Karrie Baugh Is A Group Service Delivery Manager working in IT. She organised the technology and support that enabled home working throughout the pandemic.

I had just two weeks to get 400 people ready to work from home

I started working for the company in 2013 and over the years there has been chat among team members about wanting to work from home more. People liked the idea of working in an agile way, but the consensus was always that it wasn’t possible, mainly because the tech couldn’t support it.

But in February 2020 everything changed. The news about Covid-19 coming from overseas was worrying, and at work we started to have conversations about what would be needed if people had to work from home. Very quickly it went from being ‘we should think about this’ to ‘we need to make this happen’. Basically, we had two weeks to organise everything.

Operation Home Worker

Anyone who used a desktop computer had to have that replaced with a laptop. I had to secure the equipment, including all the bits that go with it… monitors, docking stations, hubs, plus components like computer mice, headsets and keyboards. Luckily, I had pre-empted the rush for laptops. I have a very good relationship with our supplier, who held a lot of equipment for me for 48 hours while I got the money signed off. I’m so glad I did: laptops were like gold dust in the ensuing weeks and a lot of other companies were left on something of a back foot.

People told me that they were amazed to see trolley after
trolley of computer equipment arriving at our head office in Bury St Edmunds, like some kind of military operation. At the same time we were also rolling out Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, a process that we’d started in June 2019. We had to redouble efforts to really speed everything up to ensure everyone was on board with that, and I’ll admit that I found it quite stressful. There were a lot of spreadsheets involved.

Obviously, I didn’t do it all alone. I have a team of nine, plus the telephony and networks team. But together we had to get nearly 400 people into a position where they could work from home as seamlessly as possible, as quickly as possible.

Test And Train

It wasn’t just about people having the right tools – we also needed to do trials to make sure the network could support everyone working remotely. Could the infrastructure cope with the traffic? There was a lot of testing involved. Also, we had to ensure security was top of the agenda and that systems were not at any risk from external threats.

We also had to make sure that we had the training aids in place so that team members could set themselves up at home without any glitches. Telephones had to be sorted: everybody was used to using a desk phone so we had to get the software installed on laptops so that they could use a soft phone. Then we had to organise training for that, too.

I ended up pulling in people from other teams to help. Not everyone is tech minded and we created a lot of support documents. I’m not particularly techy – my skills are ones of planning and implementation – so I often asked my team to explain things in ‘Karrie language’. If I can understand a training document, anyone can.

We donated our old desktop computers to children who needed them for home schooling

A Well-rounded Team

By the first week in March, we had everyone set up for home working – a week before the government demanded it. We did it by the skin of our teeth. When lockdown finally came my team did an immense job of supporting everyone remotely, because remote working was new to them, too. It’s a lot easier to help people when you can physically go to their desks.

In addition to all the set-up, training and support, the team worked together to prepare our old desktop equipment and get it ready to donate to local schools who had pupils unable to home school because they didn’t have access to a computer. In the end, we donated 140 computers to children who needed them the most.

I’ve got a brilliant team behind me. Some are very, very technical, so with my organisational skills we complement each other. However, we do have something in common: we all love a challenge. We’re so proud of what we achieved during the pandemic. We’ve been able to give the business what it needed to be able to work at a very difficult time.

Dare I say it, but it was actually fun. And definitely rewarding. Going forward we’ve enabled team members to enjoy that agile working environment that people have wanted for so long. Although personally, I couldn’t wait to get back to the office.