Making the Most of Social Distancing

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People Spotlight: Corinna Catalano, People Operations at CoEnterprise

The coronavirus pandemic swept in and upended companies, forcing them to adjust and transition their workforces to remote work settings nearly overnight, and what’s more is that NY has received news that “NY on Pause” has been extended to May 15th. While many companies have experienced challenges, many are also adjusting and finding solutions to those challenges. In this week’s newsletter, we highlight CoEnterprise who has successfully moved many initiatives to online in order to continue supporting their employees. 

Meet Corinna Catalano, People Operations Generalist at CoEnterprise, an award-winning B2B software and professional services company headquartered in New York City.  Corinna has been with CoEnterprise for two years and her work has focused on employee success with an emphasis on employee engagement and wellness, two areas that are often topics of conversation, but have moved to more top of mind now during Coronavirus. The big questions employers are asking as non-essential workers have been mandated to work from home have been 1) how do we keep employees engaged? and 2) how do we support our employees during this uncertain and scary time? While CoEnterprise does have a handful of remote workers, the bulk of their team is onsite in their NY office, so even though the company was able to adjust technology and working spaces to at home set ups swiftly, Corinna took on the task of answering those two questions, and has done so very successfully.  

We had the pleasure of speaking with Corinna to learn more about her strategy and felt incredibly inspired. We thought her insights and ideas would be helpful for you, too! 

What has been a key focus for CoEnterprise during this time? Maintaining visibility. From keeping those team calls on the schedule (now mostly video conferences) to continuing to engage in lunch and learns where members from different teams share and give sneak peaks of their projects to the rest of the company, it’s been important to stay connected and keep the mission at the forefront of everything. Maintaining visibility has also meant providing accurate information as it relates to Coronavirus for our employees and explaining how it impacts them and any impacted work operations that they need to be privy to. 

What are some strategies you’ve implemented to address employee engagement? COE uses Slack as our preferred method of communication outside of email, and it’s been thriving during this pandemic. Employees are encouraged to post their work-from-home set ups to give more visibility into what their workspace looks like, and we do some other fun things like share their best work-from-home attire, or introduce their pet. It’s fun to get to know employees on a different level, it can help build stronger bonds and can allow employees to relate more to one another. We just started using Donut in Slack, which normally matches employees with one another to chat over a cup of coffee or lunch, or while out for a walk, but since we have all become remote, it’s even better seeing our employees posting screen shots of their virtual get-togethers! We’ve had employees share their scenic views with one another and even complete short workouts with one another, something we are definitely missing about being together in the office.  COE also has weekly happy hours every Friday with a featured game and prizes, and employees are encouraged to bring their pets or drink of choice to have some fun after a long week! 

Aside from moving work calls and meetings online, what other transitions have been made to support employees? COE wanted to bring a sense of normalcy to the chaos. Aside from moving daily meetings or calls to Webex or other technologies, it was really important to move those engagements that weren’t exactly work related, but that impact an employee in the workplace, online as well. Those things include birthdays, which were celebrated monthly and are now celebrated virtually, sending each employee who is celebrating a birthday this month a cookie and gathering on Webex to sing Happy Birthday together. It’s silly but it’s fun, and it also lets employees see that their milestones are still important and should be celebrated.

How has COE come together during these times? Our team reflected and decided to ask the question: how can we give back right now? We looked towards corporate responsibility, something we’ve been hoping to grow in the future, but with coronavirus, has become even more important right now. In the past, COE has participated in food bank donations and coat drives, but we wanted to give employees the opportunity to come together, give back and make an impact. COE chose to launch a month long give-back program, branding it “coeCares”, and we are backing it by matching a dollar amount up to $2,500, with a goal of raising $5,000. We felt strongly about providing this match to our employee’s efforts because we know we can do so much when we come together. COE chose to support NYC Health and Hospitals through monetary donations to provide doctors, nurses and other front-line health care workers with meals, pre-packaged groceries, hotel rooms, laundry service, taxi rides, and scrubs. We are also providing several opportunities for virtual volunteering for which every one hour of time donated by an employee would equate to a $5.00 match. As a result, our team raised almost $4,000 last week, and it’s not over yet! With the match from COE, our company has successfully surpassed our $5,000 goal already – we are so proud. In addition to this, employees were encouraged to create a 15 second video or audio message to say thank you to healthcare workers which were compiled into a big thank you video posted on our LinkedIn page! Like many other companies during this time with the Coronavirus, COE is offering free access to our supply chain product called Syncrofy, to distressed companies in the industry who could benefit from an increase in EDI visibility during this time.

Any last words to share with other HR professionals?
It’s important to recognize the new challenges that come with this change. There are working parents whose children are now home all day with schools closed, it’s a reality that an employee may have gotten sick, or a family member for whom they need to care for may have gotten sick. It was and will continue to be important to check in to determine who may be directly impacted by COVID-19, and to make sure they feel supported, and to communicate that they can reach out for support or resources at any time. COE has allowed a flexible work schedule for employees with specific needs to address this.

Corinna has been keeping busy during this unprecedented time by taking daily walks with her pup and making sure to get outside for fresh air. She’s maintained a work-life balance by compartmentalizing: she has a specific place set up as her work space, a space where she can get her workouts in, and of course a space where she can unwind and relax. She also has a knack for being crafty and is now spending some of her free time knitting surgeon caps for healthcare workers, and of course, washing her hands and staying 6 feet away from others. 

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