Appalachia Technologies Blog
Adapting - How COVID Affected the Way We Work
Adapting...with a smile!
It’s early March 2020, and seemingly out of the blue, our personal and professional lives began to feel the subtle, and not-so-subtle effects, of COVID. Our personal lives aside and from a professional lens...things certainly looked and felt different. Nineteen months later, we’ve adapted, but we continue to feel the impact. Is this the new lens through which we’ll view our professional worlds? Time will tell, but the business lessons we’ve learned are more important than ever.
I’d like to take a minute and share the effects COVID has had on Appalachia Technologies...and how we continue to persevere and get better despite it!
Conducting Operations Virtually Is Difficult
March 15th, 2020 it begins...all of our Appalachia teams are told to begin to work remotely.
As a SOC2 Type 2 audited organization, we were ready! We had our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place and tested. In practice...we were ready, and now in reality...it worked! We were immediately able to support the business and our clients remotely. We had no (zero!) issues accessing our systems, applications, and each other. The true test for us now was our ability to support and service our clients. We quickly got in front of this; we spoke to our clients and explained our plan. We were feeling pretty good, all things considered.
The one thing though you can’t test in our BCP is the absolute value (and in many cases, the very real desire) for in-person staff interaction amongst our teams. All those “little” things we took for granted such as our impromptu conversations over the cube wall or an office, eating lunches together, on-site client meetings, service visits...the list goes on and on. Now with that said, we’ve always hung our hat on our culture, especially our openness with each other and our relationships. But working remotely added a more restrictive, less engaging layer we didn’t completely anticipate or deal with previously. Suddenly all those little things weren’t so little. For us, it became personal.
Communication Openness Vigilance Integrity Decisiveness
When I say it got personal, I mean that in a very genuine (and humbling) way.
Look...we’re “in IT”. If you are too, I’m sure you can relate to the fact that we’re tested daily, without fail. This is a good thing; we understand the grind very well. With that said, we’ve never been tested like this before. What we hoped for (and to a certain extent expected), was our culture to take over. It did, and through all the adversity we were facing, our teams (very naturally!) found themselves taking care of each other in all kinds of new ways. It wasn’t easy though.
The way we communicated with each other had some initial challenges. Communicating remotely was much less personal and met with things like speaking over each other, inevitably speaking while on mute (to this very day!), spotty internet connections, deciding what background to use today, and of course our kids/pets/significant others all now being part of the Appalachia conversational mix.
We had to be more open with each other. Each of us has dealt with COVID in our own way, and at Appalachia, we always felt the need to respect and honor that. With that, though, comes tougher conversations that lean more to the personal (and potentially sensitive) side of our lives. In short, we got to know each other in a way that we may never have. This was a blessing; it’s brought us closer.
We had to remain vigilant with the services and support we provide to our clients. We serve 100’s of clients that count on us. They all had their own business concerns; we absolutely didn’t want Appalachia to be one of them.
Our integrity was in play too. Would our staff have the same work ethic and focus working from home as they do in the office? If not, would we even know?
Lastly, we had to take decisive action to protect our business. We simply couldn’t anticipate the business impact COVID would have on our clients, partners, and vendors. Everything, and I mean everything, was up in the air. In an effort to protect our team members to the best of our abilities, we made the very hard decision to forgo salary increases in 2020. We knew this wouldn’t be well received by our VERY deserving teams, but we also knew the alternatives were worse (i.e., staff reduction, pay cut across the board, etc. were certainly on the table). For us though, and to the best of our abilities, we always want to win or lose together. Our salary freeze was a hard message to give, but the vast majority understood, appreciated, and respected the approach.
Culture Ownership Vibrancy Inspiration Dependability
I’ve said a lot, so where am I going with all of this?!?!
COVID’s impact on us professionally was, and still is, a challenge. Through it, Appalachia has come together in a very natural, positive, and heartening way. We truly didn’t do anything novel. We simply relied on the tried-and-true virtues that never change: genuinely take care of your employees and they will take care of you (and in turn, the client!).
Our culture is, and always will be, our single biggest focus and differentiator. We unwaveringly and unapologetically live here...it’s that important to us as individuals and as a business. We’re not for everyone, but we are for us!
We’re not perfect...we know this, and we own it. Honest accountability, as well as the desire to continually improve, is vital and a core value for us.
Our teams, our meetings, and our social presence have never been more vibrant. Yes, we miss our face-to-face meetings, happy hours, and get-togethers. We’re slowly coming back, and when we are together, you can feel the love in the room.
We’ve inspired each other through our resiliency and genuine caring for each other. We’ve moved Appalachian Mountains to be better than we were yesterday, even with a pandemic on our backs.
We know we can depend on each other through thick and thin. This has deepened our relationship with each other and with our clients. We’ve always been, and always will be, a relationship-play. It does feel like we cherish this one a bit more now though!
Before signing off, I’d like to salute all of those in HR, and those of you that have had to play an HR role throughout the last 19 months. I’m sure this has been one of the most professional challenges of your lives, and while the collective “we” may have made it difficult for you at times, please know that we truly appreciate everything you’ve done to keep us safe. From all of us...we thank you!
Vice President, Professional Services, Appalachia Technologies
This is Mike’s 35th year in IT, serving in both technical and leadership roles (at his heart, he’s a customer experience and culture guy). He’s a very proud Dad to his two sons and enjoys baseball, live music and a firepit. Don’t get him started talking about crypto and NFT’s - you’ll never get this time back (you’ve been warned!)