One Year Later: How the Pandemic Shaped Us
A letter from the President & CEO, Christopher Mulleavey
A year ago in March, our company made the decision before the governor issued shutdowns to close our offices. We made that decision to have an orderly exodus from the office so that our employees could gather their needed gear and prepare to work from home for a few weeks… or so we thought.
As the pandemic stretched on, we had questions and fears like every other company did: Will we be productive? Can we maintain business continuity, both internally and externally with our clients? Can we continue to develop business? How will our clients be impacted? How will we proactively get in front of this pandemic?
Early on, we created a COVID Response Committee (CRC) that consisted of the CEO, Director of Operations, Director of Human Resources and Director of Finance; this proved to be instrumental in organizing our response to the ever-changing CDC and state guidelines we had to adhere to. It allowed us the flexibility to react in real time to the many issues that needed resolution during the pandemic. We were able to keep our employees informed, maintain our culture and continue to provide the service to our clients that they have come to expect.
We were fortunate that we had the infrastructure in place that enabled all of our employees to transition more or less seamlessly into the remote work environment, and that we have a strong culture and very dedicated employees with a can-do attitude that rise to any challenge and there were many both personal and professional. Our employees settled into the “new normal” about a month and a half into the pandemic. Communications internally and externally – while initially cumbersome – over time have been very good and arguably better than pre-pandemic. Although Zoom fatigue is beginning to show.
Positive Mindset, Future-Focused
Instead of focusing on the negatives, we focused on what the opportunities for our firm could be coming out of the pandemic and planning for what that might look like. This led us to make investments in our systems, facilities and most importantly – our employees. We launched a strategic planning initiative as a follow up to our strategic planning efforts completed in 2016 and meshed that with a rebranding effort for our company to position ourselves as we come out of the pandemic. All of this was done by design so that when the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, we will have set a course forward that builds on our success, provides opportunities for our employees and clients alike with new services and growth.
The way we do business in the future has changed, the thought of working remotely pre-pandemic was just that – a thought. It happened sporadically on an as-needed basis. Going forward it has become normalized; we do not expect that our employees will all rush back to the office once the all-clear signal has been raised. It will be a hybrid of some sort based on the needs of the employees and clients. Going 100% percent remote working for most of our employees will not work due to the collaborative nature of developing design solutions for our client project needs. As a result, we have developed a Telework Policy to provide flexible work options for our employees that will maintain and exceed our client expectations.
How has the pandemic shaped our company? There have been challenges that were overcome and there will be challenges that will need to be addressed going forward as a result of the pandemic, not only for our employees and our company but for the world as a whole. We have found opportunity and think differently about possibilities; I think it brought our company much further along in technology than it would’ve been without the pandemic. Oddly, I think it also made us better listeners. The communication overall has been really good, surprisingly, where you’re getting that facetime through video chatting across the company. It has been easier to communicate, and communications have been more productive both internally and externally.
What is missing and what I fear will be a loss are the many ways we used to interact socially – the morning greetings as you enter the office, casual exchanges in the hallways or around the water cooler. The conversational flow at meetings and social times at coffee breaks and lunches, simple eye contact as you pass each other throughout the day. This will have an impact on the culture that we have worked hard to maintain and presents another challenge to overcome. I am not convinced yet that digital communication can replace that but I have been surprised before.
While the pandemic has challenged us in many ways it has also made our company stronger in many ways as well. Our company has created opportunity and built a stronger foundation based on intention and planning throughout this pandemic-driven year. I am very excited to work side by side with the many dedicated professionals that call our company home, in meeting the challenges and opportunities the future holds.
Christopher Mulleavey, PE