How GovCon is Responding to COVID-19: Octo Consulting’s Jay Shah

As the world closely monitors and tracks the spread and impact of the new corona virus, business leaders are making decisions about how to mitigate the risk and keep everyone safe and healthy. In the government contracting community, executives are enacting procedures and policies to protect employees, customers and partners while continuing to provide government agencies with the services, solutions and mission-critical support they need.

In this series, WashingtonExec will highlight these leaders and how they are tackling this crisis, in an effort to share best practices in industry and shed light on the virus’ impact on the nation.

Jay Shah, Chief Operating Officer, Octo Consulting

Jay Shah, Octo Consulting

Jay Shah has been with Octo since 2008 and oversees all delivery and growth activities to ensure execution remains aligned with strategic vision. The company, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, provides capabilities in agile DevSecOps, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud, cyber and data analytics to help agencies’ missions, so WashingtonExec asked Shah just how Octo is adapting with digital collaboration tools and a safety-first approach during COVID-19.

What innovative workplace policies/practices has your company embraced to minimize the impact of COVID-19?

Like many other organizations right now, Octo is almost 100% remote. Our offices are closed, and many of our project teams supporting customers are remote as well.

Since inception, Octo has always used the latest virtual communications tools to enhance and maximize collaboration — tools like Zoom and Slack, among others. Because we so frequently use these collaboration tools, even when working remotely our teams are able to be highly effective.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Octo has communicated the approved list of collaboration tools available to the company and has expanded the reach of those tools to cover all employees. We have also always maximized automated workflows, so reviews and approvals can be executed regardless of geographic location.

Additionally, we have established several new Slack channels — official channels we use to push corporate announcements, and culture channels where we try to maintain our sense of community to keep our employees engaged and communicating. Finally, we increased the maximum user limits on several of our collaboration tools to accommodate for the increase of new remote users created when the entire workforce transitioned to remote work.

Octo has also taken steps to preserve some of the normalcy our employees are accustomed to. For example, we have always held semiannual all-hands meetings. In those meetings, we announce promotions, provide transparent business performance metrics and answer questions from our employees. While we won’t be able to hold our usual social gathering that follows this meeting, we are still holding the all-hands by using our virtual collaboration channels.

We are also pushing email updates to employees every Friday and updating them on other items in real time when necessary. All in an effort to ensure employees remain informed, engaged and feeling comfortable, we are doing what we can to keep them safe and secure during these unnerving times.

What has your company done to keep morale up internally for employees?

Octo has always been a place where employees get to know one another.  We have a lot of fun in the office while we work hard supporting our customers and each other. We have a collegial culture that promotes the free exchange of ideas up and down the org chart. To maintain this culture, we established specific channels on Slack to communicate updates from executive management about Octo’s response to COVID-19 and to build a sense of community while we all work remotely. One of our newer channels has weekly themes and challenges such as “Show us your four-legged officemate.” Our hope is to continue the connectedness and community Octo’s culture has always enjoyed despite being almost 100% remote.

We see employees sharing news about COVID-19 on another channel, and all the posts so far have been supportive and constructive. While we moderate these channels carefully to dispel myths and prevent misinformation from being spread, employees have been nothing but respectful and are self-policing that channel.

We believe this demonstrates another aspect of our culture — the mutual support we provide each other. This continued support also shows us that morale remains high despite the pressures imposed by remote work, educating children who are suddenly home all day and the stress of not knowing how long this pandemic will keep us working remotely.

How has the policy for travel or attending large conferences changed?

Octo has canceled all nonessential travel and advised employees against personal travel until it is deemed safe to do so by the WHO and the federal government. We had a significant investment in a few conferences this year at which we were looking to do some pretty serious activations. Since every conference we planned to attend is either canceled outright or postponed significantly, we are now looking at alternate means of conducting these activations.

Read the rest of our COVID-19 coverage here.

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