CRG’s successful transition to work from home
In CRG we shifted from a physical presence to a remote model, with a system that allowed us to keep working while sending people back home. This whitepaper goes over the lessons learned.
Work culture had one of its most essential shifts because of the pandemic. It changed even the nature of work, and professional interactions, especially in commuting less and increasing remote positions. Challenges became part of the transition process once curfew became the new normal in almost every country.
According to a survey conducted by Upwork, the period during COVID-19 made around 70% of full-time workers work from home. Globally, after the pandemic’s peak, at least 16% of the companies work remotely, 40% have a hybrid model, while 44% don’t allow remote work.
In CRG we find an ample opportunity to shift from a physical presence to a remote model. Even though the accelerated adaptation represented a challenge, we developed an escalated system that allowed us to keep working while sending people back to their homes. This whitepaper goes over the lessons learned while transitioning.
Esteban Garino, Service Desk Manager, was part of the leading team who conducted the process. In contrast, Álvaro Hernández, Technical Support and NOC Manager came on board in the second semester of 2020. They both share their thoughts on the opportunities, improvements and gaps of work from a home model applied in CRG.
Before the pandemic
The previous work model in CRG required every team member to be present in the office or locations. Each collaborator had a workstation, while the computers were all desktops. The model was not too flexible nor personalized according to individual needs, but it was all standardized according to the company’s expectations. According to a categorization that segments the state of the art of companies before the pandemic, CRG would be part of those businesses with a strong culture of physical presence before the outbreak.
A step-by-step transition
After the curfew started, CRG prioritized those cases of individuals with risk factors. In the beginning, the decisive element for the transition to work from home was to evaluate if there was a risk for them to get sick because of the widespread disease. The second group in the consideration list included those with family members with risk factors.
One of the most significant considerations was the lack of portable devices allowing every employee to work remotely. While it was difficult to assign a laptop to everyone, the company defined a strategy to get more personal computers. It was too difficult to get new laptops, as they were practically unavailable in the market, so it was an obstacle in the transition process.
Other burdens during this context were reduced transportation and handling the fear and uncertainty carried during the process for which the company made a defining decision. No pay cuts took place for the workforce, allowing team members to feel economically accompanied for a difficult period that carried instability to many families.The heads of CRG communicated this to all of the company members, which meant a great example of confidence and continuity in the operations.
CRG discovered one operative challenge in having close control over the achievement of each team member’s goal. There was no pre-existing procedure to keep track of efficiency in a work-from-home model, which required applying new controls over individual and team responsibilities. Some contracts with the clients required a visit from our personnel, so, in that case, we conducted adjustments to meet the required hours and deliver the requested services on-site.
Adapting available software and hardware
The transition to work from home carried out some requirements from the TI team in the first days. These were some of their tasks carried out to ensure the perfect conditions to work remotely:
- Configuring VPN
- Configuring printers
- Access configuration for those programs that were initially available only in the office.
- Evaluating specific cases of people using software connected to clients’ platforms.
Growing and segmenting responsibilities
Many companies from the United States moved their nearshore services to Costa Rica. This carried a growth for CRG in the number of accounts and employees. The need to adapt and divide our teams was a big shift with this growth possibility. For example, the new NOC department took on some Service Desk responsibilities. This allowed the new team to specialize accordingly to the client’s support and technical needs. Junior employees contributed with tasks aligned with their knowledge, while senior employees handled more complex responsibilities.
“Before the pandemic, we had the mentality of a start-up, while the process we conducted throughout these times made us develop ourselves and turned us into a middle-sized company. Our clients’ needs made us adjust our capabilities and let us grow”, says Garino. The unexpected circumstances catalyzed CRG’s development and made the company reinforce its continuous improvement and several departments. The quality department evolved rapidly, while a training division came to the surface, as training was required for internal collaborators and third parties. During this time, CRG moved to a Free-Trade Zone, bringing more operational benefits.
Case Study: Rising Ground
Besides changing the internal work model, CRG’s responsibilities, several clients required an adaptation. Our teams worked to allow them to shift the usage of their platforms and systems for their remote workers. One of our clients is a non-profit organization that works with vulnerable populations in New York.
When the pandemic developed they were behind in their own technological needs to let their employees work remotely. Different teams from CRG, even from the leading roles, worked for several successive days to ensure the continuity of their operations. We contacted everyone from a 200 people-list for them to connect successfully to different software. Daily, we communicated with the NGO to update their configurations and keep track of the evolution of the process.
The most relevant benefit during the transition to work from home process was letting them feel safe, reducing their need to move from one place to another and not making them share the same spaces with more people. From the business perspective, this also meant fewer sick leaves or assigning extra hours for employees because of their temporary leaves. Work From Home brought a healthier work-life balance, increasing productivity, which is now measured precisely. With monitoring their efficiency, employees don’t feel they are being controlled, as their remote possibilities represent the trust the company is giving them. Only exceptional cases are back in the office.
According to Garino and Hernández, something that still needs to be improved is commuting. Interaction is vital for the employees to get a belonging sense of the company. Teams visit the office from time to time, on specific days, in a hybrid model that helps to share knowledge and organizational culture. Still, there are improvement opportunities in this process.
“We embraced the idea of flexibility as something essential for our business. This shift allows us to adapt appropriately to the possibilities of the circumstances, satisfy our client’s needs, and keep our people safe. Our evolution was dramatic during these times and gave us a light of how capable we were to make adjustments in our operation,” says Garino.