Keeping Our Doors Open Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic
Like many other businesses around the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic caught us by surprise. As shops, restaurants and other businesses began to close, Wagner was fortunate to qualify as an essential business under federal, state and local guidelines and remain open. We were supplying our products and services to various health equipment companies, construction infrastructure projects, and the Defense Department, allowing us to keep our doors open.
Wagner followed CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of all employees. While some of our Shareholders worked from home to accommodate social distancing protocol, others worked in the facility to continue conducting essential business operations. We provided our onsite Shareholders with personal protective equipment (PPE) and enforced strict safety measures such as six-foot floor markers, capacity limits, visitor limitations, etc. to ensure the safety of our onsite employees.
By leaning into the unity of our ESOP, taking necessary safety precautions, and creating a sense of community amidst the chaos, Wagner was able to navigate through the complexities and uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what exactly did we do? Let’s talk about it!
To ensure the safety of all Shareholders, especially those working onsite, Wagner continuously followed the latest safety protocols set out by the CDC and took extra precautions to keep our essential employees and their families safe. Although the needs and requirements pivoted throughout the pandemic, we provided:
- Face Masks. Wagner acquired 5,000 face masks to be distributed to our Shareholders and their families. We later had the means and opportunity to give back to our community and support our local essential workers by donating 100 face masks to the Milwaukee Fire Department.
- Updated Ventilation System. Our HVAC equipment was updated with a medical-grade MERV air filtration system along with other devices that worked to eliminate the airborne viruses in our air vents and filter contaminants out of our facility.
- Cleaning Protocols. All common areas in the building such as door handles, tabletops, kitchen appliances, etc. were cleaned twice a day to prevent the spread of germs. Our conference rooms were cleaned between meetings to keep our Shareholders safe.
- Visitor Restrictions. We did not allow any visitors in the building to reduce possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus for our Shareholders. When possible, we were able to accommodate these meetings virtually.
- Social Distancing. To ensure social distancing within our facility we laid out social distancing markers in common areas, limited the number of people allowed in enclosed spaces, provided table partitions in conference rooms, and allowed remote work for eligible employees.
- Remote Work. Thanks to the hard work of our IT Department and the adaptability of our Shareholders, roughly 40% of our staff was able to work from home to assist in social distancing.
Wagner took all necessary precautions to ensure that all Shareholders, both inside and outside of the facility, were taken care of. When the COVID-19 antibody test became available to the public, we added this benefit to our annual health screening to give our Shareholders a full health report. Once appropriate protocols were in place, we knew it was necessary to start focusing our attention on our community within Wagner.
Commitment to Community
As many of us can relate, it was difficult to have a good sense of community during the pandemic, and businesses like ours had to get creative to bring their employees together. To do this, we hosted virtual events and later began hosting socially distanced events once the restrictions started to lift. Some of our personal favorites were:
Wagner created a list of activities our Shareholders could do every day to celebrate Earth Week. Throughout the week we had people send in how they were celebrating and posted it to our internal communications board.
We celebrated being an ESOP the whole month of October with a number of activities, gifts and raffle prizes! This was one of the first events where we had the opportunity to get our Shareholders together under one roof.
Throughout the year we hosted various luncheons, donation opportunities, and so much more to bring our Wagner community together. Safety protocols and events like these helped keep our Shareholders connected and promoted interconnectivity throughout our company.
ESOP Companies and COVID-19
Wagner has been an ESOP organization since 2015. Being an ESOP allows our employees to have ownership of Wagner through stock, making each of them Shareholders of Wagner. Our Shareholders are at the forefront of everything we do, ensuring all decisions we make at Wagner are in the best interest of our business, and ultimately our employees.
According to the Employee Stock Ownership Foundation, ESOP companies were 3-4x more likely to retain staff than non-ESOP organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also showed that out of the majority of ESOPs, only 16.4% of the workforce saw their hours diminish, compared to non-ESOPs who saw a 25.7% decrease.
Our main priorities throughout the pandemic were to give our employees a sense of security in a time full of unknowns. We are proud to say that we had no layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through safety precautions, adjustments made within our organization and the unity between Shareholders, we were able to retain all staff.
Wagner continues to abide by CDC guidelines and follow safety protocols to maintain a healthy working environment for our Shareholders. We’re grateful for the opportunity to share our story and to give hope to other businesses as we all continue adjusting to this new normal. To learn more about being an ESOP organization, visit https://employeeownershipfoundation.org/.