Communication Company’s ‘Mantra’ Amid Pandemic
Cox Enterprises didn’t wait for COVID-19 to change the way it does business. It took a proactive approach.
J. Lacey Lewis, the Atlanta-based company’s senior vice president of finance, said Cox Enterprises created a plan to keep its 50,000-employee workforce and customers as safe as possible during the pandemic, keep its businesses running and explore creative ways to stay connected through remote work.
Cox created a business continuity task force in late February with more than 50 members from across the country to quickly and effectively respond to the pandemic and communicate key decisions.
“The overarching goal of this task force was to provide information and resources to help keep our employees as safe as possible while we continued to operate our businesses, maintain productivity and serve our customers,” said Lewis, who earned an accounting degree from the Harbert College in 1981. “We used safety education in connection with the CDC and Emory Hospital, shared guidance on operating effectively and in alignment with local government guidelines and maintained a connection to and confidence in our company culture.”
The planning paid off on March 11 when roughly 70 percent of Cox employees began working from home. Employees may not have been in the office, but they were connected and informed.
“The company has consistently engaged with our employees since we began working from home,” Lewis said, “And we responded to their needs.”
Cox, a leader in the telecommunications and automotive sales industry, developed flexible work schedule options, created an employee financial relief fund for those impacted by the pandemic, and provided millions of dollars to purchase COVID-19 diagnostic testing equipment.
“There have been webinars, emails, online dashboards on the pandemic response levels and government mandates,” Lewis added. “We have also created a ‘Returning to the workplace’ playbook that explained how things would be different when we were able to return to the office. There is a resource hub on our company intranets as well as numerous videos for our employees to keep them informed. Communicate, communicate, communicate was our mantra.”
Lewis, who began her career at Cox Enterprises in 1984 in audit services, says her team’s biggest challenge was having to schedule each necessary conversation. Videoconferencing is great, but takes some getting used to.
“Our work is very collaborative and requires input from a number of different constituents across the company,” Lewis said. “The team quickly had to familiarize themselves with software collaboration tools that were used instead of going into a conference room and getting on a whiteboard to problem-solve. Fortunately, our IT organization had already begun research on a number of these tools and was able to offer recommendations and training to help us quickly come up to speed on the use of the tools.”
“Our employees have all learned that we can be extremely productive while working from home. The tools and technology make it easy, most of the time. At the same time, we all really like our colleagues and miss seeing them in person. We all look forward to the day when we can see each other in person.”