Like everyone else, our team began to work remotely during the pandemic, but I also had a big decision at that time: whether or not to re-sign our office lease. The shutdown provided time to step back, think about the business, and decide how we might move forward with remote work if I were not to sign the lease.
Two of my first thoughts were that, at that time, we had some things on the cloud, but the majority of our work was on servers in our main office.
Additionally, I have 16 full-time employees and wanted to ensure each one had a comfortable space within their homes to be productive.
The first step was to find a robust cloud server that offered enterprise software to encompass all of our programs, including QuickBooks. I know construction, not technology, so I relied on finding partners to help implement the cloud server, and we went with Ace Cloud Hosting.
One change that I will never revert is transitioning our landlines to a digital, cloud-based phone system. If someone calls our landline now, they have an option to enter a number to reach a specific employee. The system then routes the call to that employee’s cell phone.
While adding and including more software to meet our remote needs, I have now found that we need to consolidate as much as possible. To do so, we’re moving toward Microsoft Teams. And to ensure comfortability at home, I provided each employee with a standing desk, chairs, printer, and anything else they needed from the office.
Without a lease, there’s an offset of costs. Now, I can invest some of that money into programs to better develop the company, which would have been great investments with an office too, but the difference now is that without one, it pushed us a bit more to make those investments.
One investment includes hiring an HR company to assist in communication with my employees. It’s important my team has the information they need when they need it. As a result, we’re also streamlining all of our processes.
For myself, I commuted almost an hour and a half one-way daily. Now, I have several more hours to be much more productive.
We are now more efficient with homeowners as well since this frees up all that commute time running between appointments. For all those instances when a homeowner wasn’t a good fit, traveling wasted some time. Now those meetings can be accomplished more quickly.
Reconnecting Online and Off
My team seemed comfortable with remote work and everyone has settled in at home, but the hardest part still is that personal connection. We’re currently working on that through more company-wide, weekly virtual meetings. Another newer way we’re addressing this is by conducting quarterly jobsite visits. This means the entire company shows up at a project in the morning and gets the ability to see how their role translates to what’s being built out on the field.
That wasn’t something that happened even before remote work, but I’ve received great feedback so far. Our admin assistant, for example, would answer phone calls and email homeowners but only saw the job through images or verbal communication. She never saw what her labor resulted in.
I’m an anomaly amongst my peers in the industry, and I may get an office for my team one day again for a hybrid model, but for now, it’s all about timing. What we’ve achieved so far has been a result of a lot of brains coming into play and pushing us forward.
Paul Kocharhook is president of Pathway Design & Construction, a Seattle-based remodeling company specializing in green building and universal design.