Transitioning the Business Model During a Global Pandemic: A New Normal

The Larkin Company

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, organizations across the world were challenged to transition into a new way of doing business. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC), federal, state and local agencies issued many protective measures over the course of the year. Organizations were challenged with staying in compliance with ever-changing guidelines, while ensuring the safety of their employees and maintaining the productivity and profitability of their businesses.
The Larkin Company (Larkin) was no exception. With an employee-centric focus, we were challenged with maintaining our core values through a new, company-wide remote work plan. It was equally important to ensure the safety of our employees, as it was to maintain the top-notch quality of work we provide to our clients and their employees. At Larkin, we strongly value maintaining the human touch to each individual stakeholder, working as a team to meet the needs of each unique client, and representing the best service and support in our industry. As such, it was important to maintain these values, despite a global crisis, in order to ensure the continued success of our company and its stakeholders.
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Tackling an Unprecedented Drastic Change in the The Larkin Company’s Business Model

As we closely monitored the ever-changing, global crisis we explored many options and took a measured, yet proactive approach. There was no time to waste! Very quickly, we decided to execute a fully remote workplace as discussions of ‘shelter in place’ and ‘social distancing’ guidelines were being discussed at state and federal levels. We were preparing for the drastic turn that would soon change our everyday functions.
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A New Business Model

Remaining true to our core values, we aimed to ensure that our clients and their employees felt zero difference in the quality of our service during a global crisis. This meant that our remote workplace had to function at the level of our current in-office workplace.
Once the decision of launching a fully remote workplace was made, we moved very quickly to train and set up employees for remote work in early March of 2020. We deployed roughly 30% of our workforce in the first ‘test’ group. As the ‘test’ group ran smoothly, we deployed 60% in a second group, and followed with the remaining workforce in the third and last group. Within a seven-day window, our entire company was working from home. This measured approach allowed us to essentially ‘test out’ a remote workforce in small groups and ensure our technologies were working smoothly and that our employees were fully equipped with the tools that would allow them to work effectively from home.
During this unique time, transparency was key. One of our values is to ALWAYS think like a small company, and this notion was an integral part in ensuring the satisfaction of our Larkin family. Because our employees are our biggest assets, their involvement in this process was essential. Important decisions made by the Larkin leadership team were communicated company-wide, before they rolled out, to ensure that every employee was informed and educated on our new, remote guidelines. Our employees were encouraged to voice concerns and provide feedback and input. This interactive approach opened a dialogue where the leadership team could reflect and improve or create new processes to better serve our Larkin family, our clients, and their employees.
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Internal Experiences

While this transition to remote work changed the everyday work experience, the Larkin family found alternative ways to upkeep our sense of community. We rapidly witnessed an increase of activity on our internal social media platform, Namely. Employees have been posting anything from jokes, pets, expressing gratitude, to interactive games, suggesting some ‘quarantine fun’, and providing emotional support to those that may be struggling with COVID-19 related stress and anxiety.
In efforts to stay connected to our office environment, we carried a small tradition from the office to our online platform. This tradition started a few years ago when our clients’ employees would send us baby pictures of their little ones following pregnancy and baby bonding leaves. Eventually, our office spaces developed a ‘baby wall’, which included baby pictures that were sent to us, as well as, having our own baby wall consisting of Larkin employees! On Namely, we invented a baby challenge called “Little Teamers”. This challenge went on for 37 days! Baby pictures of our Larkin family were posted daily, leaving the entire company to guess the names of the employees the baby pictures belonged to. At the end of each day, those who guessed correctly, were placed in a drawing for a gift card! This challenge was very interactive and popular.
Aside from social media, team leads and managers hold 1-1 meetings with each employee to address any concerns and to keep an open dialogue with every employee. Managers also increased virtual team meetings, while also hosting occasional happy hour meetings to have face-to-face time with their teams on a more personable level. Most of us look forward to jumping on video conferences every chance we get and it is very evident that we miss seeing our teammates. Everyone makes efforts to stay connected, as we navigate through this crisis together. Everyone is very supportive of one another!
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What Wasn’t Working for Us?

But, of course, this huge transition came with its own set of challenges for our employees. Our three biggest challenges are that employees miss seeing their coworkers, have general anxiety about the Covid-19 crisis, and have issues with internet connectivity. Other challenges include limited workspaces at home, too many distractions at home, and there are general technological difficulties. Although these challenges are the nature of remote work, we aim to limit these challenges as much as possible. To provide support in these areas, we have provided more work equipment to ensure our employees have the tools they need to work effectively and comfortably. We also issue frequent software updates, trainings, and have a readily available tech support team to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
  • I miss being with my coworkers 80% 80%
  • General anxiety about the impact of coronavirus on my life 63% 63%
  • Internet connectivity 57% 57%
  • Communication with coworkers is more difficult 57% 57%
  • My physical workspace is limited 50% 50%
  • Too many distractions at home 48% 48%
  • The tools and applications we use tend to slow me down 46% 46%
  • Very little privacy to do my work at home 37% 37%
  • Keeping a regular schedule to support our clients and their employees 36% 36%
  • I’m in training and wish I could be with other students and TLC coworkers 36% 36%
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External Client Experiences

As the transition to remote work changed our internal work experiences, we remain determined to ensure that our clients and their employees do not experience changes in the quality of our services. Overall, the feedback we received from clients and their employees suggest that we are still providing excellent service. In fact, we have seen a climb in feedback scores!
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Number of calls down

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Leave activity down

We have, however, seen changes in activity. In the early stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 related leaves only made up 4.5% of our leave activity, the number of calls dropped 25% and leave activity dropped roughly 7% overall. Feedback suggests that these declines were a result of employees working from home, and thus, being able to better manage their medical conditions, having surgeries being postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis and employees striving to work from home while caring for their families.
Overall, for 2020 and compared to 2019, we noticed a climb in activity. While COVID-19 related leaves made up 5% of total leaves in 2020, we did see a 12% climb in new leave activity overall. The number of calls also increased roughly 16% from 2019.
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Overall new leave activity up for 2020

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What’s Next?

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We recognize that, in reality, no business is perfect. It’s also a pandemic! We are all experiencing this drastic shift in our lives and are learning along the way, together, with our people, our clients and their employees. The year 2020 has been a learning experience, to say the least!
As we discuss what the last year of remote work means to our company, we find ourselves re-exploring our technologies, internal policies and procedures, and client experience guidelines.
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Although the future remains undetermined at this time for many companies, we are actively developing our own plan for a return to the office, when it is safe to do so. We are, once again, at the on-going discussion table for another change in our business model. This change will not be a simple reversal of remote work, but a transition into a new normal.

We would love to hear your feedback!