Over the past year we have shared stories of how BronxWorks programs have adapted services to support the community and meet new challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The untold story is how BronxWorks administrative operations, like the Fiscal and Training Departments, adapted crucial organizational functions to support our programs and staff.
We spoke with Gordon Miller, CFO, and Amy Greenbaum-Strauss, Director of Training, on how their departments made and maintain adjustments as we seek to operate within the realities of the COVID-19 landscape.
Gordon Miller, Chief Financial Officer:
From the outset, we had a conversation with the whole team to determine how everyone felt and what options they preferred. As we quickly shifted to remote work, communication was key to ensure that the team could handle the workflow. Your communication tools are the backbone of your team’s operations. For us, RingCentral team meetings became essential and we scheduled them regularly each week within each division and altogether as a department.
When you’re not in the office every day, communication with program staff and managers can be a challenge. We are setting up a Program Manager Dashboard within our accounting system to give our directors more self-service to their programs’ financial information. With the dashboards in place, program managers can access their programs’ fiscal reports, spending information, and projections directly.
Working in the COVID-19 office landscape is complicated. Navigating work from home, hybrid schedules, and digital communication can be challenging. The key is to establish communication channels and habits immediately and create functions to increase ease of access to information in real time, allowing everyone to be prepared for that upcoming Zoom meeting.
I’m very proud of the BronxWorks Fiscal team, and for everyone who worked hard and remained dedicated throughout this challenging period. We were able to adjust and continue to get our jobs done.
Amy Greenbaum-Strauss, Director of Training:
It was monumental, the beginning of the pandemic, and it also occurred in the context of a lot of fear and unknown, particularly around how the virus was transmitted, and how we as a department would be able to handle onboarding new staff, and supporting the training needs of our organization, and do it all virtually. My team, which consists of me, our Training Coordinator Alex, and our Training Assistant Elhadji, met virtually, every day, to stay close, to stay on top of what people needed, and to figure out how our department could pivot and confront the new challenges.
There was a loss, I have to say–when you enforce distance between people, you lose the human connection, and my team had to figure out how to continue to foster that connection. There was also a great deal of tragedy and human loss, and we had to figure out how we could support our staff and how we could help our staff support our communities, to cope with the loss we were all experiencing. We adjusted our Manager Training Series, focusing instead on bringing Program Managers together in a peer support groups, enabling our colleagues to share and discuss challenges that we are all seeing. We hosted weekly COVID-19 Q&A sessions with our Medical Director to provide our staff with the most up-to-date information. We continued to provide monthly Wellness Wednesday workshops to promote a variety of workplace wellness initiatives with our staff.
I started to send out Deep Breath Moments to share some positivity and stress management strategies with our staff. At the beginning, I sent them out three times a week. After a short hiatus, we adapted our New Employee Orientation to be entirely virtual, which still remains today. We hosted an entirely virtual Annual Staff Meeting for over 1,000 BronxWorks staff. We adapted all of our mandatory trainings to a virtual format, and offered trainings tailored to meet the challenges, such as Team & Support in Challenging Times, Trauma Informed Care and Community Crisis, and many more. We still offer 95% of our trainings virtually. In addition to the pandemic, there was also the pain of grappling with racial issues in the summer of 2020. BronxWorks hosted a virtual event on Juneteenth that summer and implemented agency-wide virtual DEI trainings.
The key for the Training Department was to provide the most needed support to our staff at each turn of the pandemic to ensure that they could provide the most needed support to the community. I am so proud of the Training Department team for how we were able to stay connected and face this challenge.