Many things have changed over the course of the last 17 months or so. While many both within and outside the workers’ compensation industry have faced hardship and challenge, we will in retrospect find some positive things that emerged from the maelstrom of the Covid pandemic. Today, Tropical Storm Elsa provides us with one such example. In prior storms of this nature, our offices would be shut down, and work activity completely stopped. Today, even though the banner across our site says we are closed, that is not actually the case.
While the concept of working remotely had been part of our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for years, the reality was it had never been tested prior to Covid-19. When the pandemic was declared, and everyone shifted to remote work from home, the BCP was activated for the first time. Emotionally we expected a challenge during the adjustment. It never really came. For us, the transition was smoother than we could have imagined.
Technology certainly has played a part in this. Our VOIP phone systems literally plug and play – connect one to the internet anywhere and your 3-digit extension is automatically active in the system. Zoom, a service that I had not personally used prior to the pandemic, became a lifeline for both our communications and corporate culture. We have held daily Zoom calls with everyone on the team since the pandemic began. While not a fan of meeting for meeting’s sake, these calls have helped maintain a sense of community and purpose and have prevented the disconnect and isolation that can often affect remote workers.
Normally just 10 to 20 minutes in length, the importance of these Zoom meetings can not be underestimated. Some days we have a lot of business to discuss. Other days the conversation is more focused on how the weekend went, or other personal topics you might have found around the water cooler in pre-pandemic times. Quite often the business topics involve some of the team but leave others as simple observers. Nevertheless, they are a team. They know what is happening outside their specific domain and are reminded daily that they are an important part of a bigger scheme. These meetings have been key to keeping a coherent business effort and strategy.
We were remote for several months, and then re-opened the office last summer. In the late fall, as Covid numbers were rising in the state, we reverted to virtual status. Ironically, we just started re-opening the office on a part-time basis last week. To be honest, we could have done that much earlier. The Covid numbers have been down for some time, but the traffic here in Florida isn’t. The roads, which usually empty a bit after the winter season, have remained busy as ever. Many people have flocked to our open state and appear to be staying. We’ve been spoiled by not having to commute and being in one physical location just doesn’t seem to be as important as it once was.
We are currently assessing the impact of permanently closing our office and remaining as a virtual company. While an absolute decision has not yet been made, I’d bet on that becoming a reality. That is something I never thought I would say.
But today, for this storm, instead of letting everyone know the office is closed and that they should stay home, we let them know that the office is closed, and they should continue working from home. And stay safe, of course, which is really the intent of leaving them home. It is a reality that would not exist if Covid had not shaken us from the status quo and allowed us to explore potential alternatives that would have otherwise not been considered.
It is, perversely, a benefit discovered from the pain of a pandemic.