Julie Moss is the human resources director at San Jose-based Rosendin Electric, the nation’s largest private electrical contractor. Normally, its headquarters on Mabury Road is a bustling place to work with 180 or so people inside.
“For the past three weeks, we’ve had an average of 10 to 12,” she said.
That precipitous drop is due to the mandated shelter-in-place order in Santa Clara County. Only essential employees can now come into the office or go to work sites in states like Hawaii, Virginia and North Carolina, where local regulations allow the company’s people to do their jobs.
Many Rosendin employees have transitioned to working from home, gaining skills for new roles through webinars and other online aids. That connection allows individuals to develop their abilities, while also keeping them consistently engaged with the company outside of the office. Before 2013, Moss’ first year at Rosendin, the company had already begun a strategic plan intended to keep business operations based on the most current technology available.
“We had iPads in the field in our construction site,” she said. “We’ve been using iPads for years as opposed to paper. We have people that are connected with phones and everything else. It certainly wasn’t anticipating this. We made sure we had things ready to work together where everybody is not always in the same room. We were doing this as the norm.”
So when Covid-19 came along and the shelter-in-place orders followed, there were very few problems adjusting. The one thing that wasn’t anticipated was the slowdown in home Internet speeds as almost everyone in highly affected states like California began working from home.
Still, the actual nuts and bolts of construction have slowed down, which means many Rosendin employees now working from home don’t have as much to do. In response, the company’s training department has been busy creating opportunities for employees to learn about other areas of the company, such as renewable energy or business information modeling.
“We’re using this opportunity to help people enhance their skill set, cross-train, learn more about the company,” Moss said about this business lull. “We look at it from the emotional side of things where people do start having concerns about their roles and responsibilities and where they fit within the company when they’re not able to sit at their desk and do their normal job.”
Alongside its expanded career development programs, Rosendin is doing is more web-conferencing to better connect its 7,000 employees across the nation. In the past, much of the company’s intra-office communications have been done through phone calls and electronic messaging, but now it’s encouraging face-to-face meeting through the Internet.
“We’ve had people really breaking down barriers and getting a little bit more comfortable, more personal. I’ve seen a lot of people relax with the FaceTime. It’s been a positive experience from that side,” Moss said
On top of that, Moss said Rosendin has turned to its employee assistance program (EAP) to provide emotional support. Two forces — a disease pandemic and the economic uncertainty generated by it — weigh heavily on people’s minds.
So, the company had employees enroll in online courses provided by the EAP to help them deal with the crisis on the surface and the crises that fallout from coronavirus may generate at home. Podcasts on reducing anxiety and resource materials on coping with stress were provided not just to employees but also their families by Rosendin’s EAP service provider.
“We were able to provide a variety of webinars that anybody through the company can do first during the workday or podcast in the evening, so their families could also utilize that,” she said. “They have counseling on video chat up to five life sessions. They have financial counselors for emotional support. It’s not on our intranet; it’s an external provider.”