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Going Remote: The Challenges and Rewards We’ve Seen During a Nationwide Shift

06/23/2020

An Editorial Reflection by Amber McClave, VP of Operations and Chief Legal Officer

Infotech, along with most companies, started shifting to a work-from-home environment in early March of this year. Looking back, I realize we were in a heightened mode of alternatively pumping the brakes and hitting the accelerator for several weeks: weeding out the data from the noise as both rapidly changed; conducting targeted leadership meetings to make comprehensive, but quick decisions and then pivoting as needed; constantly communicating to employees on these decisions, why we’re making them, and what the decisions meant for them and our customers. On the Operations team, we are planners, meticulously designing our next steps, knowing we will pivot to address the “fires” of the moment and again refocus on our roadmaps. We like things neat and organized and controlled, with little surprises. We plan for things like hurricanes and for malware attacks and for future leadership. We did not plan for a pandemic.

And yet, our transition was almost entirely seamless. Our teams remained engaged, focused, and productive. The changeover was as successful as it was positively accepted by our employees. Now that I’ve been able to move a bit from acceleration mode into reflection mode, I can see our plan was always there -- it was written in our organization’s DNA. This experience has only fortified my trust in our commitment to this core, as it was so organically and intentionally established by our founders: simply, treat people right and trust them. This means our employees and our customers. Every decision we make can be traced back to this mantra, and any decisions that may have veered from it were doomed to fail. It has created our culture and has manifested in new and unique ways during the pandemic, but it hasn’t changed.

What have we learned?

Well, for one, that we have many, many leaders at Infotech. I subscribe to the camp that defines a leader in only one way: he or she has uncoerced followers. This is wholly independent of title or position or relationship. We have employees that I would follow through a burning building. Our executive leadership team tries to give our teams what they need to be successful and then move out of the way. Allow them to find their purpose and they will lead. This experience has allowed so many of these leaders, from all areas and levels of the company, to shine -- always reaching out to help their colleagues, always communicating with empathy and patience, always diving in to assist in creative ways to help a customer. The trust woven through our organizational DNA means we didn’t need to see each other in person to know we were still there for each other. Our purpose, not our location, continues to drive us. And thank goodness for this, because more than ever we need to support each other, listen to each other, and share our struggles.

One of our missions for the Infotech Systems business is to provide world class software and services that allow for touch-free/paperless options. This has become significantly more critical. Knowing that we are contributing to our customers’ safety in this small way simply feels good. As is the case with our Infotech Consulting business, who transitioned from high-energy war rooms to Zoom calls, and navigated cancelled trials and airport sprints, while also conducting the first virtual deposition, all during the busiest quarter in their history.

We also learned we had the foundation and infrastructure for this transition without intentionally planning for it. We have communication channels for specific purposes and use them daily. We adopted Zoom last fall, and we’ve always had a flexible remote working policy. We added Virtual Town Halls as a time dedicated specifically for executive leadership to hear from employees directly and answer their questions immediately and honestly. Though we miss some of the moments of togetherness, we moved our many gatherings for community and fun to online forums. Our employees that already work remotely throughout the country have been a consistent source of ideas and support. We now have a deeper appreciation for their roles and sacrifices. When we are back working together, we will continue to stay vigilant on how we can keep reminding our remote employees that they are valued and a strong part of our family as they reminded all of us that we were capable of making this transition.

Short-term success and long-term planning

Of course, this has all proven successful in the short term. But what about long term? It’s one thing for employees to maintain high productivity in their current role, but what about growth and learning in a remote environment? What about true interaction and team building, especially where new employees have joined the team? What about seeing and hearing each other, past a video screen - a screen that cannot capture those much needed moments of human connection? If the sudden shift to online learning for our schools showed us anything, it’s that it cannot be successful without significant support from all involved. To this point, we have been focused on tools, resources, and system changes to “weather a storm” but now we need to look to see what pieces of these we want to make sustainable. Infotech will continue to invest in how our teams and employees can develop and work in a remote work environment.

Now that some states are reopening, what will Infotech do?

We will protect our culture, and treat each other and our customers as family. We are acutely aware of how fortunate we are; our work and our foundation allow us to work remotely for as long as is needed to remain safe, so we will continue to do so. When we reopen the building, we will follow the Return to Work game plan currently being developed. This will call for a partial reopening, with a staggered schedule and modified behaviors for safety. Most importantly, so long as the COVID-19 risk looms, our employees will be given the option to remain at home or to come into the building. While no date is set for this reopening, we do not anticipate it occurring prior to August and understand essential business travel may occur prior to us reopening the building.

While we would not have chosen the burden of a pandemic, we will carry it, and we will do so with the wellbeing of our employees, customers, and clients as our top priority.

Authors

Amber McClave
VP of Operations and Chief Legal Officer
Amber is the Vice President of Operations and Chief Legal Officer at Infotech. After nearly twenty years of strategic legal experience, balanced with a growing team leadership role, Amber loves the new challenges each day presents. With a constant goal of inspiring them, her commitment is to her two families -- the one she serves at the office and those she returns home to.
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