Redefining the Workplace
Some of the region’s largest employers are facing weighty challenges as they retool their work environments to meet COVID-19 guidelines. But how do you keep thousands of people functioning properly in their roles while also protecting their health? With team members returning to offices and field sites, companies must be smart about distancing, sanitizing, reconfiguring workspaces and more. Two of the area’s biggest employers share how they have risen to the occasion.
“We have diverse facilities across our business, from power plants to distribution centers and offices,” says Mark Lindgren, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Ameren, which provides electrical and natural gas service in the bi-state region. “We are used to responding in times of crisis, and we have a lot of experience creating policies and mobilizing workforces in difficult periods like this.”
Lindgren says Ameren has implemented a number of precautions to keep its 9,000 employees safe. Many office staffers have been working remotely, and shifts at other sites are being rotated in a way that keeps people from coming into contact with each other. “We also started a policy called ‘One Location,’” he explains. “Each person stays at a single site, whether it’s home, the office or a field project. If it turns out that someone has been exposed to the virus, this plan helps keep others from becoming infected.” He says many crew members have been taking their work vehicles home to minimize transmission risk. Worksite screening and symptom checklists also help ensure that employees stay well.
Lindgren says he expects many of the company’s new processes to stay in place indefinitely. “We have a cross-functional team analyzing which ideas have worked well so far and what we should do differently in the future,” he notes.
world wide technology
The Maryland Heights-based technology solutions provider has been focusing on safety and flexibility as well. Ann Marr, executive vice president for global human resources, says a remote work strategy is still in place for many of the company’s 6,000 staff members.
“We have not yet made a decision regarding moving our employees back to the office,” she says. “However, we’re working with our facilities team to redesign workspaces that will accommodate our future needs.” Marr adds that staff members have responded positively and kept productivity levels consistent while working remotely. “We have been using virtual meeting technology and providing monitors so employees can work effectively from home,” she says. “We do have some teams working at our sites right now, so we have social distancing protocols throughout those facilities, including meeting rooms and common areas.”
According to Marr, the remote work plan won’t be permanent, but the company does intend to be sensitive in addressing staff members’ preferences. Some people working from home have asked to continue doing so indefinitely, and she says the company will try to accommodate them on a case-by-case basis.
Photos courtesy of Ameren and World Wide Technology