This topic has gained a lot more relevance in recent months due to the worldwide pandemic impacting the global economy. As CEO and Founder of Timlin Enterprises, it has also caused me to reflect on how this has impacted our customers, employees, and business as a whole.
Our core business at Timlin is helping organizations make the best use of the Microsoft cloud, collaboration, and document management tools in Microsoft 365 – specifically Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, Power Platform, Power BI, and more. An amazing number of organizations just experienced what would usually be multiple years of digital transformation in just a brief two to three months. We have seen and heard about a lot of it. It was difficult and scary for some.
After hearing these experiences, I wanted to ensure our team would not experience these same issues and reflect on how we fared during the initial two months of the pandemic. What I discovered was pretty interesting and really hits home in today’s working environment. We were almost completely unaffected by the state mandates, working conditions, changes in daily routine, etc.
We had already built an organization capable of withstanding almost all the issues many faced in March 2020. The intent of building a company this way was to create a modern environment for successfully working in flexible and mobile conditions (not to withstand a pandemic). I wanted to take a few minutes to share how and why we built a remote-first company, and how that has impacted our ability to operate, maintain staff, and service our customers in recent months.
How and Why We Did It
It allowed us to build a talented team.
Years ago, we found that the Boston area was not easy to find qualified employees for our field, so we adopted a national approach to open up the pool of good candidates. In doing this, we were able to find and retain the right people with diverse backgrounds and abilities rather than being limited to those who could commute to our office.
Our customers don’t want or need to see our people all the time.
If they don’t want us there, then we can be anywhere. Think of it like data: you would not store your backed up data in the same facility as your primary data. In our company’s case, we have added resiliency based on localized events and restrictions.
We determined how we measure a successful employee.
We built metrics and scorecards that mitigate much of what causes micromanagement and fear of people working from home. If you properly set expectations about the aspects of the job and make it clear how to meet those expectations, it’s pretty easy to check on them. At Timlin, our team members are assigned work for specific customers, so it’s immediately clear if that work isn’t being done or they aren’t meeting the expectations set. We hire professionals and trust them, but verify they are doing their jobs with specific reporting — no micromanagement necessary.
Not everyone needs or wants to be in the office all the time.
If your people are more dispersed, even the local employees can maintain flexibility. This enabled us to purchase a smaller office building, keep our expenses low, and put some of those savings back into social gatherings and events that provide better cultural impact on our organization.
Some work needs to be done during the workday, some does not.
One of the perks of remote work is the ability to take breaks during the workday. Many errands and life events outside of work can only be done during standard business hours, so we gave our people the flexibility to take some of that time as needed. Much of their work can be done off-hours, we don’t track their whereabouts.
I loved being able to work from home after a commute in my early working days was like the nightmares of legend. I got used to it and wanted to keep doing it. I was determined that if I can do it, I can find other like-minded people and let them do it too. I have always been more productive working at home, and many others feel the same way. Examine those qualities and find them in others.
How the Pandemic has Affected Us
We’ve experienced a few small changes since the hit of the pandemic:
- The small group of our team members that regularly visited customers quickly shifted to remote efforts. Those customers all went remote as well, so they had no issue.
- Those of us that used to go into the office on a semi-regular basis grabbed our laptops and went home – and have stayed there for 4 months.
- Bringing our distributed and local team members together for regular social gatherings had to be discontinued for the time being. This was probably one of our most difficult adjustments.
The lack of disruption was essential in our ability to help our customers transition to working remotely using Teams, SharePoint, and more. We live and breathe this lifestyle already, and had no servers in our office to hold us back — everything was virtual or cloud. We were ready to immediately focus on our customers’ needs and not our own.
Conclusion & Takeaways
As much as I’d like to claim this was some master plan, it wasn’t. We did it because it was smart, convenient, cost-effective, accessible, and elastic. Those same traits turned out to be incredibly beneficial when put to the test. The capabilities of working remotely will assist many companies in gaining further ground and competitive advantage while their competition spends precious time trying to adapt during the crisis. If I were looking for a billboard explaining the value of digital transformation, this would be it.