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How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace Transformation

With the 2020 corona-virus (COVID-19) officially being categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic, all companies have felt the incredible impact of changing work paradigms. With physical office spaces seen as a risk, big brand names such as Facebook and Microsoft are encouraging or mandating that staff adopt a work-from-home policy. For […]

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With the 2020 corona-virus (COVID-19) officially being categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pandemic, all companies have felt the incredible impact of changing work paradigms. With physical office spaces seen as a risk, big brand names such as Facebook and Microsoft are encouraging or mandating that staff adopt a work-from-home policy. For modern tech companies, the infrastructure and policy needed for company-wide remote working was “almost there” but… not quite there.  While the vast majority of staff members were already equipped with laptops, the full spectrum of security, policy, subscriptions, technology, and effectiveness was only addressed with a few exceptions to the office presence requirement.  Trying to pivot the WFH model from an outlier to 100% adopted was something most companies struggled with.

The companies that thrived, rather than struggled were those who had a rock-solid plan and implemented the change immediately as THE top company initiative.  Companies like Fulcrum Technologies were extremely successful at turning on a dime during the Covid months doing just that.   Jami Oster, Fulcrum CEO, set up a company-wide task force that oversaw the transition.  The top priorities for this task force were data security, workspace improvements to home offices, & effective teaming (despite being virtual).  For security, Jami mandated every necessary counter to the increased cybersecurity risks associated with remote working, which included:

  • Full-disk encryption for any mobile computing device to ensure safety even if the device falls into the wrong hands.  The company’s data is not accessible, hidden behind AES 128-bit encryption.
  • Logging out when not in use – both at home and in any public space.
  • Strong password policies, combined with Multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensures that access, whether to cloud-based services or full network access, is by authorized users only.
  • Each employee’s home environment is virtually audited for vulnerabilities before connecting work devices.
  • Have a disclosure process regarding vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, so that IT can secure them with strong passwords and update their firmware/software to the latest versions.
  • Enforce the same endpoint security policy for malware, firewalls, etc. as with each and every organization-managed device. 

Beyond security & technology, there are other critical factors to make sure your remote working paradigm is effective:

Communication – Conducting team meetings (or at least stand-ups) once per day gives everyone the opportunity to share experiences and issues, as well as be held accountable for presence.

Responsiveness – Because virtual workspaces are not the same as working in an office environment, you need to establish policy on how quickly a remote worker is expected to respond to a request depending on the communication type, email, Teams chat, scheduled meetings, etc.

Reporting – All team managers need to implement procedures that allow them to view whether the remote workers are getting the job done.

Universal working schedule – Managers need to agree to a method of clocking on and off, even if it’s as simple as a team group chat and members saying good morning when they start their day.

Liability – Solidifying coverage for the company assets while in the employee’s possession.

Tech support & operational support – Employees need to know ALL the contact details and how to know how to get help when needed.

Socialization – Its valuable to the collective psyche to have remote workers get together virtually even for non-work talk. Social interaction is an important part of motivation, increases productivity, and can let people organically problem solve, vent, share or chat.

Accessibility – Establish a virtual open-door management policy, just as there is in the office. Make sure people are accessible and can be easily engaged.

In Fulcrum’s case, Jami worked with Controller Jennifer Shelton to spend some needed OpEx on making sure everyone had the resources, knowledge and skills to be successful in this new way of working. Then she had Office Manager Toni Thorn perform another home office assessment for each employee.  Based on needs, they bought or redistributed all manner of furniture, equipment, and technology to bring each person up to par with a physical corporate office. 

To ensure the “virtual workplace” was as effective as the physical one previously, Human Resource Manager Stephanie Fitzpatrick teamed with the management team to define and measure a number of associated metrics and productivity KPIs.  These KPIs identify employee engagement metrics that can gauge the health of the culture & environment. She also updated remote worker policies, technology needs, skill assessment platform and documented team operating norms.

The end result was an enviable level of continuity of operations, where the rhythm of business kept flowing with no hiccups or delays.  Fulcrum even had a better-than scenario, with a number of benefits above and beyond just continuity of operations:

  1. Because the talent search extended to the entire USA, they were able to quickly hire (and successfully onboard) 7 new hires, who are working out spectacularly.
  2. They completed 3 new RFPs functionally and pragmatically.
  3. Development was able to turn the saved commuting hours into a new product look, making it better than it’s ever been for customers.

In general, Fulcrum came out better with virtual working, thanks to that simple strategy; have a rock solid plan, and implement change immediately.  That’s how you thrive. (Like they do at www.Fulcrum.net). 

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