Returning to the Office in An Uncertain World

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developer at work desk with mask on looking at camera

Uncertainty has become the new norm. We are now – it seems – in the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, making a return to work is so complicated in so many dimensions. Regions are facing new lockdowns and policies are tightening yet again as risk and concern rises. For those hoping for a return-to-the-office, it is yet again distant for many. This is a bit of our journey still being played out.

At Axway we have been working from home through the virus and still do hold this as our position. Like many, we are working to support our employees remotely and drive unity and comradery when face-to-face time is not possible. This has been through virtual coffee hours, virtual happy hours, virtual team meetings through MS Teams, WebEx and other tools.

Some are very pleased with working from home. For some this already was the norm. There is also on the contrast a desire in some to utilize the office spaces we have.

The desire to use the offices has been driven by some like myself needing separation from small children to work effectively. Others are looking to re setup socially distant meetings, some looking for a change in scenery, and others simply looking for human interaction with fellow Griffins (that’s what we call ourselves here at Axway). But all with safety first.

To accommodate those wishes, we have engaged to make these spaces available as a choice for our employees respecting and factoring in safety, CDC, WHO and regional government guidelines. Again, our policy is work from home. But we have 17 offices in 27 countries with many that desire to use them.

To facilitate a safe return to the office, we turned to our own technology to have a little fun and we built the Griffin App. Behind the Griffin app has been a desire to build an all-company app as part of the employee experience. Being busy helping and catalyzing everyone else to “be digital” it has been an idea that needed a kick. COVID-19 was that kick and a forcing function to do so and our first “feature” was to support return to work.

Like the virus, we have had a few waves in the app. The virus has pushed all companies to be “digital” to be “nimble” and to adjust processes and experiences for employees and for customers to meet a new and ever-changing norm. One predicated that COVID moved “digital” strategies ahead 6 years. Maybe more. Our technology rose to the occasion here.

Our First Wave

We built an app in two weeks. The whole thing, microservices on the backend running in our platform, APIs secured by our platform, integration through our platform and a front-end cross platform experience by our platform. Our platform is AMPLIFY and the Griffin App is 100% AMPLIFY – front-end to back-end. We launched this in June with over 800 installations, covering about 1/3 of our 2,000 employees across the globe. Downloads in the U.S., France, and Bulgaria were in the lead. IOS installs were trailing slightly behind Android. We factored in a capacity constraint custom set for each office and employees could register to use the office on any given day within those constraints.

Our Second Wave

Just after the release, a second wave started ramping up. Government regulations were maturing and regional requirements quickly popped in. We had office utilization guidelines to share, some legal forms to accept, some videos to watch. There were forms to fill out and acceptance of guidelines to use the offices, some regions required screening questions. Every region was different. Our two weeks, one-size-fits-all needed to change, and it did. Two more weeks, now each region could manage their own policies, screening questions themselves. Each office could be administered by local HR for the office taking the burden off of development to make changes.

Our Third Wave

Well, here we are. Like the rest of the world. Our employees’ safety and choice remain first. As does our policy on work from home. That said, we have our offices where its safe available and an app for employees to respond to regulatory requirements, accept safety and regulatory policies, register to attend the office and now the ability to see which peers (via opt-in) are going to be in on any given day.

This is changing daily, and lockdowns and risk have some locations temporarily closed. Even when available, employees are using the app to managing capacity. And so, the power is in the Griffins’ hands. It is in HR’s hands to manage policy on an office-by-office or country-by- country basis. And it’s in the employees’ hands to comply with guidelines and if they choose, safely utilize our spaces.

The fun in this is we got to really see our platform shine internally. For many employees, this was also the first experience to really understand what we do for our customers and what is like to see AMPLIFY in action. Yes, we get to see that with customers, but this was a little different. We shared internally dashboards on app utilization metrics that typically would be for support and we shared them with everyone.

It became a bit of a game who could use the app the most by region for more than office capacity as we added news feeds from our blogs and an internal social network. We had some fun with development of the app. We have even open-sourced the app so anyone could take and benefit from it without any fees.

My challenge to you is to be digital. To be nimble. To engage your employees with safe choices on office utilization and with fun and engaging use of technology to do so. We are all on a journey. Let’s make the best of it.

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