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SEDC Leads Co-Ops in Work From Home, Emergency Preparedness Policies

On Friday, March 13th, 2020, just hours before leaving for the weekend, SEDC Management and Human Resources released an official announcement relaying company preparedness in response to COVID-19, the newly catalogued disease that was rapidly advancing across the globe. All employees were strongly encouraged to work from home over the next three weeks and to take CDC social distancing directives, which were just at the beginning stages of being widely distributed by the government and national media at the time, seriously.

The statement stressed how SEDC was proactively taking these steps out of an abundance of caution and expressed the company’s intent to support its many employees with children, whose schools and daycare centers were also announcing their own temporary closings. Department leadership disseminated further critical health and safety information throughout their teams and addressed any personal concerns directly.

The SEDC Suite of companies is no stranger to disaster preparedness. As a provider of critical software and support for essential utility operations, they prioritize an operations structure that minimizes potential interruptions of service. The company has invested in redundant backup for their onsite backup generators to ensure their servers stay fully functional for users during outages. Just a few weeks prior to the entire company making the switch to 100% work from home, SEDC leadership had proactively identified the need to communicate to customers and partners that should an emergency arise, SEDC was fully prepared to continue operations with minimal disruptions.

For the large majority of SEDC employees, the transition to work from home was simple enough. The company had already previously provided the necessary equipment and VPN (Virtual Private Network) security conducive to working remotely, and the only challenge remaining was finding a quiet place during conference calls at home. In fact, 90% of the workforce that makes up the SEDC Suite of companies were equipped to work from home, a measure to assure all stakeholders that no matter what changes were on the horizon, SEDC would remain the stable partner and resource that it always had been.

Many department leaders, like Alisa Basaraba, SEDC Sr. VP, Learning & Development, and Beth Walser, VP Product Support & Territory Management, had already demonstrated a willingness to be a bit non-traditional in their approach for fostering an agile team to prepare them to work remotely without disruption. With the removal of interruption to work lives, employees have been able to work smarter and with more focus on what customers need. Employees were also able to take care of the challenges they face in their personal lives due to the pandemic without it affecting their work. Thanks to years of hard work in becoming a more cohesive customer-focused team – this disturbance has been much less jarring than it could have been.

Other SEDC Suite employees who were already 100% remote workers prior to the pandemic, like Instructional Designer Mandy Sargeant, saw next to no changes, at least where their daily work routines were concerned. Regardless of individual WFH situations, the clear trend is that SEDC employees feel more connected than ever, despite not being physically near their coworkers.

I have felt changes in our cohesiveness as a company.” Says Mandy Sargeant, a 100% remote employee Based in Rota, Spain. “My working relationships are stronger than they have been before and I feel like the playing field has been leveled so to speak with regard to working in the same ‘office’ now. We are all working in the same ‘office’ space now and it is interesting how much more interactive and busier it feels to me.”

Sargeant goes on to say, “I also feel like it is a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality too – we are working hard to support our customers and in doing so, supporting each other in all of the work we do. This is not different from past work efforts, it just feels like we are checking in on each other and crossing bridges of time zones, geographic regions, work groups, etc. now more than ever. And on my team, I feel like we are supporting each other and having each other’s backs more than we have before. It is inspiring!”

After about a week and a half of the allotted work from home time, the United States formally declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic, and strongly suggested that all employers take steps to limit large gatherings to lower the rate of COVID-19 transmissions immediately. Just like that, SEDC’s proactive preparedness action plan proved to be the right decision. SEDC employees were able to continue to provide high quality support and perform all of their duties without risking their own health and stability or that of their family members.

“When I first started working from home during this pandemic, I really struggled not being in the office,” Says Dawn Hale, Account Manager at SEDC. “However, as time goes by, I am finding that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  I don’t have to fight traffic commuting to and from work.  It’s nice to be home at 5:00 p.m. instead of having to drive home, lunches seem to be more productive as I can get outside and work in my garden or run local errands.  I don’t know how I would feel working from home full time, but I know that I don’t feel as negatively about it as I did when this adventure first began.”

SEDC’s proactive leadership in emergency planning and agile response have combined to allow for a robust, nimble workforce amid disaster and provided a stable environment for its employees during uncertain times. The company even continues its commitment to quality of life enhancement programs remotely, like SEDC’s previously in person group yoga sessions that are now done via teleconferencing. Employees have a common ground through the communication platform Slack, where coworkers share daily encouragement and photos of their pets.

Ongoing marketing campaign assets have been retooled for social distancing, and communication between team members has only improved. For employees who were unfamiliar with the trappings of working from home, there were certainly growing pains, but ultimately the consensus is that this method of working actually improves work life balance while boosting productivity. It speaks well of the culture of businesses like SEDC that trust between leadership and employees is high enough to allow for indefinite remote work. Though the circumstances that triggered this transition are dire, there is hope that SEDC and all companies in this position will come out on the other side far more resilient and unified.

Nell McCauley, an Industry Relations Manager at SEDC and 100% remote employee based in Kentucky believes that this is the ideal way for businesses to operate.

“The facts are the modern office is moving toward allowing more employees to work remotely.  I think it is a win-win for everyone because technology has made it much easier for teams to collaborate remotely.  We all have access to a VPN, our phone systems, remote network access to drives for information and files, Agile methods, conference calls, and remote training. Virtually everything you need for a productive workday is already right at your fingertips via your laptop computer and SEDC smartly invested in all of this before it became truly crucial. “

An overwhelming majority of feedback and comments from customers and partners suggest that since the work from home switch, SEDC has managed to be even more effective as an organization than before. By investing not only in their products and services, but also their people and support, SEDC has shown that the most effective leaders act for the best and plan for the worst.

 

COVID-19 WFH TIMELINE

2015 – Internal network and phone system upgrades started in Q3 with the goal of allowing employees more flexibility in work locations.

March 2, 2016 – New, upgraded Avaya phone system goes live. SEDC employees become able to accept work calls from home. Later, the Product Support team is the first to take advantage of this by experimenting with work from home for high performing members.

2017 – Company VPN service upgraded to allow entire company to securely access company workstations remotely. Work from home days are available for some employees in most departments.

2018 – 24/7 operational support for customers becomes a company-wide goal. New solutions to achieve that are explored including investments in IT. Work from home capability emerges as key differentiator for recruiting new talent in competitive Atlanta market.

December 14, 2019 – In effort to improve overall employee experience, SEDC moves main corporate VPN service over to 1Gbps high bandwidth service.

February 27, 2020 – SEDC leadership identifies the need for external communication regarding emergency preparedness. SEDC is prepared to operate at nearly full capacity in the event of an emergency and assures its consumers that they will remain connected to SEDC products, services, and support. Consumers are encouraged to evaluate and/or establish their own emergency protocols.

March 6, 2020 – Emergency Preparedness communication sent by SEDC Management and HR via email.

March 16, 2020 – SEDC releases external message detailing SEDC’s evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reiterates that it can continue operations and support at full capacity in an emergency.

March 13, 2020 – Work from home is made available to all employees throughout the company for the next three weeks. Employees are also encouraged to bring children to work as needed.

March 30, 2020 – Work from home period extended through May 4th in accordance with state-wide/CDC guidelines. SEDC office is closed.

April 13, 2020 – SEDC continues to operate with minimal business disruption. Managed Security Services team continue to monitor cyber threats and attacks onsite while following safety and health guidelines.

April 27, 2020 – Work from home period extended through May 14th in accordance with health and safety guidelines.