Last year when OneNet transitioned to telework status on March 18, I never imagined that I would still be leading and managing our organization through telework a year later. We left our physical office prepared for a few weeks, possibly a few months, of having staff manage their duties from home. Yet, here we are a year later in our new home work spaces.
Fortunately for OneNet, we transitioned to telework fairly easily and maintained (or increased) our productivity as staff learned to deploy projects from home. Reflecting back on the last year, I asked our leadership team what lessons they have learned through implementing telework in their various departments, from administration to network and systems support. Here are the lessons our leadership team shared.
Maintaining a Shared Vision
The most important lesson we’ve learned is that maintaining a shared vision is vital to our success. The OneNet team’s key priority is serving our customers. We all share the vision of providing world-class customer service, so that is where we placed our focus as many of our customers also transitioned to telework, telehealth and remote learning. During this transition, establishing agency-wide priorities to meet our customers’ needs helped us maintain this focus as we figured out how to manage all aspects of our service delivery remotely.
One challenge we faced was remaining agile while dealing with communication barriers. Maintaining solid internal communications became a priority. We were no longer in a shared space where we could talk with other team members throughout the day. Our team utilized a variety of technologies for staying in touch, and we prioritized leadership and departmental meetings to stay on top of projects.
New Avenues for Service Delivery
As our customers’ needs evolved through the pandemic, our agility and partnerships helped us respond to new service delivery requirements. We quickly increased capacity to provide thousands of Zoom licenses to the organizations we serve. Many of our customers required bandwidth increases for telehealth and remote learning delivery, and we quickly deployed those upgrades.
We also leveraged our partnerships with other public agencies and private providers to deliver services in new ways. In July 2020, OneNet partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and Verizon to deploy 50,000 mobile internet connections and devices to help ensure all students have connectivity to access online and remote learning. OneNet provides content filtering and technical support for connecting these devices to the state network as an in-kind contribution to this initiative.
In transitioning our staff to work remotely, we had to quickly identify telework barriers, so we could properly address them. For example, physical paper is a major roadblock to remote work. We utilized tools we had in place to begin eliminating as much physical paper from our processes as we could. Before the pandemic, we had already began automating many of our processes, and we expedited these changes to accommodate working from home.
Our ability to communicate effectively, through Zoom and VoIP, was a key to effectively making the switch to telework. In fact, communication seems to be better now than ever. For many team members, there is less time lost traveling (or walking) between meetings. However, we’ve discovered that Zoom fatigue is a real issue. Calendars can fill quickly, with team members in Zoom meetings all day. We’ve learned that constant Zoom meetings are manageable from time to time, but not sustainable over a length of time.
In the end, our success came down to personal accountability. Each of our team members had to design their new work day to ensure goals are met and productivity is not only maintained, but improved. Keeping a daily work schedule has been important for maintaining accountability. Staying in touch with supervisors and other team members has also been key to accountability. Finally, our team has also had to learn to structure their days to be productive while often spending a significant part of the day in Zoom meetings. We have worked to maximize the value of time spent in meetings, and team members have learned to block off hours to work on individual projects and duties.
Overall, I believe OneNet’s transition to telework has been successful, and through it we’ve made significant strides in our operations. We’ve learned new ways to work and new avenues for service delivery. We look forward to meeting in person again and sharing those impromptu conversations in the halls and break room. Until then, we will continue to focus on our vision of serving our customers and helping them make their own transitions to telework successful as well.