Working Safely (and Smartly) From Home

By Mike Everett, Vice President and Chief Security Officer, Farm Credit Mid-America

Mike Everett, Vice President and Chief Security Officer, Farm Credit Mid-America

It’s been said that preparation is half the battle. From an IT perspective, that certainly proved true this spring as a global pandemic forced communities to shelter in place and businesses to institute remote work plans on the fly. For companies that had already prioritized mobile workforce technology, the abrupt shift went much more smoothly — despite the unprecedented circumstances presented by COVID-19.

Farm Credit Mid-America team members work in offices across Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, a vast geographic area that prompted leaders to prioritize cutting-edge remote work capabilities long before the pandemic. As a result, the association was ahead of the curve when office closures began in March. In fact, the day work-from-home started, the organization did not encounter any major complications. It was all systems go (albeit not “business as usual”) thanks to a culture of forward thinking — particularly when it comes to technology.

A smooth transition

Although only a small percentage of Farm Credit Mid- America employees regularly worked remotely prior to the pandemic, the necessary systems were already in place and ready for companywide use — namely, the Cisco Webex platform. This one-stop-shop for virtual meetings enables employees to easily communicate and collaborate with colleagues while working from home.

Because this remote-work technology had already been adopted, the IT staff was able to focus predominately on training the team to fully utilize Webex and make the most of this innovative technology. The process went smoothly, with employees quickly adapting to what would become their new routine for the foreseeable future.

In the time of COVID-19, Cisco has allowed our mobile workforce to excel despite extraordinary challenges.

These days, it’s common for more than 1,000 teammates to concurrently be working on Webex, which has proven to be both intuitive and invaluable in continuing to serve our customers, many of whom need us now more than ever.

Tech lessons learned

In December 2019, Farm Credit Mid-America unveiled a state-of-the-art data center as part of its new headquarters in Louisville, Ky. The association also introduced increased bandwidth at its disaster recovery site and at all retail locations. These strides in technology further enhanced an already robust mobile workforce that for years has enabled employees to stay connected via laptops while calling on customers in the field.

Now that our entire workforce has experienced the possibilities of remote work thanks to an instrumental partnership with Cisco, we expect many of the tech lessons learned will prove valuable even post-pandemic. For example, once it’s safe to return to offices, I expect many employees will continue to use video-conferencing in lieu of phone calls with co-workers and customers alike. Team members also embraced Cisco tools such as virtual training, file-sharing, whiteboarding and interactive webinars.

This technology has empowered employees, enabling them to quickly adapt, overcome challenges and accomplish workplace goals in an uncertain time.

And although I can’t fathom embracing the current state of affairs as our new normal indefinitely, it’s reassuring to know we can successfully get the job done from anywhere — including from the safety of our own homes.

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