After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in 2017, Carlos Melendez and Christian Gonzalez, the co-founders of Wovenware vowed to make their office more resilient in order to protect staff from future potential crises. Little did they know their preparation would make them better equipped to handle a global pandemic.
After the hurricane, the San Juan-based company moved to a location three times the size of the old one, far from power lines and other buildings, where employees could shelter if need be. When COVID-19 struck, employees were all sent home rather than summoned to the office, but other measures in place helped ensure the company remained cohesive and supportive during the difficult time. They even had a couple of weeks of virtual work experience after working at home due to power outages from hurricane damage.
The prepared plan included an emphasis on productivity and mental health support. The day starts with a morning check-in where “What are you working on?” is followed by “How do you feel?” Managers conduct these check-ins with each other and they proceed to complete them with their individual teams as well. Managers also submit daily task lists on what they hope to accomplish during the day and end the workday with a report on how they did. Submitting these in writing holds people accountable and helps narrow down goals.
Isolation breeds loneliness, and working remotely can disconnect workers from their peers, so the company upped non-work activities including Friday social hours. They held themed music nights and even experimented with virtual karaoke.
When it came to looking at how to best reopen, Wovenware created a four-person committee to study companies in places like China, Singapore, and Sweden that are already doing it. They are moving forward with daily temperature checks, sanitizing stations, and have split employees into two groups which work in person on alternating weeks to allow for more distancing in the office.
Nobody knows what exactly returning to work will look like. Some companies are choosing to never return to in-person work, but Wovenware has two crises under its belt to help it prepare for the next one.