At a Glance
- Quickly formed a global crisis team through UC
- Verified employee safety and welfare
- Enabled workforce to seamlessly telework
- Maintained business continuity
- Enabled communication collaboration tools
Polycom Unified Communications Maintain Safety of Employees and Japan’s Relief Efforts During Earthquake and Tsunami
As the global leader in standards-based unified communications (UC), Polycom helps organisations of all sizes, across all industries, become high-performance workplaces where individuals and teams collaborate on-demand between any location, over any network, with their device of choice. Polycom has a global presence with offices across Asia Pacific – including Tokyo, Japan – Europe, Middle East and Africa, North America and Latin America.
On March 11, 2011 Japan was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan, and according to news reports, was so strong it moved the island of Honshu eight feet (two metres) eastward. The earthquake triggered tsunami waves of up to 132 feet (40.5 metres)*, causing extensive structural damage, including heavy damage to roads and railways, and resulted in three reactors in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant complex to explode, leading to mass evacuations and panic.
For the Japanese economy and business community, the toll was great: collapsed buildings, fires, fear of radiation leaks and limited power supply. Many manufacturing plants were directly damaged and forced to close down with supply chains cut off. Organisations had to contend with the safety and welfare of their people; shielding them from radioactive contamination and the after-shocks of the earthquake.
Ensuring Employee Safety and Helping Customers Communicate
Following the earthquake power shut downs were enforced throughout Tokyo, trains were limited and people were encouraged to stay home. During this time, Polycom enabled all employees to remain at home with their families and telework, utilising its own high-definition video, voice and telepresence solutions, providing a much more efficient and effective way to work and stay safe during a time of uncertainty.
Once the initial earthquake and associated tsunami and tremors subsided, global and regional Polycom executives formed a risk management committee to assess the situation, determine the urgent needs of their staff, partners and customers and prepare for a quick recovery. The team set about analysing business impact, determining a chain of command and assessing the damage on its IT infrastructure.
With employee welfare as number one priority, Polycom Japan senior management team were able to immediately connect face-to-face over video with all employees from the Tokyo-based office, in a series of private 1-1 calls. Communicating in real-time over high definition quality – where every facial cue, gesture and body language can be picked up, senior management were able to thoroughly assess employee physical and mental wellbeing and provide immediate support and reassurance – something that can seldom be achieved through an audio telephone call.
At the same time, HR set up employee aid services and offered counselling sessions to Japan employees.
“As HR professionals, having visual collaboration as a tool significantly enhanced our ability to evaluate face-to-face the needs of our Japan team,” said Helen Loh, Director of Human Resources, Polycom Asia Pacific.
For Polycom Japan employees, the benefits were clear: “During such uncertain times, being able to communicate instantly over video gave us a sense of security and togetherness knowing we were not alone and further helped to alleviate our fears. The added element of video enabling us to see our colleagues’ reactions and emotions gave us a deeper sense of assurance that everyone was safe and because of this we were able to resume day-to-day operations much more quickly and efficiently. We would not have been able to do this through email or over the phone,” said Polycom Japan employee Shoko Ishihara.
Acting Country Manager for Polycom Japan, Mr Tomomi Okuda said: “Once we were confident of our employees’ welfare we were able to focus on supporting our partners and customers.
“We created an emergency email address at our public homepage and used software-based IP phones, forwarding all direct-dialled calls to these soft phones so we could be contacted.”
“Polycom’s own technology played a pivotal role in recovering from the disaster. We were able to set up a global risk assessment team almost immediately as if we were in the same room, which allowed us to make effective decisions quickly.”
With fixed and mobile lines down, the communications infrastructure was under enormous pressure. As with any natural disaster people wanted to call and text loved ones to ensure their safety.
With a culture of being able to communicate from anywhere, anytime and over any device, Polycom was well provisioned during this time. All laptops were equipped with HD software based visual communications, instant messaging and presence tools enabling face-to-face meetings to be held from the comfort of home offices. All employees could securely access the Polycom network remotely during this time.
Following further explosions at the nearby Power Plants, an emergency office was also established in Osaka for at-risk employees to work from until the risks were eradicated. Not only did this give employees the opportunity to be close to family and friends during a time of uncertainty, it provided additional options to support employees to work from anywhere, anytime, and accelerated the company’s original plans to expand operations into Osaka.
Power of Visual Communications
“Changes in technology have made teleworking productive and efficient. Telepresence solutions are widely used in global business not only to reduce the costs and time associated with lengthy travel, but also to deal with unexpected situations in overseas branches by accelerating emergency response efforts and allowing companies to resume operations much sooner than expected, keeping everyone connected. We now see how teleworking can be seen as the new way to work here in Japan,” said Mr Okuda.
* Data sourced from the Japan Meteorological Agency (http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html)