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“It feels really meaningful to go to work”

The Greta-effect hit mobile phones

Empty streets are the new normal, but behind-the-scenes, people are going to unprecedented lengths to make sure that we can still meet, talk, work and interact.

PRODUCED BY TELENOR

Bård Flaarønning used to work with top politicians in Norway, but he recently moved to telecoms. The VP of Communications strategy was curious as to whether he would feel the same kind of purpose-driven excitement when going to work.  

Little did he know that he was not “going” anywhere – rather he had to work from his home office. Nor could he foresee how strongly his telecom company’s purpose and reason for existence would come to play.  

“I quickly learnt that Telenor’s main task was to connect people to what matters most to them – and that empowering societies was the backbone of the organisation. But obviously, I had no idea how strongly this would manifest when I started my job at Telenor,” says Flaarønning – who had his first day at work just when the corona virus outbreak hit Telenor’s markets in the Nordics and Asia.

Never before have people, businesses and governments across the globe relied so much on being digitally connected. 

“It feels really meaningful to go to work these days, even if it’s just a two-meter walk to my home office,” says Flaarønning with a smirk.


Bård Flaarønning
Photo: Stian Kristoffer Sande.

Prepped for crisis 

Connectivity services are the backbone of society now. 

“Planning for major crises is part of our natural business,” says CEO in Telenor, Sigve Brekke.
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CEO Sigve Brekke in Telenor is constantly looking for ways to contribute to keep people safe, businesses productive and society able to cope. “Our purpose; Empowering society, has never been more important,” he says.
Photo: Martin Fjellanger.

In many countries, children are streaming sessions with their teachers, doctors are seeing patients online, businesses are run remotely, and many are simultaneously turning to the web for interaction and entertainment.

“Telenor has people working around the clock to ensure that our services are delivered under the most stressful situations”, says Brekke. 

Telenor reaches 186 million people with their operations in nine markets across the Nordics and Asia – each of them facing some of the busiest – but also most important – weeks ever.


Ahead of the curve

Rajiv Bawa, Head of Business Group at dtac, early on saw the challenges faced by businesses in Thailand to keep their operations running.

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Rajiv Bawa, Head of Business Group at dtac in Thailand wanted to help businesses in the crisis of Covid 19.

“While every organisation was working on business continuity plans to prepare options for their staff to work from home, dtac found that corporate customers had two key concerns. The first one was about the internet speed and the second one was about having secure remote connectivity when accessing data from outside of the organization,” says Rajiv. 

At an early stage, Dtac announced a “COVID-19 Crisis Business Survival toolkit” for corporate customers that included bundled insurance and data add-on packages. Dtac also joined forces with Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy for Society to promote a remote work policy as part of the mitigation efforts.

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View of the operations: Dtac has to be ready to not only maintain its current level of service but also adapt to changing needs. “Our teams are ready to do this,” says Sharad Mehrotra, chief executive officer of dtac.

Working with the authorities to stop the spread

With millions of phones connected, telecom operators know where people move. Large amounts of anonymized mobility data can play an important role in understanding how viruses spread, as well provide insight into how government measures are working, and how the health sector is coping.  

Telenor provides mobility data on population movement to Norwegian health authorities, to help predict plausible scenarios of where the virus will travel.

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This new situation requires new ways of work: Marte Ruud Sandberg, Product Marketing Manager in Telenor Norway Analytics is happy to assist governments and health authorities, and underlines: The data we share is anonymous, aggregated data.

Photo: Stian Kristoffer Sande.

“We now count this aggregated people movement every six hours, every day, for the most updated and comprehensive datasets available on Norwegians travel patterns,” says Kenth Engø-Monsen, senior researcher at Telenor Research.  

With experience from using data to track dengue fever in Pakistan and malaria in Bangladesh, Covid-19 was a natural next step.

See how people in Norway moved around before and after corona-related travel restrictions:  

The maps show people’s movement in Norway on 10 March till 15 March, compared to people’s movement on the same day the previous week. The blue color a decrease in movement.

“What is so good about this, I think, is that it actually gives the authorities the chance to make decisions and evaluate their measures based on facts, not gut feeling,” says Marte Ruud Sandberg, Product Marketing Manager in Telenor Norway Analytics.
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The tram in Oslo shows the same as Telenor’s data. People move a lot less. Slide to see what Oslo looked like mid-March.
Photo: Stian Kristoffer Sande.

Denmark’s take on virtual leadership

In addition to the obvious parts of keeping communication networks strong and secure, Telenor Denmark is on top of the soft skills needed now.

All leaders are encouraged to learn how to lead virtually. And that doesn’t mean more distance and less human touch, according to Learning & Development partner at Telenor Denmark, Marlena Sofia Rasmussen. She states:

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This image was taken before social distancing was a thing. Now learning & development partners Marlena Sofia Rasmussen and Emilie Wågsæther in Telenor Denmark are becoming experts in virtual and distance leadership.

"There is a momentum here to really bond with each other, because we’re all in the same situation where there is a lot of feelings and worries", she says, encouraging everyone to keep the cameras on during the video conference and connect.

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You can also read Rasmussens 5 remote leadership tips here

Soldiers on the field

While nurses and doctors are the heroes of coronavirus, the network experts are out in the field making sure we stay connected, which we rely on more than ever these days.

At Telenor Pakistan, teams are working relentlessly at the base stations as well as at the heart of the network to ensure quality network coverage across Pakistan.


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“In times like this, connectivity is more critical than ever as companies implement measures to work from home. It is our responsibility to society to ensure that we are able to maintain our current level of service and adapt to changing needs so people can stay connected,” says Zubair Jalali, Circle Technology Head at Telenor Pakistan.

The new nudging

With crisis comes a lot of creativity and innovation. As the country of Malaysia goes under a nationwide movement control order to curb the spread of the virus, phone operator Digi uses a novel way to remind citizens to stay home. 

Two days after the nationwide order, Digi users were surprised to see the operator label changed to “Stay-Home” instead of the usual “Digi”.

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Grameenphone in Bangladesh managed to motivate other companies to introduce home office by spreading awareness through the cautionary message “Stay Home” next to the signal bar on mobile phones.


They also took it one step further, and separated the iconic Telenor brand symbol in a smart and visual way (see below), to represent social distancing. They are also working closely with authorities to help inform the population. 


 “We really want to do something that matters to people. Currently we are in multiple dialogues to figure out other relevant ways to do our part and truly contribute in the situation,” says Grameenphone’s Brand Strategy Manager Md. Iftekhar Alam.


Produced by Telenor