The quarantine challenge: how on earth do you quickly prepare thousands of employees to work from home?

Mariana Janovskaja, Senior Communications Consultant at Danske Bank

Until recently, the idea that the entire international Danske Bank team would have to start working from home all at once was hard to imagine. Today, this is our new reality. Nineteen thousand – let that sink in: that’s 19,000 – is how many people had to be prepared to work from home in just one weekend due to the rollout of quarantine in many countries. From an organizational and technical point of view, this is undoubtedly a significant challenge, so it’s worth sharing our experience of dealing with it.

The key to success - clear procedures

Of course, the very idea of working from home is not something new in our organization. Many Danske Bank employees can work remotely when needed. However, the quarantine didn’t force a few individual workers, but almost the entire organization at one time. It was easier for colleagues who had until now worked on laptops and could connect from home. Others had to bring their home computers home and configure them for remote work – we have about 6 thousand such employees. My team's job was to help them get their workplace home as smoothly as possible.


Some of these workers were provided with laptops, while everyone else on the job received clear instructions on how to move their workplace home, and how to properly and safely connect to the Danske Bank network for questions. These instructions made the process smoother and allowed us to reduce the load on our service center.


Even the most thorough guides won’t be able to anticipate every potential question or problem. As a result, the number of technical service calls increased almost six fold during the migration to home. This is understandable – even though you need a computer and an internet connection to work from home, you need to install and configure special software to connect to our organization's network securely. For less IT-savvy employees, this may not seem so easy, so the IT team’s expert guidance was critical to them.

The biggest technical challenge: network load

 

The unimaginable numbers of people working from home is evidenced by statistics. On an average day, about one thousand employees are connected remotely to the internal Danske Bank network at one time. Today, under quarantine conditions, the figure is 17-20 thousand at a time. The number of calls made through Skype has also increased, now reaching around 50,000 daily calls. This number is four times higher than would be expected on a regular working day.


Not only does our internal network suffer from this high load of remote work – the entire Internet infrastructure is overburdened. We’re delighted that this infrastructure is highly developed in Lithuania; we have an extensive fiber network that provides high data throughput and high-speed internet. But in other countries, the situation is not necessarily so good.


That's why companies like Netflix or Facebook have already announced that they are temporarily downgrading visual content in Europe to reduce internet congestion in times of crisis. During the first week of quarantine, we also temporarily requested our employees not to use video calls to ensure smooth remote communication and reduce the risk of network congestion. However, this risk has not yet been proven - with virtual meetings and conferences, colleagues can already successfully broadcast video from their homes.

The goal is to maintain a healthy team spirit even from a distance

 

It is not known how long the quarantine will last and how long we will have to work from home, but people are already missing out on the social dimension of work. Lively chats with colleagues, coffee breaks or lunch – maintaining one’s social life is one of the most basic human needs. As a result, one of the challenges that managers face during this period is ensuring a lively team spirit, focus, and employee motivation, even when telecommuting. For this, it is essential to maintain continuous team communication and to organize regular meetings and remote meetings. I do not doubt that our staff makes every effort to do so.


Working from home can be daunting for many, but it is temporary. At the same time, it can provide valuable experience, help you discover new ways of communicating and collaborating that can come in handy when you return to your regular office workplace.


Finally, a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a virtual meeting:
1. Have a clear purpose for the meeting and share it with all participants.
2. Plan the meeting agenda.
3. Prepare for a meeting in a quiet, tidy and comfortable place at home.
4. Check beforehand that your Internet connection is stable and that your camera & microphone are working correctly.
5. Make sure your laptop is online or has enough charge for the entire meeting.
6. Get dressed for business.
7. Mute the notifications on your phone and computer.
8. Ensure there is enough light in the room.
9. Turn on the computer camera.
10. Adjust the camera so that it is at eye level.
11. Don't be late for a virtual meeting.