The SCJ Alliance supports working parents during COVID-19
Patrick holm never considered himself an extrovert. Before joining the SCJ Alliance team six years ago, he would have been more likely to identify as an introvert. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everyone started working from home that he noticed something had changed. “The hardest part about not being in the office was not interacting with my colleagues,” he says. “This whole process made me realize how much I thrive on engaging with other people.”
Throughout the first phase of COVID-19, everyone at the engineering and design company worked from home. Adapting to their new working conditions was easier for some than for others. Dozens, like Holm and his wife Whitney, also an engineer at SCJ Alliance, faced homeschooled children ranging in age from toddlers to high schoolers. The company worked with its team to keep everyone connected and provide both technological and emotional support.
According to Director and Planning Director Dan Penrose, the first few weeks of balancing work and family were a little tough, but eventually things calmed down. “Trying to do homework with our three boys and doing work on top of that, it was hard to feel good about both things,” he says. “The company was willing to work with us to get to a place where we are psychologically comfortable. We have taken a giant leap forward with academics, and they have been very understanding of what I can and cannot accomplish. “
The Holms take turns looking after their children, who are all under the age of six. “We have times when we go to Zoom reunions and one or two or our three kids get together at the reunion with us,” says Whitney. “People have been really receptive to this and understanding. In some ways, it makes meetings more enjoyable.
The couple also made good use of the yard space on their 1.5 acre property, encouraging their children to play outside as much as possible. “It helps tire them out later in the evening so that we have more downtime, both individually and as a couple,” says Patrick.
The company has supported working from home in a number of ways, through multiple video conferencing platforms, file sharing tools, and quick responses to any technology issue. One Friday afternoon, the laptop on Patrick’s hard drive failed. The IT team was able to replace it over the weekend, he picked it up on Monday, and was able to continue working uninterrupted.
Communication was also a big factor in keeping the team connected, says Penrose. He thanked President and Co-Founder Jean Carr for providing regular updates to keep everyone informed. “The door is always open in his office,” he says. “Now that gate is far away, but the mindset is the same. There has been a consistent and widespread attempt to be as transparent and open as possible with the news. “
As a company, SCJ Alliance attaches great importance to corporate culture. The approach has paid off both in building a loyal and committed team and in obtaining external recognition. Five times, most recently in 2019, SCJ has received the Best Company to Work for from the Zweig Group, the national leader in improving the business performance of architectural, engineering, planning, construction and environmental consulting firms.
Patrick believes that the pre-existing corporate culture made the transition to remote working easier to overcome. “We have a close relationship,” he explains. “I think everyone is looking forward to our group calls. They’re almost less work-related and more like we’re all drinking coffee together three times a week.
Even before the onset of COVID-19, Whitney had a flexible schedule that allowed for an effective work-life balance. Now, even though they are not physically close to each other, she and her colleagues have become closer than ever.
“When we meet three times a week via video chat, we talk about work but it’s also about everyone’s mental health,” she says. “People feel comfortable saying, ‘I’m having a tough week. I need to take a day off because my kids need me. Other people come forward and say, “I’ll help you with this project.” It has always been a team effort, but this experience has shown me how strong our team really is.
For more information visit the SCJ Alliance website or call 360-352-1465.