COVID & Telework – What worked and what needed work….

Most of our company is currently working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlight has prepared and planned for remote work for years… but certainly not to this extent. As I write this in September, we’ve been working mostly remote for 6 months. There are a few programs with requirements or logistics that have required employees to report to physical offices, but most of our company is currently working from home. Teleworking, working remotely, and working from home were all terms we’ve used for years. This commonly took the form of one day a week from home. The most extensive use of remote work for us was saved for weather events like snowstorms in the DC area. As we’ve transitioned to this remote enterprise, I have some observations of what worked well and what needed some attention over these past 6 months.

What worked well…

• Mission critical systems and platforms – All of our key systems (Email, collaboration, accounting, recruiting, HR, payroll) are cloud instances. We were able to access and manage all of our systems remotely.

 The ability to keep working – Over the past few years, we’ve implemented remote management capabilities, robust patch management, workstation configuration management, and monitoring tools to allow us to use and manage our IT assets. Anyone that needed IT assistance received it quickly and remotely. We’ve conducted annual continuity of operations tests for the past 3 years as part of our ISO 27000 certification, and the issues we’ve uncovered through those tests really helped us.

• Only buying laptops – For years, we’ve been a “laptop only” environment. It made sense for us to provide flexibility for telework and it really paid off in this situation. People just took their laptops home and continued working. People just took their laptops home and continued working.

What needed some work…

• Collaboration Tools – We used a combination of phone, Skype, and Zoom for audio/video collaboration and SharePoint/OneDrive for file sharing. We quickly ran into obstacles here. Email volumes surged because informal communication shifted to email. We found issues with screensharing content. Our migration to Microsoft Teams has solved this… the chat, team channels, content sharing, and collaboration features have really transformed how we work.

• IT Ticketing System– We used a very minimalist approach to service desk ticketing. Teleworking dramatically increased the volume and the complexity of the tickets. We quickly evaluated and implemented happyfox. We now have better visibility, better access to our knowledge base, and better ticket accountability.

• Supply Chain – We always had an extra laptop or two but didn’t keep more than that unless we were planning a refresh. Suddenly, we were on a 6 to 8 week waiting time for new hardware. Our new minimum stock level is now about 10% of our total capacity and should better hold up in the event of supply chain disruption.

We will be discussing our experience with remote work on an upcoming episode of the HighlightCast – available here….