Perspectives From the Front Lines: Erica Staley, Executive Director
We wanted to know how our manufacturing industry friends and staff were coping with the COVID-19 crisis at work and personally. Here is what they said:
"MR has been around for 37 years. In that time, we’ve had 3 different names, a multitude of programs, partnerships and initiatives under a multitude of Mayors, changes in leadership across every level of government, foundation, coalition and community. We’ve seen great hopes and big problems come and go. In other words, MR knows how to adapt. What hasn’t changed in 37 years is our belief that manufacturing represents a strategic vehicle for community development and reducing poverty. Regardless of the latest crisis or who is in charge, our society needs to make things, people need good jobs and thriving communities. MR has been laser focused on that fact since our inception.
The COVID-19 crisis has definitely impacted our work: our ability to connect with and provide training and work experiences for the youth and young adults across the Westside, Southside and Southland areas of Chicago. It is challenging us in how to create, cultivate and build relationships with a variety of stakeholders and partners we rely on to implement and sustain our work. We are adapting by being clear-eyed to how this crisis is affecting our staff, colleagues and participants as individuals and community members. Nothing about our work is possible, or even worthwhile, without the people. The best laid plans mean nothing without flexibility and empathy for the people we work with and for every day. Keeping the focus on our people helps us prioritize our work plans to meet the changing ways of the day, while still keeping our eye on the prize.
The biggest challenge working from home for such an extended period of time is realizing how much my work is informed by real-time, in-person interactions with my staff and colleagues. There is so much nonverbal communication we are absorbing all the time when we are with people. I was not aware how much I rely on those nonverbal cues to inform my priorities, my approach at how to implement my tasks at any given time. At any given time I may have 10 tasks I want to do, however the priority of those tasks are always changing as I’m interacting with people, observing staff do their work, reading the room as to what needs to happen when. It’s much harder to do that and to feel quite as effective when you don’t have that same level of non-verbal input as to how work is playing out in real-time."