In the words of Richard Branson, “Tough times are inevitable in life and in business. But how you compose yourself during those times defines your spirit and will define your future.”
As an “essential business” navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, we've taken unprecedented steps over the past 6 weeks to protect our employees and communicate openly and honestly with our team. We hope that sharing our experiences can help other employers prepare to safely return to work as our government begins to roll out their guidelines for “opening up America again”.
One of our company’s core values is Community. That refers to both the external community and our internal C&M family. We are fortunate to be considered an essential business, and orders keep coming in as we not only support our traditional customers, but also take on new projects making parts for respirators, ventilators, and other vital equipment. We have always taken great pride in stepping up during tough times to make parts that can help save lives, but at the same time, our C&M team is the most precious asset that we have, and coming to work every day is hard for our team members right now. We realized early on that this pandemic is affecting every person and every family in different ways. It is both a physical and a mental battle. The balance of staying open to help those in our community at large, while keeping our C&M employees safe physically, mentally, and financially is a task that we take very seriously.
One thing that can't be stressed enough is the importance of open and frequent communication with your team. I would like to take a moment to share with you what we have done so far in hopes that it can help as many people as possible get through this period of uncertainty.
1- Develop an Emergency Management Team:
Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory for every business in this country. With the ever-evolving information and guidance we receive daily, it is imperative to establish a rapid response process to ensure swift, decisive action.
- To that end, we developed an Emergency Management Team that includes one representative from each department (7 people total)
- We meet for 20-30 minutes every day in a large room, with social distancing measures in place
- We discuss current pandemic numbers in NH and MA and identify trends
- We discuss any suggestions or concerns arising from our employees
- We create action items and implementation plans for procedures aimed at encouraging better social distancing and improved safety
- We review any new CDC recommendations
- We work as a unified team to develop measures that will keep everyone safe and the business in a good position to succeed
2- Develop a Communication Space:
We dedicated a large bulletin board on the shop floor to COVID-19 communications. Here are some of the things we’ve posted there so far:
- Benefits related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
- New company policies
- Daily new COVID-19 case numbers from NH and MA
- Resources that can help our employees and their families during this trying time, including an “Employee Resource Flyer” that we developed with the assistance of our benefits insurance broker
- Various company communications/updates related to COVID-19, as not everyone has a company email address
3- Practice What You Preach:
Here are some of the actions that came out of our engagement with the team:
- Staggered shift times
- Staggered breaks based on last name
- Stopped almost all in-person meetings
- Created a strict visitor policy
- Only essential visitors are allowed in the building
- Before entering the building, visitors must answer a list of questions and have their temperature taken with a contactless thermometer
- Required all employees and visitors to wear masks
- Increased daily cleaning measures by our Facilities team and developed a disinfecting process between shifts
- Identified areas of congregation and developed procedures to increase social distancing:
- Made our training room a temporary locker room
- Moved items in cafeteria to be at least 6-feet apart (i.e. tables, vending machines, microwaves, and refrigerator)
- Removed excess seating in inspection and conference areas
- Added lines to the floor designating how far people should be distancing while waiting in queue
- Employed max occupancy policy for bathrooms and other areas
- Added toe pulls to doors to avoid touching handles
- Converted doors with handles to push plates (where possible)
- Added disinfecting wipes and garbage cans on both sides of almost every door
- Switched soap to anti-microbial
- Wipe down boxes coming in from all vendors
While some of these changes seemed unnatural at first, all of our employees and visitors have been very cooperative and willing to participate for the safety of everyone involved. These measures will likely be in place for an extended period of time, as we must stay vigilant in the fight against this virus. Just because these safety precautions are working, does not mean we can let our guard down and stop doing them.
I sincerely hope our experience can be helpful to you as you develop your own set of procedures. If you would like to share what measures you are taking, feel free to contribute to this blog below or send me a note.