Two teams from ESD now Stantec and Stantec join a total of 600 Women Build volunteers in this year’s effort by Habitat for Humanity to construct houses for Chicago women who might not otherwise be able to afford a new home. (Learn more about Habitat for Humanity Chicago’s Women Build.)
It was 2013, and our firm was building out infrastructure to work remotely when our first big test came.
A late-season snowstorm in Chicago halted transportation on a Tuesday morning. With 75 percent of our team working from home, we learned a lot about additional investments required to support longer-term productive remote working capabilities. Since then, ESD has invested in infrastructure, innovation and training to work productively, regardless of location, to support our clients coast to coast.
“In our industry, remote working and partner integration is required for successful outcomes. Our clients expect it!” – Raj Gupta, Executive Chairman, ESD
We learned working productively while working remotely required a lot of difficult decisions and significant investments. It is not just collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, or Cisco WebEx, but a holistic approach to fault-tolerant implementation of physical and logical compute, storage and communications architectures in support of business continuity.
“We’ve invested heavily in virtual desktop platforms, communications platforms and remote-working tools and we are continuously piloting new technologies and systems within our Living Lab. It is not only the tools; we also heavily invest in cyber security training and other proactive activities.” – Zac House, CEO, ESD
Like many firms in our industry, our firm quickly shared our remote working assurances with our clients while providing them with the means to connect directly with our executive team should the need arise. As new information impacting our clients becomes available, our leaders are adapting and engaging with our clients in a personal and relevant manner. At this point, working remotely is how we are working together throughout our industry.
Having confidence in our business continuity plan investments has enabled our firm to adapt quickly to unanticipated conditions – such as employee engagement when the majority of our team is involuntarily isolated. Instead of fumbling with making sure everyone could be productive while working remotely, people throughout ESD went into action. We used our tools in new ways to foster interaction and provide several opportunities to connect on a personal level and foster #togetherwerise moments, from a music-infused, rapid-comment happy hour to small-group games such as Family Feud. Even more inspiring is seeing cross-business-unit socializing and ideation in the physical workplace.
We have also learned that while it’s great for those of us who are fortunate enough to work remotely, certain activities cannot be completed virtually. Many of our clients need us on site to support essential construction activities. In commissioning, for example, that’s the only way to test equipment.
Looking toward the future, there will be a day when a robot will be on a construction site, guided by one of our engineers, to test equipment or perform site observations in a manner similar to doctors who use robots for surgery. Maybe with technology advances in the future they’ll be able to do their job remotely, and we’ll be happy to support that. Today, however, their presence on site is crucial for business continuity.