My first stint working from home as a reporter began in March. As an introvert, I distinctly remember feeling like the adjustment would be easy. The first few days of writing in my pajamas were fine, but it did not take long for me to wonder, how long can anyone, even the most introverted of us, last without human interaction?
We are, by nature, social creatures and the need to engage with one another on a personal level outside of our work environments is important. The covid19 pandemic has already changed the way we do business, but companies, like Ramps Logistics, are also adapting to how their employees stay connected now that they can no longer have a quick chat with their work besties around the water cooler.
The company has introduced a master class series for employees to maintain engagement with each other while they work from home. Communications supervisor Kadelia Achille told Business Day, in a phone interview on Monday, an average of 95 per cent of staff are working from home.
The company, founded in Trinidad in 1985, is no stranger to change. Having been inducted to the local business scene as a customs brokerage company, it has since expanded to include services such as freight forwarding and procurement services, ushering it into the oil and gas industry. The company now has offices in Houston and Miami, in the US, Suriname, Guyana and Mexico.
“We wanted to focus on activities our staff would be interested in, to participate with their coworkers so they won't feel disconnected,” said Achille. “We asked ourselves, how can our employees feel like they've come out of quarantine feeling like they've done something valuable other than work? How can we add to their personal being that could hopefully add to their productivity?”
She said the series was rolled out in July after stay-at-home measures were implemented by the Government to curb the spread of covid19, and the company has had two classes so far.
Achille said the management team decided to start the series with professionals who were hardest hit by the pandemic. Their first class was a tutorial with makeup artist Khadeisha Stewart focusing on skin care and professional looks for working women.
Financial adviser Brent Jankie also hosted a class in August to teach employees saving strategies to help them manage their finances.
“The course was about how to turn a professional look into an evening look, not like we have anywhere to go right now,” joked Nadine Mc Ewan, senior business development executive. Mc Ewan participated in both classes, saying she appreciated the way in which the classes has kept everyone engaged.
“I thought it was a nice initiative. In lockdown you are bored, can’t go anywhere for anything, (but) you can do research and pick up a new skill.”
She said the classes are not only a hit with employees, but her friends as well. “I would post up on social media and people would comment, ‘omg your company is so cool.’ It is about personal development of staff because none of it is professionally-related. I think a lot of staff would really appreciate it if other companies were to do something similar.”
The series is offered to all employees at no cost to them. Achille said if employees continue to show an interest, the company will keep the series running.
She said the series is also meant to connect the employees of different offices around the world with each other. She said the pandemic is a shared experience and it is their hope the series will act as a catalyst for continued interconnection and support of all employees.
“We want to highlight professionals in every country we work as well. Because we have different people from different countries, we want everyone to be able to relate (to the classes) as well as experience different perspectives from different countries. We are all experiencing the same thing.”
She said the team also has a similar class for members of the public to enjoy. “We (want to do) a parent workshop, teaching parents how to deal with having patience while teaching a child while working at home,” she said, adding the project is still in the works.
She said employees have also reached out to her and HR manager Nadia Khan on classes they would like to see in the series.
“The fact that they are logging on shows they are interested,” said Khan. “We wanted to make sure the employees had engagement activities that they valued. Key word is value. It does not make sense if they are not interested.”
Khan said pre-covid19, the company had similar programmes in place to engage employees, but it had to be restructured to suit the new virtual environment.
“We have been home since March and we're not sure how long this may last, so this is important to maintain that connection. Before, if you wanted to see someone, you would walk over to their cubicle and talk with them; you can't do that anymore. We wanted to bring people together.”
Achille said once the pandemic is over, she would like to implement a similarly styled series where employees can enjoy the open space of an outdoor deck at the office. “We want to transition from the master class to the deck and call it ‘Deck-Talk, which is a play on Ted Talk, where employees can really engage with their instructors.”