Life After COVID-19 (Part 2): Face-to-Face Time
In an age when six feet apart is the norm, how will in-plant production meetings take place from now on? Will employees continue to gather in conference rooms for long discussions? Are video calls really a workable substitute?
In part two of our report on the future of in-plants after COVID-19, we talked with nearly a dozen managers about this and other important issues. On the topic of production meetings, in-plant managers offered several approaches.
In Phoenix, Martin James feels he has the space to continue conducting these meetings in person at Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD). “I have a large-format table that is large enough that we can all stand and meet at, 6 ft. apart,” he says. Others hold their meetings on the production floor with operators standing next to their machines and speaking loudly.
Consultant Howie Fenton suggests making all in-person meetings “stand-up meetings” so no one gets too comfortable and meetings stay on point and end quickly. In Denver, Colorado’s Integrated Document Solutions (IDS) operation holds its production meetings via Google Hangouts, with on-site staff logging in from their desks.
“It works really well,” reports Mike Lincoln, Colorado State Printer. “There aren’t some of the sidebar conversations, so they’re actually a little more effective.” He anticipates this type of virtual meeting will continue for some time to come. “Virtual meetings are how everything’s happening now, that that’s probably going to stay,” he adds.
Working From Home
Video conferences have proliferated during the pandemic, with so many Americans forced to work from home. As companies realize that they can, in fact, operate with their employees working remotely, many are likely to change their business models permanently and reduce their office space. “If the new model is ‘work from home’ for a large majority of the workforce, there may not be a need to have people occupying desks and offices on a regular basis any more,” notes Lincoln.
This will impact in-plants as well. Most have had their designers, customer service reps, billing staffs and others working from home since March. Many expect this to continue.
“My guess is I’m going to be keeping most of the [administrative] staff working remotely, if not 50% of the time, maybe even 80% of the time,” says Lincoln. “We’re going to have to get away from this time card mentality and offer more workplace flexibility, especially if our staff is leaner,” adds Steve Nelles, Business Support Services manager for Ventura County, Calif., who feels the focus should be on getting the work done, not just showing up in the office. As the virus continues to flare up over the next year, he says, managing a remote workforce will become common for in-plant managers.
Eliminating this office space could give in-plants room to expand, or let them return this space to their organizations, reducing their costs. Having some in-plant employees working remotely, however, is not without its downsides. Separated from their coworkers, these employees can feel cut off and unappreciated, points out Laura Lockett, director of Sacramento State University Print & Mail.
“I now ship them care packages at home just to say, ‘hey, I’m still thinking about you, and thanks for being on the team,’” she says. “It just really is trying to stay connected and let people know that they are valued even though they’re not seen here in the office every day.”
Watch for the rest of this in-depth report in the June/July issue of IPI.
Related story: Life After COVID-19 (Part 1)
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.