One of the greatest challenges of the COVID pandemic, along with a deadly virus, lockdowns, social distancing, and mask wearing, was living with the uncertainty of what lay ahead. When LLNL went into “minimum safe operations” on March 17, 2020, it experienced the unprecedented transition of on-site staff becoming off-site remote workers basically overnight.

Offices, conference rooms, staff kitchens, and employee parking lots typically bustling with Lab employees fell silent; the Laboratory became something of a research ghost town. In the first few days, people wondered if or how it would be possible for the Lab to deliver the mission despite the pandemic and simultaneously keep its workforce safe, and then immediately set to work figuring out how to do just that.

Supporting thousands of employees telecommuting for the first time would require enhanced cybersecurity protocols, among other information technology (IT) considerations. Protecting the health of employees whose mission-critical work necessitated that they immediately return to site called for innovative, easy-to-use, and data-driven solutions to help managers keep track of people’s health and fulfill regulatory reporting obligations.

As employees adapted to new workflows and remote work environments, some COVID protocols yielded remarkable efficiencies that increased both productivity and employee job satisfaction. The Livermore Information Technology (LivIT) Program was instrumental in identifying, developing, and implementing the tools necessary to support Lab operations so employees could perform their duties whether working from home or on site. Nearly one-third of Computing’s staff supports LivIT.

Also key were changes to the operations and maintenance of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a unique facility that provides the scientific community with an unprecedented capability for studying materials at extreme pressures, temperatures, and densities.

For example, regular software updates and laser shot support that typically required a large contingent of on-site team members now needed to be done remotely, causing NIF staff to rethink entire processes that had been in place for more than a decade. But long-term productivity and efficiency gains have been realized, marking another successful win in supporting Lab operations and mission-critical capabilities.