When the stay-at-home order was issued, our faculty, staff and students' lives looked vastly different in a matter of days. COVID-19 affected people all around the world, and the UNC Charlotte community was no exception, requiring many employees to work from home.
This meant no more going to campus. No more in-person meetings. Pajama pants became work pants, and that comfy recliner chair at home is now for lounging and working. The new morning commute is only from the bed to the desk.
|Josh Guzman, Facilities Management Renovations|
Despite these changes, the campus doesn’t go unattended. UNC Charlotte runs on the hard work of employees at home, but also the essential employees that keep our campus clean, maintained and functioning, as well as preparedness of the teams managing and monitoring communication for the University.
These essential employees still commute to campus. They don’t wear pajama pants. They heed guidance regarding social distancing and safety while caring for the physical campus, the community and their loved ones. Josh Guzman, who works in Facilities Management Renovations, maintains mechanical equipment and ensures it runs properly in buildings, including checking boilers, chillers, pumps, and air compressors among other equipment. Guzman describes a concern for many essential employees throughout the country.
“A challenge we face during this pandemic is making sure we take all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves at work,” said Guzman. “We don’t want to put our families at risk.”
Precautions taken by employees include wearing gloves and a mask, maintaining proper distance between individuals and staggering work schedules to further reduce the number of employees on campus at any one time. Management within departments are also working together to maintain the campus during this crisis by providing clear communication, giving accurate information and updating employees regarding on-campus guidance. Gloria Escobar, a lead shift technician in Building and Environmental Services, feels the impacts of the adjustments made to protect employees and pride in how her team is responding.
|Gloria Escobar, Building and Environmental Services|
“We’ve had to adjust to different schedules,” said Escobar. “Because we’re working with a more limited team, we have to cover areas that extend beyond our assigned area. Every single one of our team is doing their best -- they put in so much effort to get on campus and they take their job seriously.”
Terrie Burris, administrative payroll specialist, is maintaining social distance while still tending to important duties, one being the movement of student and temporary employee payroll from paying on a monthly basis to bi-weekly basis, which happened to be the same week UNC Charlotte went remote.
“We have two other payroll specialists coming into the office daily on a staggered schedule,” said Burris. “To accommodate the safe-distance requirement, I moved to a desk outside of our office space. This way, we can all remain six feet apart. I'm happy to assist where I can so that others can stay safe and the work can continue without interruption.”
Working on campus during the COVID-19 crisis has shown the camaraderie and teamwork across and within departments. Departments and units such as Facilities Operations, Building and Environmental Services, Financial Services and Safety and Security among others have worked with their employees and across University teams to come together during this difficult time.
|Terrie Burris, Payroll|
In the Office of Emergency Management, Kevin Martin, emergency preparedness coordinator, plans for and maintains systems used during emergencies, including the NinerAlert system. As a part of the Office of Emergency Management, the Incident Management Team assists in the planning and coordination of the Institution’s operational emergency preparedness, response and recovery from campus disruptions. What’s evident to him, as well as Escobar, Guzman and Burris, are the amazing people in the UNC Charlotte community.
“Seeing the Incident Management Team come together has been such a rewarding aspect,” says Martin. “We have been building on how to structure our emergency responses for a couple years now. It’s awesome having so many fantastic people within this campus community who really care about creating positive outcomes.”
Story: Jordan Estabrook
Photo top left: Kevin Martin in 2017