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06.22.2020 | Earth Intelligence

How We Maintain Production and Morale During COVID-19

By: Mark Hartmann & Geoffrey Swanson, Maxar Technologies

Read Time: 3 minutes

Our production team is open and collaborative. We’re used to working in small subteams, with lots of interaction: a tap on a shoulder, a quick “hey, can you look at this?” But when Virginia’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued on March 30, 2020, our production team was ready.

We recently shared our process during a panel discussion with Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, and now we’re laying it out for you.

Vricon’s senior leadership had been looking into remote work since the end of February, because of our global offices and frequent travel. Mark (3D geospatial lead) and Geoff (production manager) followed advice to start isolating our production team from sales and marketing—which meant no joint Fika Fridays.

In mid-March, the COVID-19 numbers grew, and we thought it was likely that businesses our size would need to close. In just four days, our U.S. office procured and configured 30 laptops and trained its production team. Would we overload systems by having everyone work remotely at the same time? Remarkably during initial testing, we had half of our team working remote with very minor connectivity problems. A few days later, the full team was working remotely and our systems could handle the entire team.

Vricon is a very technical company, and, with high-speed internet, technology has flourished. This would not work if our team had dial-up at home, as we did years ago. Our original expectation was to reach 50% productivity in a remote environment; however, our team was able to achieve over 80% productivity, which far exceeded our expectations.

Focusing on the human element of Vricon’s production has contributed to our continued productivity.

Four of our team members started in early February, which means they have been working remotely longer than they worked in the office. Normally we have new employees sit right next to their mentors, so working from home has been a change and a challenge. We spent a lot of time up front training our team on setting up meetings and doing screen shares, as Mark and Geoff do this often with our Swedish counterparts. In fact, during the pandemic, our Swedish colleagues have joined some of our department’s regular meetings. It’s one thing to email someone halfway across the world; it’s another to greet them on screens in our homes.

The Vricon production team has adapted well to our new processes, accepted our circumstances, and moved through in a positive way. We maintain our regular work schedules, with a much-needed and refreshing hour-long break, and continue our weekly fika virtually (this often becomes a “pets of Vricon” show-and-tell) to remain connected.

Although we’d rather be in the office together, adopting novel techniques makes us more efficient: Screen-sharing for demos is easier than crowding around a computer in the office. Vricon’s production team can continue our work-from-home setup while threats remain. We want to keep our team safe, and we’ve pulled off something pretty amazing.

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