Team Members Reflect on Working from Home During the COVID-19 Shutdown
Hauppauge, NY (July 20, 2020) – Austin Williams (AW) team members officially returned to the agency’s Hauppauge office today, four months after pivoting to a remote working posture due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in March for nonessential businesses.
To ensure a safe transition, employees were split into two teams with each one spending two days a week in the office and two days working from home, until further notice. All AW staff will work from home on Fridays, a summer policy that predates the COVID-19 shutdown.
Austin Williams also executed a plan to keep every employee and any visitors to the office as safe as possible. The entire 16,000-square-foot space was sterilized and sanitized with a 100% organic sanitizer, including high touch areas. All employees received PPE kits with hand sanitizer, gloves and masks. Hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the agency and antibacterial wipes can be found near printers, community keyboards, and workstations. Signage throughout the agency reminds everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing when not at a desk. All visitors must be buzzed into the office manually and every guest will be required to sign in for tracing purposes.
Once back in the office, employees reflected on their time away.
“The prospect of working remotely was thrown upon us pretty unexpectedly and making the pivot to Zoom meetings and remote servers could have gone very poorly,” said Eva LaMere, president of Austin Williams. “Our team pulled together to make sure we stayed in touch and the work stayed on track.”
Once settled in at home, most AW employees reported enhanced productivity and job satisfaction, even in the context of having to homeschool children, keep in touch with parents, and manage what was a very unsettling time.
“We’ve always been a collaborative group, but I feel even more so now,” said Carolyn Eckert, vice president of client services. “No one says this out loud, but it’s like we all put this personal stake in the ground as a team and made the decision to rise up and do our best work, despite this crisis. From a mother’s perspective, it’s more difficult than I ever thought it would be, once schools closed. Helping my daughter navigate through the challenges of remote learning (it’s hard to find the words) is another full-time job!”
In addition to the personal and professional challenges, AW team members report that technology has been both a blessing and a curse.
“Having my work laptop at home and access to the VPN network made working remotely successful and Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts were essential,” said Erica Brown, vice president of integrated media services. “At first it was harder to work on a laptop without an office set-up, two computer screens or mouse. Then my team and I added these items to our home offices making work from home easier and more productive.”
Still, technology is only there to facilitate the work—and for some people, work and home life started to blur.
“It was harder and more time consuming with everything being done by email; the day was definitely longer,” said Sallianne Nicholls, creative resource director. “My other issue is [my pets] Leo and Annabelle. I like to work in silence and they both snore and dream loudly! I actually lost my cool one day and told them both to be quiet!”
“As the Austin Williams team moves back into the office—albeit on a reduced in-person schedule—we know that the lessons learned over the last four months will make us more capable collaborators and able to serve our clients even better,” said LaMere.
About Austin Williams
Austin Williams is a full-service advertising, marketing, digital and public relations firm, creating ideas that inspire action for clients in the healthcare, higher education, financial services and professional services industries. Certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) by the State of New York, the Long Island-based firm was founded in 1992 and was named one of the 100 fastest-growing agencies in the nation. AW also has been listed as a Great Place to Work by the institute that creates the annual Fortune 100 Great Places to Work list and on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.