Preparing your infrastructure for a WFH shift

March 13, 2020

As a step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, many companies are now encouraging employees to work remotely. Supporting a workforce that’s fully remote, at least at this scale, is new to many businesses, LinkedIn being no exception. In the last couple of weeks, our 16,000+ employees have transitioned from being a mostly centralized workforce in a set of offices around the globe to a temporarily remote one. 

Included among the many considerations leaders must weigh when making the call to move to a remote model is whether or not their infrastructure will support business continuity. Recognizing we aren’t alone in this challenge, we’re sharing some of what we’ve learned about how to ensure our infrastructure will support business continuity with a fully remote workforce in the hopes it helps others in their similar journey.

Our executive team is using a set of four guiding principles that reflect our company culture and values to guide decisions related to business and work across LinkedIn. The Enterprise Productivity Engineering (EPE) team is focused on a fifth principle: make decisions based on sound data. We believe strongly that the future of productivity lies in a data centric world. Our belief is that by informing (not driving) our decisions with data, we can focus on clear outcomes and make decisions with little fear or emotion. Using a combination of both data and judgement from our experiences, we want to make sure we can separate noise from the real signals giving us a clear indication of the productivity at LinkedIn.

Speaking of which, we have an obsession with productivity. We believe every employee at LinkedIn is 100% productive, and when they have to wait for us to deliver a service, application, or solution, we're stealing from that productivity. Our goal is to give it back and make them productive as quickly as possible. Below is how we’ve put those principles and our passion into action across our enterprise productivity efforts.

People come first
One of the areas we’ve found to be critical, but also most challenging, is how to scale and communicate support across multiple regions, platforms and channels. As more employees begin working remotely, the support structures they rely on become more critical. This is an area where we’ve had to pivot quickly, shifting our strategy from in-person support as a primary method for those in our offices to completely virtual help desks, running from Marketing, to Sales, and finally Support.

We’ve had to remain agile in our approach -- shifting tools we use to communicate where employees can find resources, identifying where a discussion board may make sense over a real-time chat channel, and finding ways to scale our own help team to prevent them from feeling the strain of supporting a workforce that’s new to being predominantly remote.

Create connectivity in new and expanding ways
Before we asked our employees to embark on this new way of work, we had to revisit our strategies around providing collaboration tools, make sure we understood how our employees were using the tools available to them and confirm those same tools would be up for the task in front of them.  

We started by looking at which tools we currently had available for joint, online real-time collaboration. We’ve focused our strategy on a collection of collaboration tools whose capacity, features and functionality vary but that together allow the highest-degree of remote collaboration. By looking closely at how the features and use cases of each of those tools fit into a remote work context, we were able to identify where gaps in capability versus business needs could potentially exist and get ahead of them by expanding or introducing new solutions. Once that work had been done, we had to ask ourselves whether the right people had access and licenses for the tools they’d need.

While we build some of our own solutions to meet the needs and challenges that are unique to us, we do rely on third party tools in some places to help maintain connectivity and move our business forward. We found expanding the options available to our employees has helped maintain connectivity, sustain productivity, and avoid disproportionally creating strain on the capacity of any single third party vendor. As anticipated demands increase though, it’s helpful to reach out to your third party vendors. Let them know how your organization’s needs are going to shift and work collaboratively to ensure they are prepared to scale with you so that the increase in your organization’s demands don’t have surprising consequences on theirs. 

Measuring our effectiveness
These are the times where we need to be ready to think differently about how we do business, while also carefully measuring the health of the business. There are three signals that our EPE team watches to measure if we’re delivering the services that are allowing LinkedIn to continue to operate successfully:

  • Revenue. If we do our job right then the rest of LinkedIn can keep doing their jobs. We find that revenue can be a good proxy and is arguably the most important signal we track.
  • Efficiency. We support employees in a myriad of functions, and we want to maintain the speed and success with which we’re able to help them resolve issues they bring to our team. This means keeping a close eye on important metrics, like the efficiency of our Sales people, the ability for our Marketers to continuously create campaigns, etc.
  • Joy. We want LinkedIn and our employees to love what we’re building and the experience of bringing it together, even in challenging times.

What’s important to note is we’re not alone in working through these challenges. The more we can share with one another, the better prepared we’ll be to support our teams, employees, organizations and partner organizations as the way we work continues to evolve.