For NewDay USA, a Fulton, Maryland-based company that serves veterans through home loans and mortgage refinance, planning for the transition to remote work began as the first COVID-19 cases were being reported in the U.S.
“We saw this potentially developing as a real issue at the end of January, and at the beginning of February we started having business continuity planning meetings every single day and through weekends,” said CEO Rob Posner.
Given the mass closure of offices that unfolded about six weeks later, the move surely deserves plaudits for early action. But it came in large part because its leadership knew that shifting a 500-person company — which includes a team of 40 technologists — to remote work would require preparation.
Outfitting employees used to commuting to the Maple Lawn offices to work from home meant a $1M investment that included increasing server capacity, ensuring the Linux-based platform where their work was carried out was up and running, and routing calls from veterans to the homes of employees.
Though successful, that transition wasn’t the end of the new mode. With everything up and running for the distributed team and safety measures in place, keeping company culture alive was another big consideration. After all, Posner said, the culture it had built has been key as it’s grown quickly.
Here are a few ways NewDay is keeping that culture alive:
Though they don’t see each other every day in the office, the team is keeping in touch through constant communication. Posner has morning calls with his C-suite, and the leaders then have calls with their teams to discuss major goals and objectives.
“We’re communicating better than ever before,” Posner said.
It’s a difficult time for society that’s bringing change for everyone. Yet the company is continuing its work in serving veterans who are in need of help. Posner said the company is looking to help folks remain motivated, and on that front, NewDay USA is looking to its own partners.
Earlier this month, Posner said Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talked to the company’s employees about how he is motivating coaches for the upcoming season in a time of quarantine. For the last five years, the Super Bowl-winning coach has worked with the company during the offseason, and that’s continuing now.
Other tapped speakers include members of NewDay’s board, such as Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch, who retired from the U.S. Navy and went on to become senior VP at storied Philly venture firm Safeguard Scientifics; former U.S. Marine Corps Commandant and National Security Advisor James Jones; and University of Maryland Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship Rajshree Agarwal, who will be talking about profit and purpose.
Navy Captain Charlie Plumb, who often speaks about experiences as a POW, will also discuss life in quarantine, and Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr., has spoken with employees in the past.
These leaders may already have a relationship with the company, but NewDay employees have been hearing from them even more frequently during the pandemic: “They’re probably getting the opportunity to connect with more business leaders, military leaders and sports leaders than they would have otherwise,” Posner said.
And a little friendly competition
Keeping a sense of community also means fostering connections among the employees, and plenty of activities have been kicked off on this level, as well. Posner said some groups have been organizing Zoom happy hours, while others have been offering workouts of the day. The CEO once jumped in to lead a cooking demo from his home.
There’s also room for some challenges: Whether it’s a workout or seeing who can serve the most veterans in a given time, the company has been offering up gift certificates. Naming an employee of the week is an additional way that folks are celebrating.
“We want to keep it fresh, create fun in the workday and stay optimistic,” Posner said.
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