed to expand them further and adjust to the situation.

As you know, coronavirus came to Armenia rather late as compared to other countries, and before they would announce a lockdown here, we had received an extended strategy outline from our colleagues in Amsterdam Headquarters (HQ), where serious works were being done.

This strategy covered measures taken towards all directions: safety, working with people, procurement, smooth delivery of services, etc. Of course, we consolidated our suggestions from different functions too, and quite soon we had a clear action plan in place. This was definitely immensely helpful in quickly taking a cue when the lockdown was announced, because every function clearly knew now what to do in the event of various scenarios, including those like contamination of our employees.

As a large carrier of connectivity and telco, working remotely was not realistic for some of your functions, this being said, what were the measures taken to assure safety of both your employees and the community?

The safety of our employees and customers is always important to us, and it has become the cornerstone of all our further steps.

The focus of company’s attention is currently at people, directly working with customers – the retail specialists, technical staff, call center personnel.

From the first day of virus penetration in Armenia we started distribution of disinfectant materials to all of our offices. We closed our retail stores even before the lockdown was announced; and we still have stores that are closed by now. All employees that could work from home went off to using the BeFree system, for which we are thankful to our IT personnel who made it available within hours.

For all those whose presence at the offices is a must, special schedules were developed to make sure that the same people would work during the same duty shift.

Everything was done to assure that people on differing duty shifts did not come accross each other. After a group leaves, the space gets disinfected before the other group arrives.

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These are the functions providing the call center services and network monitoring centre services. Before any duty shift starts, our corporate physician measures their temperature. Everyone is provided with masks and our drivers are there with corporate vehicles to pick the personnel up and drop them down at their places.

Was the remote work a response to the pandemid or was it a favourite benefit that the employees could make use of?

The policy of BeFree has been available at VEON Group for several years. It is a general approach of the Group, where no specific physical workspace is assigned to an employee and where the employee is able to perform their duties from different places at the same time using their working files and tools. We even have special tools in place, enabling a manager to assign tasks to the team and follow-up throughout their performance efficiency. For example, we need this often, when our managers are out on a business trip in Amsterdam to meet the Group top management at HQ or to participate in a training workshop. Additionally, any employee might need to be somewhere else without interrupting performance of his/her duties and the company is delighted to provide such opportunity to its employees.

Thanks to the services provided by Beeline Armenia many businesses succeeded in continuing their operations as efficient as it was before the COVID-19. Availability of internet connectivity became more crucial than ever, for which we really want to thank your personnel for their commitment.

Yes, since we are a connectivity carrier, in this situation our services drastically became not only of cruicial but also of vital priority. So it is very important to speak about what our company did for its employees working from home and for our community that was supposed to go on with their work and studies. For example, in close colaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of RA we gave our customers the opportunity to make free use of all educational platforms, the YouTube channel of the Ministry, and we enabled free access to the Ministry’s site through our BeeTV application. Many other important governmental websites and platforms that could be useful for the people during the pandemic became free to use. We provided toll-free telephone numbers to the volunteers of the Ministry of Health as a sign of appreciation of their commitment and loyalty; calls to the hotline numbers were made free for our customers.

We believe that as a company and as a team we performed really well and put every effort to ensure communication was available to everyone and that nobody had to face the difficulties alone.

We are curious now, what tech tools have been used by your team to ensure uninterrupted operations?

In scope of BeFree strategy all employees could connect to our corporate network via VPN and make full use of it as if they were at work. The smooth operations of the system were ensured by IT personnel coming to the office on duty. Large corporate meetings, especially those with the HQ are conducted through BlueJeans, however some functions can choose between other programs like Zoom, WhatsApp, etc. Depending on the function, where people work, the teams working on project basis are using applicable tools like Wrike, for example, in order to follow up and control the processes of their projects.

Recently we had an interesting discussion at StaffBlog about working remotely vs working at the office, where different specialists shared their approaches on the matter. What do you think of this? Which is the model for organizing work in future?

Working remotely and spending more time with your family is both an advantage and a challenge in this situation. It is a challenge in a sense that our families distract us from focusing. Having Mommy or Daddy at home is a sign we can play together and no excuses like they need to work are accepted. And how can you turn the little one down here? Nonetheless, you can instead plan your day better and manage to do a lot more. At least there is no need to spend time on your way to work.

We realized that digital document-flow, data security resources and control tools for following-up implementation of tasks can be a serious challenge for an IT function, and we shall definitely offer such services to our B2B customers.

Currently we are shaping the working method of future – the hybrid one, when a person partially works from home and partially at the office. This will help maintain the work-life balance and will help to save office costs. The new reality can prove to be even more efficient than the one that we dearly miss.

How do you manage to keep the team spirit up and motivation of employees going so high in this new reality?

We are a connectivity carrier. We are always in touch with our business partners, our customers and one another. Colaboration and communication by phone and internet never interrupts between the functions.

Moreover, we have a tradition, where the top managers present the ongoing results and works done to the staff in a quarterly meeting. This meeting was also held in time and the employees were able to address their concerns to the top management.

Apart from that, during this period we had three more virtual meetings, where the two of these were with the participation of Group Co-CEOs and OpCos from other countries. The objective of this video call is that all operating companies from VEON family clearly understand that they are not alone in these hard times.

During this whole period our HR has been actively reacting to the new challenges and kept on providing inclusion and development of the employees, shifting these processes to online area. Along with the Intranet – local platform for employees and internal communications – Telegram channel was launched, where non official news, posts and jokes are being shared, challenges and competitions are conducted to involve all the employees. In corporate learning the Pecha Kucha format has been adopted, also online movie watching sessions were organized. Around 290 employees who work in the Customer Care Offices took a test to check their professional knowledge.

Also we continue to welcome our new colleagues.

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Would you like to disclose some things going on at your non-official corporate newsfeed? ?

During the lockdown, when our corporate head office located at Azatutyan Avenue was almost empty, new inhabitants appeared there: a few puppies left without their mom. Seeking for a shelter at our office was the right choice by them since our security and call center staff immediately decided to take care of them.

They were quickly given food, a place to sleep and their pics went viral on our Telegram channel on the same day. There was an idea to share their story with the external audience so that the puppies were not left homeless. It is unbelievable, but we did not need to do it. The puppies very quickly landed homes at the places of our staff with new loving families to enjoy now.

Despite everyday’s positive working atmosphere, teamwork and totally safe operations ensured by Beeline Armenia, COVID-19 did not come to our country alone, bringing along those “little guests” that we call challenges. Which are those challenges from your company’s point of view?

First of all, we need to introduce new tools for efficiency control. If, very often coming to the office on time and not leaving early might be a performance indicator, where you must try not to cause damage and get at least one thing done (which is of course the poor approach), now it is important to deliver results in time and in full. How and when you do it, is not that important. Both the managers and their teams are getting used to this new situation.

Of course, online services matter either. This is not an issue of tomorrow anymore; it is an objective of today. Without user-friendly online services and sales your business cannot survive.

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What did this situation give to your team?

The biggest advantage for us was that we once more witnessed and got convinced how important our work was for the society and how crucial our mission was when we went to work every day and performed our duties. In this period independent of the challenges and complications we can state that the team is even more united and inspired now and that we continue our investment programs. We literally recently launched the 4G+ new generation network in Yerevan, which will provide even faster connectivity to clients.

The next important outcome is that in order to get their things done, our customers started preferring to use newer, more efficient, and fast tools that we had been providing long before. These are, for instance, the universal BeeMoney mobile application tailored to make different payments, MyBeelineArmenia app – to manage accounts, to make payments, to have access to call detailing; E-shop online store that allows ordering and receiving any of our products and services via shipment, including SIM cards. This is the convenient and advanced way of deliverying services, and we believe this transition will also be useful for our customers.

It is amazing! Have you thought of what will be the first thing you would do right after going back to the offices?

We shall turn off Internet for everyone. They should be out walking and socializing in person. ?  Just kidding ?

#WorkFromHome VS #OfficeWork

Let’s admit that the situation helped us to re-evaluate not only the communication, but also the need for telecommunications. Without the dedicated and vital work of Beeline Armenia, one of the largest connectivity carrier in Armenia, it would have been impossible for us to have a work from home practice, active communication with our virtual partners and relatives.