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Seven Days to Deploy a Virtual Team During COVID-19

Everything changed over the course of a week in March 2020. When it became clear that the COVID-19 outbreak was becoming a pandemic, and would soon impact every part of the country, businesses everywhere made fast decisions that completely transformed their operations.

Logical Position (LP) quickly realized that having several hundred employees working together in close quarters could potentially risk their health. But closing our offices nationwide meant transitioning more than 600 team members to work from home. However, we wanted to do our part to slow the spread while understanding that we could continue serving our clients if the transition was done correctly.

This move was unlike anything LP has ever attempted, and put our entire team to the test. In a matter of seven days, we solved a few large technical problems that stood in the way of this change. Although we didn’t know it at the time, apparently we were ahead of the curve.

A full week after we made our transition, Oregon Governor Kate Brown instituted a statewide stay-at-home order for everyone except essential workers.

While there have been a few challenges, this change has been successful. Here’s how we accomplished it.

We Faced Significant Technical Challenges

Before this crisis arose, LP had been transitioning from an old server-based phone system to a more flexible cloud-based option. We planned to launch this new system in early April, but the pandemic didn’t wait. As a result, deploying a virtual team was much more challenging.

To access our phone system and some of our proprietary tools, employees must be on-site working behind our firewall. As you can imagine, this is a big problem for a virtual team. Our IT department immediately mobilized and began moving firewalls, building subnets and creating more than 600 new virtual private network (VPN) users almost overnight. All those new VPN users were going to eat up a lot more bandwidth, so we also had to ship more powerful computers to our server locations. Once we resolved the network issues, our IT team had to move on to our hardware.

Our first plan was to outfit all our employees with new laptops and webcams for their home offices. However, we couldn’t find a vendor who could fulfill such a large order on short notice. So we decided to go old-school and had our teams grab their computers and monitors from their cubicles and use them at home. It’s not ideal but the limited equipment supply forced our hand. In response, our IT team rolled out software updates to each of these devices so that employees could access our new VPN.

By the end of day one, our IT team had 75% of them up-and-running. By the end of day two, 95% of our employees were fully operational and serving our clients.

A Virtual Team Still Needs To Be a Social Team

I’ve been amazed at how well our team has responded to this titanic change in our daily operations. Everyone rallied and did what was necessary to keep the business running. We’re still working through technical issues, but those are mostly behind us. At this point, the biggest complaint I’m hearing from employees is that they miss having their peers next to them to talk with.

The LP culture has always been very social. We take great pride in fostering this by encouraging regular social gatherings and learning opportunities. Now, that face-to-face component of the job is gone — at least for the time being. So we’re left to find new ways to socialize virtually. Fortunately, our team members are thinking creatively.

Our entire organization is doubling-down on video conferencing tools and webinars, which are communication modalities we haven’t employed as much in the past as we are now. We’re using these tools to continue building our culture in unique ways. One manager is organizing coordinated breaks, so his team can relax and socialize with their team members for a few minutes every day. Other employees are planning virtual happy hours after the workday ends. Our culture manager has instituted weekly video stretching and relaxation as well as weekly entertainment webinars such as employee musical performances and stand up comedy.

During this strange time of distance and isolation, we’re doing everything we can to preserve morale and keep spirits up, and technology is an immense help in these efforts. At the same time, we’re prioritizing all the things that make LP just a great place to work. Fortunately, we’re all in this together.

We’ll Be Stronger on the Other Side

I’m proud of what our team accomplished on such short notice. Some companies aren’t agile enough to accommodate such a significant change, which leaves them vulnerable to large, unexpected disruptions. While I don’t know what’s ahead for the country or the economy, I’m confident that our team can face whatever challenges lie ahead. We’ll continue serving our clients’ needs, and when this is all over, we’ll be that much stronger for the experience.

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