Hurricane Sandy tore through the East Coast but Matrix Group managed to stay open. On Sunday night, after the federal and local government and all the local schools announced they would be closed Monday and Tuesday, I decided to keep the office open because our non-local clients need us to stay open. Local clients often need us to update their sites when they can’t do it themselves and because the last quarter of the year is always a a busy time for us.
While a few people made it into the office both days, most of us worked from home. Here’s what we did to maintain communications between staff and keep the work (and the jokes!) flowing:
* On Sunday night, I sent an e-mail to all staff, announcing that we would stay open but approving PTO and work from home in advance. I directed people to our working from home policies so everyone was reminded of the ground rules, including staying in touch with your team and manager, keeping your status updated on IM, checking in with your manager at the end of the day, etc. This information was also posted to our staff intranet as a staff update.
* All staff were logged in to the VPN and Openfire, which is our internal instant messaging server that uses the Jabber protocol. Using Openfire, we could send instant messages securely and privately to one another. Perhaps most importantly, each team has an Openfire chat room. If I’m a member of the X-Men team, I can log in to the X-Men chat and be part of the X-Men chatter all day long about work being done, incoming requests from clients, questions or problems that people have, yada, yada. The new biz team (Lethal Weapon) used our chat room to discuss priorities and assign tasks.
* The most fun was the Water Cooler chat room. Water Cooler was where most of us posted updates about our status: how Sandy was pummeling (or not yet pummeling) our neighborhood, if we had power, interesting things we were seeing on the news and on the web, how we keeping our kids busy at home, and our musings about the storm. I have to say that the Water Cooler chat made me feel connected to the staff, and it felt good to know that everyone was okay and could reach out to others if they needed help.
After a couple of days at home, I was glad to be back in the office but e-mail, phone and Openfire certainly made working from home more productive and more fun. How about you? Was your office open during Hurricane Sandy? How did you stay in touch with your co-workers?