DSLBD Director, Kristi C. Whitfield, recently spoke with the leadership at CODICE, a technology company and a proud CBE, about how they have managed some of the transitions and changes of the last year.
We moved to our new offices at 1101 Vermont Avenue the day before Mayor Bowser ordered all non-essential businesses to close on March 25, 2020. Given the Mayor's order, we adapted and moved all our business operations to 100% remote operations at great expense to meet the new normal. We moved personnel from 4 offices in DC to remote operations and have created a highly versatile remote workforce that is able to meet all 21st century technology and workforce needs.
We faced many challenges when moving to remote operations – had to create develop new teleworking agreements, establish security protocols, internet connectivity challenges for staff, hardware and software availability to move to remote work and the lack of availability of equipment online and in stores to allow staff to telework such as laptops, hotspots, etc. We even sent home staff with their desktops and dual monitors. Human Resources screening, hiring, onboarding, training, off boarding are all conducted remotely. We also completed transitioning our human resources, time keeping and payroll operations to digital systems and have also improved our efficiencies and storage.
We currently have 130+ staff working remotely in various capacities. Our primarily goal is to start the transition back to in person work with our head office support and operational staff.
Director Whitfield: What preparations have you made for your return to the office?
Personal Protective Equipment
We secured PPE for office and PPE will be distributed based on job duties for head office to include masks, hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes, disinfectants, gloves, tissues, waste baskets, etc.
Health Screening and Temperature Checks
Self-health reporting daily including temperature checks to ensure staff are not sick or displaying any illness. Temperature check daily on arrival. Handwashing protocols upon arrival and throughout the day.
Office Space and Supplies
Our office is ready with workspace assignments to ensure social distancing, and supplies including, but not limited to, individual work spaces or individual offices, floor decals, and signage to encourage social distancing and staff movement – entry, exit, etc. on how people move and interact throughout the building. Some workspaces have been reconfigured to allow for safe interactions. Staff will have their own office supplies and equipment to perform their jobs. Our building and its systems are regularly cleaned and maintained to ensure optimal functioning.
Provided vaccination registration information to staff in all states.
Initial implementation will be a staggered in person schedule – 2 days a week, three days a week, etc.
Provided time to secure childcare arrangements, plan, etc.
Developed Return to Work Procedures Manual
We will be providing training to all home office staff prior to return to the office on the new office protocols and expectations.
Director Whitfield: Tell us how you prepared your team for the return to the office and how they are responding.
Although we have worked remotely, staff have returned to the office and worked in the office to perform functions that require to be in the office, i.e. manual payroll checks, vendor payments, security/system functions and human resources functions periodically.
The CEO discussed returning to office with the management team to get their feedback. The management team was very positive in response to returning back to the office environment. Thereafter, the management over the last few months communicated that we will be returning back when DC reopens.
Director Whitfield: As a technology company, presumably you could have remained virtual. Why is returning to the office the right call for your business?
Yes, some of our operations can remain virtual. Projects that require client-customer facing engagement and interaction will return back gradually and all options weighed. Full return vs staggered return/staffing will be evaluated project by project. At our Central Office, interoffice exchanges and collaboration is needed at this time for operations with built in flexibility. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a time to reflect, assess, define and refine operations and create a dynamic and fluid corporate culture. We also need to set an example for our other offices and operations to return back to their offices. We would like to lead by example as we gradually return back to our offices.
As a technology and healthcare administration company we excel in providing our clients solutions to their problems. It is important for our management team to discuss dynamic situations, identify the best possible solution and define the best implementing plans as a team in person. COVID-19 has also resulted in some of our clients changing their business operations, practices and demands. In response to our clients changing demands, the need for our team to engage in discussing an idea, having an impromptu meeting or doing a team huddle has increased. Therefore, the need to return to the office environment has significantly grown during the last few months.
Work remains an important component of our lives. We believe we can best increase that sense of belonging to work life and the corporate mission through personal interaction. Returning will not only create more normalcy but also renew the camaraderie we used to enjoy. The human connection with our co-workers was becoming distant with such a lengthy separation.
The ability to walk across the street to grab a Starbucks coffee, run to CVS next door to grab some munchies or ponder over what restaurant we were going to grab lunch at or order from is much anticipated. However, there is also some fear of the unknowns as we gradually return back to work. Our staff have newborn babies, children we will leave behind, four legged friends that have gotten used to having us at home, and our significant others/spouses and loved ones who have shared a year together with us. I am sure we will treasure these memories and challenges and welcome our return back to normalcy.
As we return, there will be changes to our locality and the economic impact has been devastating. The Starbucks in front of our office is now closed, storefronts still boarded, empty/vacant office spaces exist in a state of the art renovated office building, restaurants we ordered and ate at are closed. Hopefully, as we all return, the economic vitality will return and Codice would have done our share to revitalize our great city and assist in returning back to normalcy safely.