Story by KAYLA SWANK
The pandemic doesn’t have an end in sight and many companies have adapted to this new normal while facing its challenges. L3 Harris is one of those companies.
L3 Harris is an international company with over 46,000 employees in 100 countries that focuses on communications technology with the U.S. military. The company’s headquarters are in Melbourne, Florida, and have carried out coronavirus protocols to all its other locations.
Three employees from the Salt Lake City location share their pandemic-related experiences while working for their respective departments.
Brian Strohm works as the associate manager of the shipping department. Leading his team of 14 people and having communication with other departments became one of his main worries during the pandemic.
He said the company had been accustomed to in-person meetings and operations, most of that transferred to using Skype and Zoom within a short time.
Online meetings were a struggle for the shipping department due to time zone clashes and technical lagging on the platforms. Emails became a huge obstacle and created a lot of confusion. Before the pandemic, Strohm could walk to a person’s desk if he had a question about emails. It’s not an option now that people are working from home or closing their office doors.
“Sometimes you won’t get an email back for another 40 minutes because they’re not there,” he said in a Zoom interview.
Another adaptation Strohm had to worry about was how the supplies were coming in. Supplies come from ordering through vendors and L3 Harris’ products come from various ways including trucking companies.
If one vendor is shutting down, Strohm said the department would have to work around that and find another one, which creates delays and extra time.
Trucking became another obstacle for a couple of reasons.
Strohm said that due to the pandemic, trucking companies like FedEx had to change shipping procedures by not taking as much quantity of products. This happened because FedEx was used for carrying out and delivering a portion of the COVID-19 vaccines once they were created. That meant companies like L3 Harris and its products became secondary to the vaccines.
It’s strange enough to adapt to a pandemic when working with a company, but imagine working for a new company in the middle of a pandemic. That’s what happened to Daniel Boland when he joined the shipping department of L3 Harris in August 2020.
Boland joined the company when pandemic restrictions were in effect at the workplace. He explained that it was strange to start working for a new company while meeting everyone with face masks and having a mandatory temperature screening before clocking into work each day.
“There were also a lot of people still working from home at the time, so it seemed like a big campus without a lot of people physically at work,” Boland said in an email interview.
Much like Strohm, Boland noticed challenges with communication in the workplace.
Boland experienced communication problems at other companies he has worked for, and he noticed the pandemic further increased these problems. “If you add in the pandemic and a lot of decision makers working off-site, it adds to the communication issues,” he said.
While Strohm and Boland were at the workplace physically, employees like Melissa Schut worked from home during the height of the pandemic. And that brought just as many challenges, if not more.
The associate manager of facilities said her teams struggled more with collaborations. And keeping others motivated to keep up with their work and getting responses in a timely manner became more of a hope rather than a reality.
“There was personal, emotional struggles with not seeing people, staying inside, not feeling part of anything,” Schut explained in an email interview. Working from home created environments of emotional disconnect.
She also described the communication with employees being more on edge, and people seeming more irritated toward any changes that happen.
Even when working at home, supply and material shortages are affecting her work within the department. Schut said it’s difficult to make sure materials go to those who are physically at work for projects, materials like safety glasses, pre-made lab doors, wood, and even hazmat suits.
Just like the shipping department, the facilities department has been adapting and managing in its own way. For Schut’s department, in-person meetings haven’t occurred since March 2020. Instead, her team utilize Skype and other virtual platforms.
Schut has currently returned to work physically for part of the time. She said the interactions between people are slowly reverting to being more normal.
Keeping a company on its feet during the pandemic is a feat in its own. And just like every company across the U.S., L3 Harris has been trying to work out the kinks when it comes to communication between employees, managing supply shortages, and other endless situations.
A company is best set for success when preparing for a situation and adapting accordingly. As Strohm put it, “What we did is we prepared for the worst.”