As employees begin returning to their offices, companies have started to grapple with establishing routines and expectations for their employees. For the leadership at the global headquarters of Sev1Tech, located at 12700 Black Forest Lane in Woodbridge, the COVID-19 pandemic was an opportunity to cultivate flexibility within their existing emphasis on company culture.
“Going from zero to $150 million in just 10 years creates a challenge retaining the family values we started with,” says Sev1Tech’s Chief Information Officer Martin Wright. “But we’ve never wanted to be that company that looks at their employees like butts in seats. You won't find many companies that are more transparent with a fully accessible executive team. We are all about trying to break down those bureaucratic walls.”
Founded by CEO Bob Lohfeld over a decade ago, Sev1Tech is a leading provider in IT modernization, cybersecurity, cloud services, C5ISR and space operation for both the public and private sectors. With more than 650 employees gained through both organic growth and the Engineering Solutions and Products (ESP) acquisition in 2019, the company prioritizes their mission, vision and values, including: accountability, integrity, teamwork, and respect.
Lisa Anderson got first-hand experience with Sev1Tech’s commitment to culture when she started as Chief Human Resource Officer two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Personally, it showed me in real time what the culture was like,” says Anderson. “We all went from being in the office, with a highly collaborative, employee-centric culture to transitioning almost everything online overnight. And we never missed a beat. I saw our leadership team come to life. We used Microsoft Teams to keep the high-touch communications as well as a crisis communication center set up almost immediately.”
For nine weeks, Lohfeld, Wright and the rest of the Sev1Tech leadership team held weekly townhalls, providing updates on COVID-19 related company impacts, policies, and practices moving forward.
Due to Sev1Tech’s government contracts, many of the company’s personnel were deemed essential IT workers and were required to be onsite to work on projects. In addition to hosting weekly town halls, the company purchased and shipped over 14,000 masks to employees and their families, sending nearly 650 boxes across the country and internationally.
“For our teams that were in a high-security environment, without access to outside data, they didn't know what was going on,” says Wright. “There was anxiety all around, especially at the beginning. We wanted to be on the forefront to ensure we could take care of our family of employees through frequent communication."
A COVID Checkmate: The CheckSafe Mobile App
As summer of 2020 approached, Sev1Tech began a phased approach to bring more employees back to the headquarters building in Woodbridge. Sev1Tech developed and launched the CheckSafe mobile application, which offers COVID-19 related health and safety tracking and alerts for employees. Before entering offices, employees are required to report their work location for the day and indicate if they are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms.
“We didn’t want employees to come to the office without guidance, get their temperature checked and then be sent home; we wanted some self-reporting to happen before they got here,” says Wright. “The app gave us awareness for the health and safety of everyone, and we were able to track which employees had symptoms to ensure proactive engagement.”
The CheckSafe app also helped with ongoing facilities management as personnel came back into the office. The company made several improvements to the office, including commercial upgrades to the HVAC and established social distancing protocols. Every employee had access to a cleaning kit with sanitizing products and received a CheckSafe app notification to clean their work station mid-day and at the end of each day. Those measures gave everyone peace of mind as the workforce slowly returned.
“We were probably 20 to 30 percent occupancy in July, and those employees helped establish the new normal for us,” says Wright. “Our second wave had 50 percent occupancy and by the end of 2020 we were around 75 percent—and we never had transmission of COVID-19 cases within our offices and our people felt safe.”
This new pivot for the culture comes at a time of rapid growth, with a record-breaking number of hires for the company through the spring of 2021. Prior to the pandemic, Sev1Tech only allowed one day of telework a week as a standard. Now, the company policy is two days onsite and three days offsite with exceptions for full-time telework as needed.
“Flexibility is the name of the game,” says Anderson. “We are growing so fast; we are starting to run out of space at headquarters. By embracing the 3/2 teleworking schedule, we are going to transition to office sharing this July. We will be relying on the CheckSafe app for health checks to ensure employees are still symptom-free and self-reporting appropriately.”
The CheckSafe app can also allow employees to submit vaccination information voluntarily and find information about the available vaccination sites. The app can be downloaded for $2.00 per user in app stores and Wright emphasizes that Sev1Tech would love to get Prince William County businesses involved to help improve employee safety now and in the future.
“Because the pandemic did not slow us down from an operational standpoint, it’s been onward and upward for Sev1Tech,” says Wright. “A lot of our growth is derived from our solutions team and creating new innovations to put out into the market. Our hope is to continue to expand and keep our values centered on the employees. They are at the heart of what we do.”
HQ at 12700 Black Forest Ln, Suite 306, Woodbridge, VA