When disaster strikes, we usually see the first responders as heroes. The police officers, fire fighters, and medics, all rushing to help – often before they know if they themselves are in harm’s way. These people save lives and inspire others. Statues honour them and memorial ceremonies continue through the years.

But the Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything we've ever seen before. It's not the kind of thing that most of us could ever plan for.

The UN Secretary General described the coronavirus outbreak as the biggest test since World War II and called for health organisations everywhere to work towards ending the pandemic. The eyes of the world are fixed on the medical sector, watching their actions and hoping for a cure.

Working hand in hand with experts and world leaders in life sciences for the past 30 years, we know that everyone – at some point in their life – has been impacted by the work of the remarkable people who use their skills to make a difference. This is why we come to work every day.

And our teams are contributing to the global fight by doing what they do best – bringing skilled people together to build the future. I feel humbled, and exceptionally proud, about the part we’ve played in ensuring the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies have a constant supply of diagnostic kits, in providing patient management for over-stretched health services, and helping distilleries or animal feed producers to go into hand sanitiser production.  

Life sciences might be busier than ever, but for some industries, this outbreak is devastating. Many airlines are grounded. Nobody is booking travel or vacation time in hotels and resorts. Bars and restaurants are all closed in addition to shops and businesses not seen as essential. This is an unprecedented event and the economic consequences will be severe.

I suspect that there are very few companies around the world that had a plan of how to keep things going if a virus prevented people going to work. Most organisations plan for strikes, power outages, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes, but not a complete shutdown. However, many professional service companies can continue serving their customers by asking their people to work from home.

Research from around this time last year showed that, before this crisis, more than two-thirds of people globally worked away from the office at least once a week. Space to locate a home office is now a common request when looking for a new house. But having a comfortable spot to work from isn’t the only challenge we face when working from home as many of us also struggle to find a balance between our day jobs and our personal roles as care giver, teacher, cleaner, and partner.

But there are some remarkable stories of resilient companies who are successfully transferring office-based staff to their homes - including SThree.

That means millions more people around the world are suddenly working remotely. Google Trends shows that the number of people searching for ‘work from home’ has rocketed in the past month.

So, I want to pay tribute to another group of first responders - the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) heroes that are hidden in the background – the people who are making all this infrastructure work for us. My team at SThree works with these people every single day, so we know just how important their roles are and how they literally keep the lights on for all of us. The engineers, the technology infrastructure managers, the software developers, the statisticians, the network security experts. All these people are offering a lifeline to others by keeping the energy utilities running and the internet online.

There are two main reasons why this is so important. First, think about all those people working from home. They need robust broadband infrastructure so they can keep on delivering. They need tools like Zoom, WhatsApp, and Teams to all be working seamlessly. They need remote support when things go wrong, and they need to know that all those systems in the office are still secure, even when the team is scattered across the globe.

Secondly, and no less importantly, these heroes also ensure that our kids can still access lesson plans from their school, watch Netflix in the evening, and play against their friends on Nintendo Switch, Xbox or PS4. Being confined at home because of a self-isolation policy can be difficult enough when you want to work from your spare room, but even harder when it affects the entire family and prevents us all from socialising. For those living alone, a video app is a real lifeline at present.

With cases of infection still increasing, it’s only fair that doctors, nurses and key workers all serving on the frontline are being presented as heroes - they truly are. But let’s not forget the STEM heroes hidden from the public eye. Their efforts will save jobs, save lives and help prevent the mental health crisis that would be inevitable if millions of people were forced to self-isolate without the social tools and connectivity we have today. We’ve always been proud to work shoulder to shoulder with the people and organisations who use their skills to make the world better - and more than ever, value their incredible contribution to all of us.

Thank you to all the STEM teams that are keeping people safe, families happy, and remote employees in their jobs. Thank you all and please stay safe during the difficult weeks and months ahead.

Mark Dorman 
Chief Executive Officer at SThree