Virus response: Wardlaw & Lasseigne goes fully remote, plans to keep some new practices

Jacque Lasseigne working from home.

Upon getting word last week of the statewide stay-at-home order, Jacque Lasseigne told his eight employees something he never thought he would say: Everyone would be working from home for the foreseeable future.

At that point, Lasseigne, who owns the local structural engineering firm Wardlaw & Lasseigne LLC, only had a work-from-home policy in place for employees who either fell ill or found themselves taking care of a sick child. While he didn’t discourage remote working per se, Lasseigne—a self-described “old-school guy”—encouraged employees to come into the office to get their work done, believing face-to-face interactions tended to yield better results. 

Since fully integrating remote working into his firm’s operations, however, he’s adopted a different view.

“With everything we’ve been through, I can see where that changes,” Lasseigne says. “This is something totally new, but my eyes are opened.”

When employees packed up their desktop computers to bring home, Lasseigne anticipated how important it would be for them to easily access the company’s server from afar. That required the firm to shift from its cumbersome, cloud-based Chrome Remote platform to a virtual private network, or VPN, which an IT professional set up for them within 24 hours.

Now, everyone is able to use the VPN hardware to access the company server through the internet, which Lasseigne says has made it “much easier” to sustain normal workflows. 

The engineers use Google Hangouts—which has audio, video chat and screen-sharing capabilities—as their primary mode of communication. The platform has replaced what would’ve been face-to-face interactions in the office.

The firm’s Monday morning staff meetings are now conducted via Google Hangouts group calls, when employees discuss active projects listed in a shared Google Spreadsheet they can reference during the call. Afterward, employees reach out to Lasseigne with questions they have about certain projects in one-on-one meetings, which now take place via Google Hangouts video chat. During these chats, Lasseigne uses the screen-sharing feature to review an employee’s work—a new practice he intends to keep.

“In the past, I would have my employees generate a PDF file that I would review and mark up, and I’d send edits back to them later,” says Lasseigne, whose workers use Autodesk Revit to generate renderings and construction documents. “On Hangouts, I can review their model within the Revit program when they share their screen with me, and we can discuss changes so they can make edits in real time. It’s a lot more efficient than what we had been doing before.”

Once they return to the office, Lasseigne says he’s considering buying his employees work computers they can keep at home to better accommodate working from home.

“It took us a while to work through all the technology,” he says, “but this upcoming week should be pretty seamless.”

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