Like most companies, LL Global mandated all their employees to work remotely. LIMRA employees in Windsor, Connecticut, started working from home on March 16, while LOMA employees in Atlanta, Georgia, began working remotely effective March 19. Prior to those dates, only a little more than 10% of LL Global’s 325 employees worked at home on a full-time basis.
It is one thing to work at home a day or two during a given workweek, but it’s another thing altogether to have everyone in the company working from home on a regular basis. However, LL Global has worked hard to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Even prior to everyone working remotely, senior leadership started sending regular COVID-19 updates, including setting up a special page on the company’s intranet for all COVID-19 related items. It includes links to external sites, such as the Centers for Disease Control and local government pages, tips on working from home, and importantly, technology help.
Currently, there are a handful of employees who physically go into the buildings in Atlanta and Windsor. They handle things like incoming mail and packages, and printing large documents and other items on the professional printer.
Technology Working Overtime
Although the information technology department was used to interacting with employees working remotely—either at home or while traveling for business—this was a whole new way of doing things.
“We’ve had situations where many employees were working remotely, such as during snow days and power outages, but this is totally different,” says Kartik Sakthivel, chief information officer for LL Global. He added, “Luckily, we had tools in place so the majority of our employees could work at home without skipping a beat.”
Sakthivel notes that over the past few years, with many employees working at home on a part-time basis, and/or needing to work while traveling, 50% now have a work-issued laptop. Other employees have the ability to connect remotely to their office computer.
Sakthivel and the leaders of the department also created the virtual “LLGenius Bar.” The genius bar is free form, no specific topic event that covers everything technology related. Employees input their questions on the company’s internal knowledge management site.
“It’s a good way for us to develop a broader body of knowledge and effectively ‘crowd source’ best practices, as well as tips and tricks around productivity and workplace optimization,” notes Sakthivel.
The team is hosting a series of WebEx meetings to introduce the LLGenius bar, answer technology-related questions, and offered best practices for WebEx and Jabber (two of the company’s main communication tools), how to print from home, and how to use web mail.
Staying Connected Despite Social Distancing
The senior leadership of the company is meeting daily at 8 a.m. to discuss what they are hearing from our members and how they can help. Marketing put together a special COVID-19 section on the company’s website full of continually updated information that might be helpful to our members.
The first week’s content included information for virtual workers, training opportunities for professional development, upcoming virtual events, and current research from the organization.
“Since its inception, LIMRA and LOMA have been known for their ability to bring members together,” said Gina Birchall, chief operating officer, LL Global. “While we’re practicing social distancing, it’s even more important to stay connected and help one another get through this difficult and unprecedented time.”
There are also some creative ideas happening as a result of their new remote environment.
Before the pandemic, the marketing team had planned an in-office bingo game as a way to connect the Windsor and Atlanta employees, but instead decided to do it virtually. The head of marketing sent everyone bingo cards and hosted a “virtual” bingo game by teleconference. It was so popular, they have decided to host another next week via WebEx so everyone can see one another’s “offices.”
LL Global has a number of study groups and committees that meet on a regular basis. Instead of hosting these on-site, they are now being held virtually.
Managers are also connecting with their employees in all new ways. While 1-on-1 meetings were common practice before the pandemic, it has become even more critical to check in and resolve any issues with working remotely. Employees use Jabber (an instant messaging tool), email, Webex video, and phone calls to stay connected and check in with one another.
Employees are also learning more about their co-workers, many of whom are home schooling their kids and/or taking care of their elderly loved ones. It is not unusual to hear a dog barking or a child chattering in the background while on a conference call or WebEx meeting.
When this is over and employees are able to go back to their regular office environment, they will take with them a completely new set of tools learned as a result of their experiences from working at home.