This is the first in an ongoing series of articles designed to provide guidance for making a Smart ReStart back to the office as we all deal with pandemic-related concerns. Tech leaders will share their experiences, lessons learned and things to watch out for as we all work together.

Nothing could have prepared the world for the impact of COVID-19 and its widespread implications on how we live, work, travel, socialize and so much more. Like other companies, Genesys is deeply concerned about protecting people’s health and safety as we navigate this new territory. As a global organization with operations and customers in 100+ countries on six continents, all of which have been affected by the pandemic, our priorities are to protect our employees’ health and public safety while supporting our customers’ and partners’ needs.

Genesys has more than 5,600 employees in 60 locations, including nearly 850 in Indianapolis. This global presence gave us an early view of how the coronavirus crisis played out in regions hit first. When COVID-19 started affecting our sites in Asia in February, we developed a response plan we could implement there immediately and scale quickly to other parts of the globe as needed.

Quick, decisive action 

By early March, we created the Genesys Coronavirus Taskforce made up of cross-functional leaders to monitor and respond to the crisis globally continually. We began moving to a virtual workplace, restricted employee travel, postponed corporate events and launched interim services to help customers and partners ensure business continuity. Genesys’ early response to COVID-19 was unique because our cloud customer experience solutions are accessible anywhere, allowing us to create a safe environment for our employees while helping customers shift to remote workforces and lessen thousands of people’s exposure to the virus.

Because “business anywhere” is fundamental to what we do, working from home was the norm for about a quarter of Genesys employees even before the pandemic struck. Almost all Genesys employees already had the tools and technology to work virtually, so by mid-March, 90 percent of our employees were working from home.

David Liddicoat, Genesys Vice President and Site Leader for Indianapolis

Challenges and solutions

Despite our operational readiness, numerous challenges and concerns arose. First, we had to make sure we responded at the right time with the right measures for employees and customers in each region of the world. To accomplish that and to continue responding as best we can, our coronavirus taskforce continually assesses what’s happening, establishes situation-specific policies and communicates them on a global scale. The group meets regularly to keep us in sync with leading local and international health authorities and works closely with our legal and human resources departments to do what’s right for employees first.

A second concern is how the pandemic affects employees as human beings. Changing how we live and work in the blink of an eye was difficult, to say the least. Everyone’s personal journey is influenced by their environment, culture and comfort levels. Now is a time to be understanding, compassionate and supportive.

We coach our managers to be empathetic and realize people now play multiple roles during the day, including Genesys employee, parent, teacher and/or partner. Managers check in with employees often, helping them strike a balance between work and home life, encouraging them to take advantage of mental health and other resources if needed and lighten things up with virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. Our Learning and Development team uses our cloud-based training tools to roll out content to employees on an array of topics such as staying connected, coping with uncertainty, managing virtual teams and building resilience.

A third concern we share with many businesses is how to reopen offices safely to avoid resurgences of the virus and maintain employees’ confidence in our decisions. At Genesys, we monitor infection data and health authority guidance regularly and take an extremely conservative approach as we plan next steps. At the right time, we will use a staged process to ease into a new normal. Among the actions we’re considering upon reopening are delaying onsite cafeterias and gyms to mitigate unnecessary risk, spacing employees appropriately, providing masks and gloves to employees and establishing rigorous cleaning protocols. After reopening, our coronavirus taskforce will continue to watch data closely and re-escalate if needed. Regardless of threat levels, we’re allowing all Genesys employees to work from home for the rest of 2020, if they choose.

To keep employees in the loop and get their valuable local feedback, we are conducting periodic surveys on the pandemic by function and geography. We ask employees if they think their offices should reopen yet, whether their countries are ready for in-person customer visits and how they feel about working from home after the pandemic, among other topics. The results, which differ quite a bit from country to country, help the taskforce make de-escalation decisions that align with employee viewpoints and our objective to provide a safe workplace.

Moving forward

Supporting employees through the COVID-19 pandemic requires new levels of flexibility, empathy, and, most critically, communication. It is vital that staff know the details of new policies, business plans and potential changes affecting them in this constantly evolving environment. Clarity is always important, but in current circumstances, it is fundamental. Our coronavirus taskforce sends out emails at least weekly, maintains a preparedness portal, and continually updates online FAQs to ensure employees receive factual consistent COVID-19 communications and guidance.

COVID-19 has created many challenges, to be sure, but it has also taught us valuable lessons that move us beyond crisis mode and into a more sustainable future. We will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to support and protect our employees, customers and partners to ensure we all get through this period of uncertainty together.