Provisur Technologies is a people-centric company, proud of the long-term relationships they’ve developed with customers, vendors and their employees. They invest heavily in delivering innovative solutions to meet their customers’ needs.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Provisur is a leading manufacturer of industrial food equipment with a sales and service network that spans the globe. Provisur employs nearly 750 employees working from 17 locations in 9 countries.
Wendy Braun, Corporate Human Resources Manager, enjoys championing the company's communication efforts around the world.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and Provisur’s global Human Resources (HR) team faced some unexpected challenges as a result of introducing a hybrid working model.
At the onset of the pandemic a COVID-19 task force was created. Together, members of HR, Operations, IT, Engineering, and other departments, brainstormed to create work-from-home solutions for those who could be remote. However, in a manufacturing environment, remote work is not possible for production and service associates.
Provisur production and service associates continued to work from Provisur’s plants and customer locations to ensure that the food processing equipment ran efficiently and effectively. As an essential business, Provisur was able to ensure continuity in manufacturing and customer support services.
As pandemic-related working restrictions eased around the world, Provisur’s non-production and service employees gradually returned to the workplace where it was safe to do so. The HR team at Provisur discovered that one single approach wouldn’t work for everyone or for each location.
“Our remote employees fell into two categories,” explained Wendy. “There were those who became comfortable and easily developed a routine for working from home, establishing a balance between work and home-based responsibilities. And there were others who never quite developed a rhythm for working remotely.
“Some expressed a feeling of being disconnected or were easily distracted by household tasks or childcare responsibilities. Many in that group were anxious to return to the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ and work from the office.”
The HR team worked with managers across the company to assess the needs of their newly remote workforce. “What they needed from their employers was flexibility and understanding that life happens,” Wendy continued, “being flexible but still finding a way to bind teams together was essential.”
Provisur management was confident that employees were as motivated and committed as they were pre-pandemic but didn’t want to place this at risk. A clear plan, visible leadership, and management engagement were essential in meeting the needs of the business and its employees.
The decision was made to create a hybrid or remote work policy permitting employees to work from the office three days a week and remain remote two days per week, where possible. “There are very strong synergies that happen when you're in person together and you don't get that same connectivity working remotely,” explained Wendy.
Wendy, along with the rest of the HR team, began a series of internal communications designed to keep employees informed every step of the way. Messages, using SnapComms, were published to inform staff of the new policy and encourage them to begin making provisions for babysitters, dog sitters, eldercare providers, and so on, as they returned to the workplace.
As a result, around 40% of the USA office staff and 100% of USA plant staff returned to on-site work during the summer of 2020 and again beginning in June 2021.
Other locations, like Provisur’s Thailand, Mexico and Brazil offices, remained completely remote while the COVID case counts remained high. Provisur facilities in Germany, Switzerland, and France worked on-site several days a week or on a modified schedule. Field-based technical service and sales staff are now traveling again visiting customer facilities around the world.
With such a dispersed workforce, effective communications are essential in maintaining engagement and a positive workplace culture.
The combination of on-site and remote work made communicating a challenge. Communication channels that were effective pre-pandemic when we were all in the office were suddenly ineffective in reaching staff during the pandemic as they worked from home. Different employee groups also required different types of information.
Staff working in the various manufacturing plants needed immediate updates on changing safety protocols and facility cleanings. Centralized office staff needed to remain connected. Everyone had become ‘Zoomed out’ and email inboxes were overflowing.
The evolving COVID situation further complicated this matter, with remote staff being brought back to the office, only to revert to remote work again due to soaring case numbers.
“With all of the changes, there was a lot for people to process,” believes Wendy. “The world is very different now than it was pre-pandemic, and it happened all at once. People have conflicting priorities and their ‘new normal’ is challenging. We need to be sensitive and empathetic. Not everyone deals with change well.”