Here’s How Utah’s Major Workplaces Stayed Connected Even While Working From Home

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Employers say they relied on technology, communication and special events during COVID-19 to build community despite the physical distance.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Michelle Brown, who works from home and believes it has many benefits including cleaner air, is the Resource Management Coordinator for the State Administrative Services Department .

Miki Adams, president of CBC Mortgage Agency, said her company was reluctant to embrace telecommuting before the pandemic – and when COVID-19 forced her hand, she feared employees would feel a sense of isolation.

To combat this, the agency began putting the spotlight on employees, interviewing individual workers about themselves, and emailing the video recordings to the entire company. He started hosting monthly virtual lunches, sending waffle or pizza making kits to employees, and then cooking together on Zoom.

The agency collected fun facts about the employees and ran quizzes. He even organized a “pet day”, where workers submitted photos of their dogs and cats, and then everyone tried to match the right animal with the right person.

“These are silly little games, but just taking that hour to be silly together, I think, really kept everyone together,” Adams said. “Even brought everyone together more than when we were in the office. “

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, about a third of all workers across the country reported telecommuting in May and June 2020, when the pandemic forced many companies to switch to remote operations. And although those numbers have since declined, the number of jobs in Utah offering telecommuting options this year is still several times greater than it was in 2019, according to a state analysis.

This increased flexibility “suggests that the acceptance of telecommuting may be here to stay,” reports the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

In this new reality, companies have adopted creative ways to maintain a work culture and strong relationships among their workforce, according to some of the companies ranked among the top employers for 2021.

Joshua Christopherson, CEO of Orem-based Achieve Today, said the company is focused on training managers to “maintain a positive attitude and connection” with people who work remotely.

The company, which specializes in personal development and education, has also relied on technology to help fill in the gaps left by physical distance. Christopherson said the company is using a technology tool that sends periodic registration text messages to employees, asking them how they are feeling and if they are having difficulty.

(Provided by Joshua Christopherson) Joshua Christopherson, CEO of Achieve Today.

The tool also offers personal development classes, he said, and meditations designed to help them deal with any anxiety they feel.

About a third of employees did their work from home during the pandemic, he said, and it was critical for managers to understand the additional pressures and stresses that can arise with working remotely.

People balanced their work with caring for sick family members or children who were teaching remotely, he noted.

“A lot of these things don’t show up when you’re in a Zoom meeting,” Christopherson said. “We were training our managers to communicate with people remotely and to really understand some of the challenges. “

Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank, said flexibility has been found to be key in helping home-based employees adjust to these new complications. Sometimes, she said, these workers just needed a break in the middle of the day so they could help their children.

“Focus on the family first,” she said.

(Courtesy photo) Ginette Bott, President and CEO of the Utah Food Bank.

Stratus.hr, a Sandy-based human resources management company, quickly adapted to the work-from-home format at the start of the pandemic. And the company still offers employees the flexibility to find a balance between face-to-face and remote days, said Kristen Neilson, corporate communications manager.

Neilson recognized that change had its challenges.

“We like to chat and see everyone,” she said, “so it was definitely a fit.”

To help keep a sense of connection, Stratus.hr sent employees “care packages” filled with popcorn, candy, and a Redbox rental so they could enjoy a movie night at the. house, she said.

Adams of CBC Mortgage, an employer in southern Jordan that offers affordable housing programs, said the monthly lunches and virtual events they run have been surprisingly effective in bringing people together – despite the physical distance.

In June, after COVID-19 calmed down a bit, the company brought in employees and families who worked outside of Utah and hosted a picnic at its headquarters. Adams said the agency has held annual parties in the past, but this particular gathering was special because of all the ways workers socialized remotely during the pandemic.

“Having done all these virtual fun times before, bonding moments together, it was just different,” she said. “I think everyone felt so much more comfortable together.”


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