Firms are shifting from employees working at the office to working from home with whiplash speed. Several steps — maintaining meaningful connections among them — can ease the transition.
Companies that had remote workers long before the coronavirus pandemic can offer a road map to success for the multitude of businesses of all kinds that are now shifting to a work from home platform.
Lakewood Ranch-based commercial property and casualty insurance company FCCI Insurance Group, for example, has nearly 200 employees who work from home regularly — nearly one-fourth of the total 845 employees. Now they’re all working from home for FCCI, which does business in 19 states and had $837 million in revenue in 2018.
‘I think teammates need to feel the communication is transparent but more importantly that it’s relevant.’ — Lisa Krouse, FCCI Insurance Group
“We make sure, first of all, they are fully functioning in terms of how to stay connected with technology,” says Lisa Krouse, board member, executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “Communication is critical. I think teammates need to feel the communication is transparent but more importantly that it’s relevant.”
To communicate and encourage collaboration, FCCI uses the Zoom online meeting platform and Microsoft Teams app. In normal times, the company holds town hall gatherings, and employees who work remotely travel to regional locations for face-to-face time with leadership and colleagues. During the crisis, FCCI’s employees are also connecting with Chairman, President and CEO Craig Johnson twice a week through a live online video. He gives an update on business operations and answers questions submitted from staff.
Especially in times like these, FCCI Customer Experience Specialist Kristi Hoskinson says the No. 1 priority for every company should be the health, wellbeing and resiliency of its employees. “We need to operate from a place of patience and operate from a place of assuming positive intention and give our teammates grace and time as they transition into this new work environment,” she says.
On a practical level, Hoskinson says the company has found success with remote employees by sharing calendars. The firm promotes open-share calendars company-wide, so every employee can check colleagues’ availability. “Our teammates are really diligent about keeping their calendars current and showing where they are and what they’re doing,” says Hoskinson.
Another company with experience in remote employees is Sarasota-based S-One Holdings Corp. The digital imaging, design and print company, with subsidiaries worldwide and $140.8 million in revenue in 2018, has remote employees in the area and nationwide.
President and CEO Art Lambert says as of March 16, all 185 global employees are working from home. Because the company already had remote employees, it had infrastructure in place to communicate with employees and take care of customers. “In today’s environment, we have to over-communicate,” Lambert says. That’s one of his three key pieces of advice for companies managing remote employees: keep them focused on the customer, give them the tools they need to take care of the customer and over-communicate.
Lambert has started making one-on-one calls to each of the company’s employees to find out how they’re doing, what’s working and not working for them, and how they’re staying connected with their teams.
He says it’s crucial for employees to know they’re connected. To help, one team at S-One hosted an end-of-the-week virtual happy hour. “I’m pretty sure the rest of the teams will join in on that one,” Lambert says.
With employees working at home, some family members have gotten involved in S-One efforts, too. When a customer asked for a video about applications for certain materials, an employee enlisted his 11-year-old son to help. His son likes to make videos and got a green screen as a Christmas present, so they made the video together. Lambert says the customer loved it.
To boost spirits, the company also made a video showing photos of different employees at their home work stations alongside kids, cats, dogs and even a rabbit. Lambert says, “If you keep people smiling who are used to hanging out together, those things really work.”