Written by Jonathan Garris

How leveraging existing tools can maintain a sense of community during a lockdown.

With the corporate world feeling the full effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many companies have been taking advantage of remote work initiatives and virtual workspaces. However, filling the void left by the lack of face-to-face collaboration has been a challenge. Companies like the Center for Organizational Excellence (COE) are leveraging all of their digital tools and maximizing their efforts to keep employees engaged at all levels. 

Open communication has been vital from the very beginning of lockdowns enforced in places like the Washington, D.C. metro area. Digital platforms typically reserved for more business-oriented collaboration can be important tools in keeping an office informed and up-to-dateEverett Marshall, director of People, Performance and Culture, took to COE’s Microsoft Teams site to create a page specifically for both internal and external COVID-19 resources and announcements, and the recent “All-Hands” companywide meeting was held completely online in a first for the company. 

CEO Steve Goodrich and Marshall also distributed information about the company’s benefits, like telehealth opportunities with mental health providers and coverage for COVID-19 testing among other benefits. Utilizing existing digital platforms and avoiding reinventing the wheel is an important part of having a clear engagement strategy, while also understanding that the needs of employees go beyond updates and news related to what’s happening around the (virtual) office. 

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, roughly “seven-in-ten Americans (71%) say they need to take breaks from news about the coronavirus, and 43% say the news leaves them feeling worse emotionally.” Goodrich has stayed in touch consistently with his employees, remaining both supportive and candid regarding the current situation. The American Psychological Association says that this type of regular communication, focused on concepts like empathy, honesty and optimism can help maximize trust and minimize stress and anxiety. 

Beyond updates about the company, Goodrich has shared everything from poetry to other words of wisdom and has encouraged employees to share “stories, anecdotes or notes.” Employees also have opportunities to share their thoughts and how they’re coping with the lockdown through more casual means. Virtual happy hours, lunches and other meetings through Teams and Skype allow COE employees to relax and stay in touch without risking themselves or their families. 

Zacher Bayonne, business analyst at COE, said he felt appreciated by the management team and fellow coworkers and also enjoyed seeing updates on the successes of other teams and colleagues throughout the company. 

“It is incredibly refreshing to be in an environment that honors milestones — irrespective of organizational level — and pays homage to the hard work we’ve all contributed in our professional development,” Bayonne said. 

Casey Redcay, a communication specialist who started working at COE earlier this year, said she expected that getting to know her new colleagues would be put on hold due to the pandemic. 

“I was pleasantly surprised that that wasn’t the case, as COE leadership has made a strong effort to keep everyone connected through regular virtual events and communications such as Steve’s weekly emails,” Redcay said. “Despite the general environment of uncertainty and isolation created by COVID, I feel genuinely supported and connected to COE as a whole.” 

In an April email to the CEO workforce, Goodrich said that, like many, he is indeed anxious to see a return to normal operations but did not want to see it happen prematurely. 

The best things we can do right now is to be smart, exhibit the appropriate behaviors, and protect ourselves and our families,” Goodrich said. “It’s worth experiencing a bit of annoyance and frustration to get this right. It is up to all of us with the help of our great medical and research professionals.” 


For 35 years, the Center for Organizational Excellence has been a trusted partner in helping organizations and programs transform to more efficiently and effectively accomplish their mission. We help our clients achieve meaningful and measurable outcomes by designing and delivering consulting solutions in the areas of organizational effectiveness, human capital, information technology and data management. For more information, visit www.center4oe.com