Octa's transportation blog

Remote Work Plan Allows OCTA to Continue Providing Services

Excerpted from the Mobility 21 blog Forward Motion, April 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left businesses and public agencies everywhere scrambling to figure out how to allow employees to work remotely, while continuing to provide efficient – and often essential – services to the customers and the communities they serve.

Fortunately for the Orange County Transportation Authority, years of crisis planning, a wide-ranging pilot program for remote work, and a years-long effort toward cloud computing has put the agency in a strong position to make an efficient transition that allows most administrative employees – more than 500 in all – to remain just as productive from home as if they were sitting at their desks in the office.

“While no organization can perfectly prepare for this kind of crisis, I’m incredibly proud of the extensive planning and implementation that has occurred in recent years across all divisions at OCTA,” said CEO Johnson. “The vision and thoughtful approach by our staff have positioned us well to withstand the challenges of today’s business environment and to continue providing vital services to the public.”

Over the last several years, OCTA’s Information Services team began transitioning the agency toward cloud computing, utilizing Microsoft cloud programs so that employees could access files from work, at home, or anywhere they could log in.

OCTA also helped many employees transition from a desktop computer to working on Microsoft Surface laptops, allowing them to log in from home Wi-Fi with the same access they had while inside the office – access to email and all work files and servers.

OCTA trained employees on Microsoft Teams beginning in 2018, allowing employees to share files among coworkers, make phone calls and host virtual meetings.

Also in 2018, OCTA’s Human Resources and Organizational Development team worked to introduce an innovative remote-work pilot program. The six-month pilot allowed more than 30 employees to work from home typically one day a week.

When the state of California issued a stay-at-home order to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, OCTA was prepared to act.

A majority of administrative employees were able to quickly transition to working from home. That included nearly 300 employees by way of direct access on Microsoft Surfaces and OCTA desktops set up at home, and another 200-plus via the remote-work software on home computers, giving them access to all work files.

Because of advanced planning and the agency previously embracing the concept of remote work, the security systems and the primary infrastructure to support so many employees suddenly working remotely were already in place.

All of this has allowed employees to remain productive and continue pushing forward on important transportation projects such as the $1.9-billion I-405 improvements between Costa Mesa and the Los Angeles County Line, the I-5 South County improvements between SR-73 and El Toro Road, and the OC Streetcar in Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

It has also allowed administrative employees to still support vital transit services, including OC ACCESS paratransit service and the regular OC Bus service for those who continue to rely on the bus to reach essential jobs and medical appointments.

“We started in a good position and we continue to learn as we move forward, refining and developing even better practices,” Johnson said. “I hope that OCTA can serve as an example from which other organizations can learn valuable lessons, too. We’re all in this together for the good of our community.”

To read the entire article, click here.

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