We recently talked with Emily Whitaker, HR Generalist from Cargas, about how Covid-19 has affected their team and ongoing business operations. Cargas is an employee-owned software company, recognized as one of southcentral PA’s “Best Places To Work” 14 times! They provide software from Microsoft and Sage, as well as custom-developed products, selling the software, setting it up, teaching customers how to use it, and helping them adapt it as their needs change over time.
How have things been going with everyone at Cargas?
Right now, everyone is working remotely, with the exception of an occasional employee going in for mail. Last year we moved into our new office at 101NQ. At that time, pretty much all of our software and business data had been moved into the cloud, so we were in a good spot to transition everyone to work remotely. Having our virtual infrastructure ready to go helped minimize downtime as we mobilized staff off-site.
How have your employees been managing their work/life balance and the pandemic’s impact on families, like spousal unemployment and distance learning for children at home?
There have definitely been challenges as we have had to transition to working from home, especially for folks with kids who have lost child care or school availability. However, we have really leaned into our culture of flexibility and work/life balance. Our managers are doing a great job of supporting folks with tough situations at home, and our team is being diligent about making sure our customers are taken care of. We also have an employee assistance program that has had an uptick in usage. It offers not only mental health services but also assistance with supporting good lifestyle choices like healthy cooking recipes and exercise tips. Employees are appreciating those services right now.
How have you been communicating with employees?
We use Microsoft Teams for internal communications. At the beginning of quarantine, we held our first completely virtual Teams meeting with all 147 employees! Departments are holding regular staff meetings via Teams. We also just completed a virtual version of our annual Ideas Unlimited program! This is a forum for employees to present any idea – big, small or off the wall – to the company’s leadership team and other interested employees. But we’re not all work and no play here at Cargas! We love to socialize, so we’ve transitioned our Wine Wednesday afternoon happy hours into a virtual hangout! Some teams also get together (virtually) for morning coffee breaks and afternoon teatime.
Have you hired and onboarded any new employees since Covid-19?
We had one new employee start as we were heading into quarantine. He met our IT Administrator at the office to (safely) pick up his computer and then completed his orientation virtually. His manager is touching base with him more than usual during this time. Overall, it’s been a pretty seamless process!
With everyone successfully working remotely for now, do you foresee any impact on your long-term geographic hiring strategy?
We still plan on hiring locally for the majority of our future open positions. We have a very team-oriented culture, so it’s important to have our employees together in the office on a regular basis. However, we are open-minded to hiring more remote employees as business conditions dictate or if we decide to expand into other geographic areas in the future. We currently have a few remote teammates who live in other states, so we’ve been able to use this time to learn from them and develop strategies for engaging more with our remote team members when we go back to the office. We’ll definitely keep those strategies in place if and when we hire outside of the Lancaster area.
When given the green light to reopen by the state of PA, how does Cargas plan to approach that?
In the red and yellow phases, we will all continue to work remotely. At the green phase, we anticipate people going back into the office on a staggered schedule. We’ll be following official guidelines and seeking guidance from reliable sources as we develop our return plans. If anyone has health issues or is uncomfortable coming into the office right away, they will be able to choose to continue to work from home. Our first priority is making sure everyone is comfortable and safe.
Do you have any advice for other companies?
Proactive communication is super important. We conducted a company-wide survey at the beginning of the pandemic to identify all of our employees’ initial concerns. Our CEO, Nate Scott, and the leadership team have been proactively addressing these concerns and ongoing questions about things like the company’s overall health (as employee-owners, everyone has access to financial reports), business planning and necessary decisions during this challenging time. By equipping everyone with all necessary information and communicating frequently, we can make better decisions to support Cargas’ immediate and long-term success.