Lessons Learned: Enabling Our Remote Workforce Amidst COVID-19April 16, 2020
We’re sharing lessons we learned and key considerations for enabling a remote workforce in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In its Human Capital Trends 2019 report, Deloitte Insights said that over the next 10 years, organizations would have to redesign jobs in a “reinvention of the workforce,” but the coronavirus pandemic has sped up that deadline to today.
At Paylocity, having nearly half of our workforce working remotely at least part of the time meant we had systems already in place that helped make our transition to nearly 100% of employees working remotely full-time fairly quick and smooth. Building up the ability to have a strong remote workforce gave us the chance to see what works to keep our people working so we could help our clients keep their businesses running.
We’re sharing some of the valuable lessons we learned from enabling our remote workforce on how to keep disruptions to employees and the business, and therefore our clients, to a minimum.
Make Scalability Part of Your IT Strategy
Before the coronavirus, almost half of our workforce was working remotely, accessing the Virtual Private Network (VPN) at a time, but our IT teams regularly thought about what it would take to scale that one-half to almost the whole company.
While remote, our employees access information and tools using a combination of our own HR and payroll solutions and the VPN. Technology Lead Kyle Twenty of our IT Infrastructure Team calls the VPN “the lifeblood” of a remote workforce, and keeping it secure yet accessible keeps our people working.
Tip: Review your remote setup often.
From Kyle’s vantage point, together with Jason Reed, Manager in End User Computing (EUC), a company’s ability to scale remote work infrastructure requires regular evaluation of equipment, systems, and procedures. The two teams—Infrastructure and EUC—were critical as they tag-teamed Paylocity’s transition this past month. They recommend planning ahead at least 3 years, anticipating future business needs as your workforce grows, including new and changing software, equipment, and staff. Doing this regularly will have an impact on your ability to respond to growing needs quickly and effectively.
Tip: Be proactive.
Though some teams aren’t able to work remotely, like our Distribution Team, keeping an eye on future needs led Kyle and his team to maintain a buffer of about 1,000 VPN licenses until recently. A few weeks ahead of closing our offices in March, our Infrastructure Team acquired additional licensing to prepare to take nearly everyone at Paylocity remote. They also prioritized work on providing redundancy at a secondary data center location with additional license capacity. Knowing where to look and what steps to take by reviewing our setup often meant we knew which levers to pull as we looked at the possibility of closing our physical locations.
In addition to troubleshooting issues as they arise, our teams keep their eyes on all systems to prioritize performance and security as more employees than ever flood the networks. At Paylocity, we know many of our staff are the direct connection to tens of thousands of HR professionals who go on to impact millions of employees, so preventing any disruption to our work is paramount.
Tip: Actively monitor performance.
Our Tech Delivery and Enablement (TDE) team used dashboards and alerts created with the help of data we had already been collecting as a benchmark of key metrics to track using a third-party performance monitoring platform. Over the course of a few days in March, we saw an increase of 34% in employees connecting to our networks remotely, which could spell disaster for technology and support staff without proper monitoring and preparation. With a quick way to identify problems and get a sense of overall performance, the team is able to anticipate and address issues more quickly and effectively, staving off major disruptions that could compound and prevent people from working.
Tip: Don’t forget about security.
Though the bustle of everyday life, from long commutes to family activities, has slowed down considerably, remote work means professional lives may be keeping up a faster pace. This can be the perfect storm to create opportunities for malicious activity, especially with a significant increase in remote access. At Paylocity, we continuously re-evaluate and refine our processes for working and collaborating remotely as securely and effectively as possible.
Put People First, Always
From a technology standpoint, there is a complicated network of systems and processes that enables a productive remote workforce. But that said, the people element of the remote workforce has to be what drives every step taken to enable that workforce.
Tip: Offer flexible tools that enable connection.
Your organization's technology stack should include flexible, mobile-friendly tools that enable collaboration and connection, both in real time and at employees’ own pace. Though we’re calling it “remote work,” the current working situation of people working from their homes looks nothing like it would under normal circumstances. People are isolated from family and friends while juggling the added distraction of spouses and kids at home and the worry of health and safety.
Our CEO Steve Beauchamp has been posting videos weekly to connect with employees via Community, our integrated social collaboration tool. He shares updates on changes we’re making to better serve our clients, programs and services available to employees during this challenging time, and an outlook on what we can expect at Paylocity as the pandemic continues.
Employees are able to watch the video on-demand, even from mobile devices, and interact with Steve and each other. Through comments and emoji reactions, employees can see they’re not going through this time alone.
Build Confidence in Employees and Clients
People are looking for information to help them understand and cope with the current situation, and they’re looking for it from their employers. According to a recent survey conducted by SHRM, employees believe coronavirus information from their employers more than from the government, health companies, and traditional media.
During the past several weeks, Paylocity’s Client Services team has certainly seen this play out for the HR and payroll professionals we serve. Since this public health emergency was declared, they’ve fielded more than 100,000 calls (averaging 5,600 calls a day) and 160,000 emails from clients.
Despite not knowing when we’ll be able to say this pandemic is behind us, employers can help alleviate some of this anxiety by sharing information and communicating openly and frequently.
Tip: Provide timely education and training.
In recent weeks, Paylocity’s Learning Management System (LMS) has seen double the volume of activity, which shows how powerful knowledge can be during times like these.
From product training to reference guides, Paylocity’s Learning & Development and PEAK Knowledge Base teams have been busy developing materials to help employees and clients alike feel more confident in their roles during the pandemic.
In addition to resources available on our website, we’ve deployed more than 100 new pieces of content through our LMS for both employees and clients, including videos on FFCRA and CAREs, how-to micro learnings, and on-demand trainings. The PEAK team has added 222 articles (including some translated into Spanish), which have been viewed by clients more than 88,000 views by clients and more than 50,000 times by Paylocity staff.
Tip: Keep communication flowing both ways.
Sharing information with employees is definitely a priority, but it’s important for companies to remember to actively listen to their employees, too. The XM Institute’s 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends report confirms that employees who feel their companies hear their feedback are more engaged: “Engagement score for those who feel their company turns their feedback into action really well, regardless of the frequency, was 80% compared to 40% for those who feel their companies do not turn feedback into action ‘well at all’ or even ‘slightly well’.”
At Paylocity, our teams are actively using our Surveys tool to acquire that feedback from employees. In fact, overall, among our teams and clients, we’re seeing a three-fold increase in Surveys activity.
Support Each Other
Our infrastructure and technology are being stretched to their limits, but we are as well. It’s to be expected that our systems and employees alike will experience some hiccups as we walk through uncharted territory. The CDC even discusses the impact of an outbreak like the coronavirus on mental health, offering suggestions for coping strategies.
The American Psychiatric Association's Center for Workplace Mental Health explains, “Now more than ever, we all must take care of our mental health and well-being. As we protect ourselves against potential exposure to the coronavirus, keep in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation.”
At Paylocity, we are focused on helping our clients work through all the challenges for today toward a brighter tomorrow. We hope these lessons and strategies we’ve learned along the way can help you as you care for your employees as well.
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