From the Executive Team
Dear Valued Colleagues,
March 2020 will forever be etched in my mind as the date when 42 years of getting up in the morning with the goal to reach a designated workspace only to spend 8 hours (usually longer), came to an end. COVID-19 was more than a buzz word, it was now an invisible monster that was headed into my world and one that gave no warning when it would attack.
I will never forget the day the Company announced that the office was closing. Out of safety for employees, we were given the OK to work from home. In lieu of just taking my laptop home, I now was tasked with carrying a couple 24-inch monitors, a docking station, my hand-held calculator (it’s a carryover from days gone by) and any important papers I thought I might need while in the bunker. I even took my toy talking parrot, because I knew I would need some entertainment while at home. The lobby looked like a moving day with a sense of panic, and no one bothered to look my way to say goodbye. Was it me or were they simply focused on the task at hand?
Suddenly, my friends, family and co-workers became suspects. Every door handle was scrutinized, hand sanitizers were looking me in the face at every turn and I even started seeing people wearing latex gloves as they handled the hoses to fill their cars with gas (I refused to do that although I did try a towel from my truck on the gas handle). People with masks were not intending to rob me, they were looking out for my safety.
Initially, I thought this is nice. No commute to work, jogging pants, shorts and pajama bottoms were now in vogue and I just needed to wear a nice shirt for cameo appearances on Zoom or Teams. I could now work anytime day or night (even send e-mails at 4:30 am or 12:00 am midnight) and still make time to watch 90 Day Fiancé. I even ordered resistance band to take the place of weights since my gym was closed. Here is a tip, buy a lot of those resistance bands because they only last a couple of weeks.
In spite of all the havoc the pandemic was creating, I was safe in my home with my workstation and actually being a productive member of the AgriBusiness® team.
What I was not prepared for was the increase in e-mail correspondence (why call on a phone when you can shoot an e-mail to someone) and the endless Outlook meeting invites. My co-workers were popping up on my screen, sometimes dozens at a time staring at me, some just showing a photo of themselves, but I knew they were there, somewhere anyway. After a few months, articles started appearing on how to avoid Zoom and Teams fatigue (we knew that was coming). It became frustrating to get up in the morning and see my laptop and monitor sitting there staring me in the face taunting me to get to work. No matter where I relocated the workstation in the house, I knew it was there, just waiting. How many of us got that Teams call at 5:30 am in the morning from one of those bubbly people talking at you while you were still half asleep with the temperament of a Tyrannosaurus Rex? Of course, it happened. Good things happened while working from home as well. I was lucky enough to find a new friend in the form of a little dog named Peanut who managed to make an appearance in multiple on-line meetings. If everyone had a Peanut in their life, the world would be a better place.
The COVID pandemic will go down in history as a very dark period. Americans once again showed their grit. We were able to find new ways to be productive and communicate effectively. I am very proud of my co-workers at Great American and thankful to be associated with people, like each of you reading this, who have supported our Company through the good times and the tough times. We did it!
Covid-19 is not gone, but it has been weakened, at least in the United States. Now we have reached a turning point where we can plan to get back to some normalcy. Our Great American AgriBusiness® team has started to return to the office. The return will be gradual with some people returning one or two days a week, but we have set a goal to get back to the office by August 2. Does this mean work from home is dead? No, we now know we can be productive working at home and in fact, it is a nice break from the daily office grind. In addition, we will always have some staff in parts of the country where we do not have office facilities and they will continue to work from home on a full- time basis. However, where we do have the opportunity to get back to the office, we feel that environment offers us many benefits such as:
- Being together in an office fosters strong collaboration and employee connectivity. It is ingrained in our Great American culture to interact in person.
- Companies that will thrive are those that are able to be opportunistic. Bringing people together in the office fosters faster decision making, innovation and increased effectiveness.
- Onboarding, training and personal development are key areas to our success and that effort can be negatively impacted if we do not return to the office and work closely together in some capacity.
We look forward to getting back together in the office as a team and continuing our goal of providing you and our customers with the service you deserve and expect. Personally, I really missed talking to my co-workers in person.
I realize many of you did not close your offices during the pandemic and you came to work every day to ensure your customer’s needs were met. That behavior is an extraordinary effort in an extraordinary time.
We thank you for your loyalty and having our backs during a period of time we will never forget. I promise you we will continue to strive to be your market of choice and be here when you need us.