Moving Forward in Trying Times, and Growing Stronger
With the world going through the worst pandemic in 100 years, medical systems have been tested and the end still isn’t in sight. Businesses whose livelihood depends on crowds of people or contact with clientele have struggled to remain open, if they’ve been able to at all. Companies have struggled to adjust to the changes mandated in the name of keeping people safe. At Bellese, we hit the ground running with a plan very early during the pandemic and have managed to grow despite the challenges of this new “normal”.
Before the pandemic was in everyone’s mind and all over the news channels Bellese’s work from home policy was already in place. Around 30% of our workforce worked from home full time before this pandemic struck. Many employees that worked in the offices enjoyed 1 or 2 work from home days during the week as well. Bellese’s work from home policy has always been a flexible one – if you have a contractor coming to do work on your house? Work from home. Have a child home sick from school? Work from home. There was rarely an issue.
When news started talking more and more about the coming pandemic and entire sports leagues began to cancel their seasons, Bellese management called for a 2 day “Work from Home Trial Run” on March 16th and 17th. These two days quickly turned into “until further notice” on the 16th of March as state and local governments closed schools and began to tighten up social distancing and planned to close down businesses.
As an employee I was relieved my company was being sensible and caring so much about their employees to simply send us all home to work in safety and not have to constantly worry about infection or bringing it home to my family.
As the IT Manager, my first thought was, “Oh no.” But then, I thought more about our current posture and realized all employees had a laptop, all of our data is cloud based and encrypted, and most of the systems we connect to are web based. The switchover from an IT standpoint was rather easy. There were a few users that still needed to set up their networks and new permissions to be granted, but the change to 100% work from home happened in about 2 days.
Of course, for the 50 or so users that were already working from home everyday this change wasn’t as big of a deal to them. But, it did mean their team members who were now working from home had a bit of a learning curve when it came to web based meetings on camera and needing to arrange those meetings around everyone’s family and home life instead of just asking someone sitting next to you a question.
Early in our full remote life, Bellese management asked everyone how they were faring with working from home, how things were going at home, were there any changes they’d like to see? What could make it better?
Many of the responses were positive. Some users wanted more social interactions beyond just meetings through the day to stay connected with co-workers. Bellese stepped up and started doing coffee chats to talk about sports, movies or TV shows. Offered a donation matching drive for employees that wanted to donate to local or national charities. We moved our company socials from once monthly to weekly. A weekly open-mic night was started as well to let musical employees show off their skills. A weekly Bellese Trivia night also started where employees and their families are put in teams for a trivia contest. We started a donation drive to help local non-profits on the front lines.
While unemployment numbers in the U.S. reached staggering numbers over the two months since the stay at home orders were announced, Bellese has managed to bring on 6 new team members from 3 different states! Taking a wider geographic scope for hiring has always helped Bellese find the best talent, and allowing the user to be 100% work from home only makes working for Bellese that much more appealing. Bellese also added a monthly stipend to employee pay to help off-set the cost for high-speed internet or other costs of working at home.
While many companies had to go through a learning phase with making their entire workforce work from their homes, Bellese didn’t seem to miss a step. All customer goals have been met, meetings were kept, demonstrations of the on-going work were still done and performed without a problem.
Not only has Bellese moved to a work from home model relatively easily, we recently set the goal of being an 80% remote organization by the end of the year.
Doing so is looked at with excitement by the staff that no longer will have to deal with the Baltimore area traffic and long commute times. Gaining more time with their families and overall improvement to productivity while giving some employees back the time they would be commuting are added bonuses.
While many experts still say we aren’t out of the woods for the COVID-19 pandemic, and numbers of infected continue to climb in the U.S., Bellese remains strong, delivering products, maintaining a high level of craftsmanship, and powering through safely from home.
Information Technology Manager