When the first words anyone reads when they visit your websites homepage is “Helping Leaders Create Better Working Environments For Hard-Working People” it would be a good idea to practice that within you own facility as well……just saying.

Here at Cambridge Air Solutions we have always practiced what we preach throughout the cold winter months through the use of industry leading High Temperature Heating and Ventilation (HTHV) heating technology. Through the use of HTHV units we have the ability to keep our facility comfortable warm where the hard working people are…..down on the factory floor. Along with our commitment to utilizing energy efficient HTHV technology to reduce our carbon footprint we have also installed solar panels on a major portion of our roof to help further reduce our carbon footprint and generate electricity on those bright sunny days.

But there was still that last piece of the puzzle, and just as important as comfortably heating a facility in the winter, which was to find a way to cool our facility during the hot and humid Saint Louis summer months. A better working environment is comfortable year round, not just when the temperature dips below freezing. The biggest hurdle in cooling our facility is not the lack of technology but the acquisition and operating costs of different technologies that are available. Even with the electricity that our solar panels generate a DX mechanical cooling solution for our facility would be too costly to operate. Instead we have chosen to use a two stage evaporative solution to provide a more comfortable indoor environment for our Cambridge family members who work on the factory floor that uses less electricity and continues to reduce our carbon footprint.

To follow our journey as we work hard to provide a better working environment during the summer months as well, follow us of Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cambridgeengineering/  - as we will post updates throughout the journey.

What happens when an employee is asked to leave behind the realities of their home life when they walk into their workplace? The outcome is a conflicted person who is forced to figure out where their loyalties lie. As leaders, if you can recognize, celebrate and try to help with different facets of their lives, you can tap into their "whole person" - somebody who is much, much more than somebody you just pay to complete a list of tasks. 

If people are allowed to speak and act freely about their non-work life, they are likely to have a better sense of belonging, stronger loyalties, and often bring innovative ways to problem-solve to the table.

What exactly can leaders do to encourage a "whole self" at work?

  1. Acknowledging that mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives all have unique concerns and burdens that might be weighing on them. 
  2. A friendly listening ear can provide immeasurable support, but even if that is not possible, leaders can provide support through understanding and accommodation if PTO is needed.
  3. Making a genuine effort to learn more about your coworkers' families, including their accomplishments and current life obstacles 
  4. Celebrating accomplishments such as graduations, milestone birthdays, family additions and other changes 
  5. Creating perks and/or benefits that help people personally as well as professionally. One example at Cambridge is the subscription to SmartDollar, Dave Ramsey's online plan to financial freedom.

Watch the video below to hear the benefits first-hand from people who are more than just Cambridge employees, but also mothers, fathers, an Army National Guardsman, baseball enthusiasts and home cooks!

This video is part of our Enriching Lives series. For other ideas of what it means to enrich lives, click here. We'd love to hear your stories of how your company encourages whole selves. Tag us on social media with your story and the hashtag #enrichinglives!

 

This blog was guest-written by Darla Gibson (Executive Admin) with input from Meg Brown (VP of HR) and Conner LaLonde (Safety Coordinator) - all members of our COVID-19 Steering Committee.

This is Part 2 of a blog that we developed to help remind us that in this time of uncertainty, we can still live out our mission of enriching lives. Read Part 1 here.

Enriching Lives During a Pandemic - From the Perspective of the Cambridge COVID-19 Steering Committee.

When we realized that we were going to have to address the COVID-19 situation at Cambridge Air Solutions from a corporate standpoint, we started a Steering Committee, as I am sure many of you did. Our COO/CFO Kevin Thompson was part of this committee and he stated up front that the Committee needed to act within four core principles: Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency. These principles fall into line with our “We exist to glorify God by enriching every life we touch” mission statement. But how exactly do you “Enrich Lives” when things are changing faster than you can react?

Fortunately, we have a culture that allows us a lot of flexibility in being creative, trying something that may or may not work, being quick to act, quick to fail and quick to improve! So, the following are some of the things that our COVID-19 Committee put into place to enrich the lives of our employees, vendors, and customers.

Once we verified that we were an essential business and could continue our operations, we did something that I never thought I’d see at Cambridge as we have historically been a traditional organization, working in the office. We knew we had to find a way for people to work from home.  Obviously, our manufacturing operations cannot do that, but what if the office personnel did? That would allow us to have less people crossing paths AND, allow the office side to deal with the fallout of childcare and school closures.

Then, we said, how do we address these same items (childcare and school closures) for Manufacturing, as well as keeping them safe when they come to work? This was more difficult, and as St. Louis County said, “stay at home” we decided to take a week, pay our employees, and give us breathing room to make it happen.

In that week, we worked on alternative schedules based on each employee’s need, we worked on how to make the building safe for the return, as well as on-going after the return, we reworked how outsiders could visit our building – we had a very open policy for delivery and pick-up that had to change, and we found a communication channel that we could utilize to communicate with the employees on what we were doing.

That was a tough week. The Committee put in overtime galore to make it all happen. From policy changes, governmental as well as corporate, to reworking how the lunchroom flow was going to work, it was crazy!  It didn’t feel like we were enriching, it felt like we were turning the world upside down!  Our Morning Meeting had gone from all company, in person, to virtual from home, with only the office employees! No more high-fives, fist bumps and laughter, but tired, stressed out “Brady Bunch” screens of employees!

In a little less than a week, we put together a plan, implemented it and were ready to welcome back our Manufacturing team. We made it!  We tried to make them feel welcome and safe by keeping with our brand promise of “enriching lives”. But, how did we do that?

  1. Safety – is always our first criteria for everything we do.  So, we put a portable water closet for our truck drivers, with a vanity, thanking them for “keeping America Moving!”, we rented portable hand washing stations to put them closer to the employee work stations, we took out the high-touch things like water coolers and coffee supplies, we revamped cleaning protocols…everything we could think of to keep them safe and flatten that curve!  It didn’t always feel like enriching lives, but if safety comes first, it is an enriching moment! 
  2. Communication, Communication, Communication!  This was the most difficult to execute as we had to find a platform that would work for everyone.  WhatsApp was our solution, there were a lot of choices, but this allowed us to send out messages to the employees to let them know what the changes would be and what they could expect.  It also allows them to reply if there are questions.  We use video a lot and this platform allowed us to continue the use of video. We utilized our partnerships with other businesses through our corporate memberships, such as St. Louis AME Consortium and AME National, to find and adapt documents and ideas that they were using. Being able to share and adapt what was working (or not working) at other organizations kept our speed up on these changes and communications. We also put together a survey to send out to the Operations team. This went out the end of the first week and gave us some feedback on how we were doing and the employees’ willingness to return. We are sending this out every two weeks so we can get continued feedback from them. 
  3. Scheduling – We spoke to each employee about it being voluntary to work or not work. Our goal was to help them figure out the options for pay (or no pay) given their individual situations. 
  4. Remote Meetings – I mentioned our Morning Meeting earlier, but we moved ALL meetings to remote, using Zoom and have found our employees are thankful for the flexibility this allows them as their home lives are as different as their work lives!  Our Operations team is also able to be part of the Morning Meetings in this format. We have made it purposeful to keep normal updates going through this format too. For example, our CFO does a monthly update on finances and we have continued to do this.  We are also working on our Quarterly update meeting in April and finding new solutions to making that happen. It may be a different format, but it is an important communication we do not want to skip! 

The COVID-19 Steering Committee meets as often as needed to discuss, review and update as the world and guidelines keep changing.  Then, we COMMUNICATE! Our VP of HR, Meg Brown has made sure we posted something once a day minimum at the start to keep everyone aware of what was happening.  She continues to update as things change.

Although Safety is always #1, if I had to pick an item of most impact, it is the Communication piece.  The what we are doing and why, is what lets the employee know you are thinking of them first, along with their families, our vendors, and our customers.

So many things have changed in our world but looking through the lens of “Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency”, allows you to always think of others before anything else.

Enriching Lives During Uncertain Times

With global and domestic news that can be downright terrifying, it’s ok to do whatever you can to maintain a level of normalcy and comfort right now. However, it can be said that this is the time when we must do what we can to enrich a life of a fellow human being, even if that means doing so from a safe, socially distanced space. As we are all lacking the comfort of a normal routine and proximity to extended family and friends, there are things that we can still do to make another human being’s life better in some way.

Personally / At Home

Spend time with your family

We all wish we “had more time” to try a new hobby with your family, to live in the moment and get to enjoy each other’s company, rather than just rushing to get things done or make your next commitment. This is the time. Make the most of it. Slow down and enjoy each other.

Tackle Your To-Do List

With all of this new found “togetherness,” we may need to take a break or feel that we are being productive (or maybe not!). We all know what our chores are that need to be done to keep the household running, maybe that’s the best you can do right now. But, maybe, you can finally get that linen closet organized for the sanity of your spouse or put together that donation bag of clothes to help the needy. Whatever the task is, enriching a life can come from providing a clean, healthy living space to providing happiness after a finished task.

Professionally / “At Work” or Working From Home

Talk to your employees and colleagues frequently as you would speak to your family members.

Empathize that most everyone is confused, scared and uncertain of what the future brings. If you have a solid plan of action for the future, be sure to communicate openly and make yourself available for any questions or concerns. If you are still trying to work out what the future of your company looks like, you can still communicate that to your employees, solicit input and research what options are available to both you as an employer and them as employees. Let it also be said that generosity during a trying time is never forgotten.

Be willing to try a new way. Learn how to be lean.

Perhaps the way we can all get through this is through creativity and willingness to try something a way we’ve never tried before. In a lean context, the first idea for improvement might be the worst, but it is something to grow on, and a way to get started.  The lean lifestyle is an amazing adaptable one, and can be applied in almost any situation. Identifying and eliminating waste might be easier with a different vantage point or in a new working situation.

Click here to watch some of our lean video compilations and stay tuned for new virtual lean resources!

This is Part 1 of a 2-Part series. Click here to read Part 2 - from the perspective of the Covid-19 Steering Committee and Safety Coordinator.