We spoke with 3CX CEO Stefan Walther to understand why 3CX has made the compassionate decision to make their software free for three years in order to alleviate the pressures of working from home

With the UK going into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a similar situation unfolding all over the world, an unprecedented number of people are being forced to work from home for the first time. The scale of this event has left many companies baffled, unsure how they can continue with the least disruption to the smooth running of their operations. 
For Stefan Walther, CEO of 3CX, the answer is that the tech industry must step up to the plate to support businesses and the economy at large. To this end, 3CX is making its remote working software free for everyone for the next three years, so that business can continue as seamlessly as possible.
We caught up with Stefan to better understand what was on offer and to get his thoughts about the role technology has to play in supporting a world in crisis.
With the COVID19 pandemic taking place around the world, more people than ever are working from home. What sort of challenges does this pose to most organisations?
Without the correct infrastructures in place, not only will workers be unable to work individually, but they will also not have the ability to collaborate and communicate with colleagues on group projects. Thankfully with cloud software – if employees are using Google Docs, for example – they’ll be able to continue working from home, unlike those that work with Microsoft Office and have everything saved locally on an inaccessible server. 
Additionally, businesses that communicate heavily with customers, either through support, customer care, or sales, will have their lines of communication completely cut unless they have a communications solution in place that allows them to connect from their own devices, wherever they are. We typically don’t think much about how we are going to communicate during such crises, at least in comparison to the consideration we give to how we will perform tasks. But an easy to use, accessible, remote working and communications solution is crucial in order to ensure business continuity.
3CX is offering three years free use of its remote working software solution to all businesses. How does this software better facilitate home working?
Employees can access their company’s phone system, as if they were in the office, via 3CX’s apps for iOS and Android and the web client and browser extension. This means they can access their phonebook, use their office extension, view the status of colleagues, and make calls at no cost to themselves. What’s more, it enables them to keep a direct line of communication with customers, in a time when they might need it most. 
Communication between colleagues and teams is essential for group projects. Even individual tasks often need the eyes and input of numerous teammates. 3CX’s remote working solution also includes integrated video conferencing. This enables employees to join face-to-face meetings enhanced by various collaboration tools such as whiteboard, polling, screen-sharing, chat, remote control, and meeting recording. Employees can communicate effectively, support their colleagues, get feedback and advice, and work more efficiently. 
In your opinion, what is the technology industry’s responsibility when it comes to supporting businesses and society during times of crisis? 
In times of crisis we all, businesses and individuals alike, need to step up and contribute what we can to bolster resilience and ensure the survival of our economy, businesses small and large, and of course, the human spirit. Being in a position that enables us to contribute something that could quite possibly be make or break for a small business has led us to offer up our product for free in the hopes that it will alleviate some of the pressure and problems that are being faced during quarantines and shutdowns.
Technology exists to solve problems, that’s why we created 3CX in the first place. It’s unfortunate that a problem on such a massive and devastating scale has come to light and highlighted the importance of technology in business. We are in a position where, rather than shutting down, we’re working harder to make sure our existing customers are getting what they need to continue, and also ensuring others who are left without the means to carry on can do so for free. We’re extremely lucky to be able to continue what we are doing whilst thousands of other businesses are struggling, so the least we, and other technology companies, can do is provide solutions to ease the pain. 
What prompted your decision to increase the offer to include a free e-learning solution for schools and universities?
We were being contacted by countless schools and educational institutes that were using other solutions and having technical problems and struggling to make any progress. The virus is going to have a devastating effect on schools and universities, and their students. For younger children, there will be a lack of social interaction that they need and are used to, and there is potential for academic regression. University students, on the other hand, will see more tangible side effects of the lockdowns; financial strain, for example, as they may not be able to complete the academic year. Just as much as businesses are in need, so are schools and their students. So, we created a separate free solution for them: a free Pro license with additional features and video conferencing participants for one year. 
Do you think this outbreak is going to change the way businesses operate in the future with regards to remote working? Are we moving towards an office-free virtual world?
Undoubtedly some businesses will see the benefits of remote working. Remote working was already on the up, as the younger workforce tends to lean towards it, but many employers were still on the fence. Now, being forced into remote work will have shown them that it is not only possible, but in many cases beneficial. Even if companies don’t decide to implement remote working on a permanent basis, at the very least we hope that this situation – and our software solution – will mean they’ll be better prepared for any potential future crisis.