Whether your organization is moving to a hybrid workplace this fall or maintaining a work-from-home (WFH) strategy, be prepared for ongoing training, equipment, and cultural challenges. That was the message from four IAUG leaders at a webcast, “Remote Workers: A Fireside Chat,” on July 28.
“After sending all our employees home last year, we are now working on strategies for them coming back into the office,” said Jayne Hogle, telecommunications manager, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “We will have a hybrid model, but relationships are very important for our culture and that means having our people return to the office.”
Hogle moderated the online conversation, which focused on the evolving challenges facing enterprise IT teams this summer. “We are all in this together and everyone has something to share,” she said. “That is the power of our user group.”
Scott Burns, telecom administrator for California Coast Credit Union in San Diego, said “Our frontline staff worked at 27 branches every day before COVID. We were not prepared to go remote, and the demands on our support team were astronomical. But we wrapped our arms around the technology and equipment challenges.”
Now, the credit union is looking at its 250 employees returning to work in early September, bringing their WFH equipment with them. “Our help desk staff is busy hooking things back up again and teaching our users how to log on to their physical desk phones again after being out of the office for a year and a half,” he said.
IAUG board member Adriane Davis, telecom manager at Stearns Weaver Miller, a Miami-based five-office law firm, said she is facing similar issues. “When the pandemic hit, we had 200 attorneys who suddenly needed webcams and headsets for Zoom meetings,” she said. “Our team worked 24/7 for two months as everyone scrambled to figure out how best to work remotely.”
In July, the law firm’s attorneys and staff returned to their offices. “Now, we are dealing with people who forgot their passwords or don’t remember how to transfer calls,” Davis said. “It’s been a re-learning process for them this month.”
Hogle agreed, noting that the IT staff has been going through the building cleaning phones and making sure they are still working after sitting idle for more than a year. “We are encouraging staff to shift to Avaya Workplace from physical hard phones, and have made great progress on that initiative.”
Continuing a WFH strategy
On the other hand, Cartus, global corporate relocation company based in Connecticut, has decided to continue its remote work approach, according to Mary Doran, lead UC analyst. “We ran into all kinds of things last year, like a user who got ‘free’ wifi because the router was in the landlord’s apartment. In June, we wound up boxing up monitors, computers, webcams and USB headsets for our remote workers.”
In the past year, some Cartus team members have moved from state to state, or left the company. “When they leave, our desktop team has to get the equipment back, unpack it, clean it and test it,” she said. “We also have to field issues like ‘my phone doesn’t work’ from users who have moved cross country and changed Internet providers. They might only think about the computer, but they need IP addresses for their phones, tablets, TVs, refrigerators and alarm systems. So, we wind up serving as personal assistants for the home office.”
Doran said the company is consolidating its large offices into smaller spaces, and moving out of its data center into the cloud. “Out vision is to have everything in the cloud so our employees can work anywhere,” she said. “That’s the big push for us.”
Serving as consultants
As the business world shifted to online platforms last year, IAUG members became consultants helping to implement a pivot in strategies, said Hogle. “We provided support as our fundraising galas and heart walks went virtual,” she said. “We also spun up a basic call center in two days for a call-in telethon that raised $80,000. That would not have been possible without the quick minds on my team coming up with a solution to handle those calls.”
As the workplace changes, the IAUG leaders agreed on the importance of partnering with business units and promoting their IT services. “We have the tools to help them achieve their goals,” said Doran. “That gives us an opportunity to provide business analysis as well as support.”