The screens on the wall of First Line’s offices give the place something of a Star Trek feel.
The team uses them to monitor the networks they support as well as watching what is going on in the data centre and other parts of the building. The data centre in particular looks as if it could be part of the Enterprise. There even appears to be the captain of another starship in the corner waiting to speak to Captain Kirk … no, wait – that’s Kevin Sands, who used to work for First Line IT as an IT support technician.
‘Kevin still works for First Line IT as an IT support technician,’ grins Operations Director John Crozier: ‘He just does it from Yorkshire, where he now lives. We established this video link so that he could continue to feel part of the team.’
Technology-enabled flexible and remote working has become so far the norm that when Kevin said last year that he wanted to return to his native Yorkshire, neither John nor Technical Director Nim saw any reason why he should not continue to work for First Line. Connecting him with the computer and phone network would be easy. Their only concern was that Kevin might get a little lonely.
‘I love working from home one day a week,’ says John. ‘I can get my head down, shut out all distractions and interruptions, and really get a lot done. However, I couldn’t do it every day. I’d really miss the office buzz and all the energy and ideas we generate simply by being in the same place.’
The permanent video link that First Line has created with Kevin’s home office aims to recreate as nearly as possible the feeling of being able to turn round and talk to him as if he were still sitting in First Line’s offices. And Kevin himself gets to break the fourth wall every day, with a window into what is going on in Oxford.
So next time you’re speaking to Kevin, you won’t be surprised if you develop a sudden craving for Henderson’s Relish or start referring to fairy cakes as ‘buns’ (the Yorkshire spirit is insidious, even down a telephone line). And if you visit the offices, don’t forget to look at the screens and give him a wave.