CLEVELAND, Ohio — Christy Breiding is a health services recruiter. She never thought she’d be able to work from home — not until the COVID-19 pandemic, at least.
“The pandemic has been terrible in many ways, but I really feel like I have a good work-life balance now and able to do my job more efficiently just because of stuff like commutes, and just being able to have all of the things I need at home to address any situation,” said Breiding, who works at Twinsburg-based PSI. “Not worrying about it. If I can’t sleep, I can get up at 2 in the morning and shoot off some emails or resume mine. I like having that ability to do that. It’s peace of mind for me.”
Breiding is a self-proclaimed Type A personality, wanting to clear tasks off her plate as best she can. Before the pandemic, she often woke up early to get into the office, after a 35-minute commute. Add the rush hour trip back home, and that gets to be a lot of work.
For the 2021 Top Workplaces list, cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer have compiled 175 stand-out Northeast Ohio employers, based on employee surveys. We’ve focused on their responses and adaptations during the coronavirus pandemic.
PSI, the No. 20 large company on Top Workplaces, provides educational and healthcare services for schools. The company is taking a path it appears most firms are doing for the forseeable future: a hybrid model, giving employees the option to work from home or the office.
At PSI, employees in May talked to their supervisors about their plans. Breiding has chosen to go into the office once a week, to enjoy camaraderie with her colleagues.
Still, working from home has worked wonders for her.
“I don’t get as much work done when I’m in the office, and that’s being truthful,” Breiding said. “I am more productive because I don’t have interruptions during my day. I like being in there, I like touching base. I like all of that, but I feel that I am more productive working from home because I’m not taking breaks really. And you are sitting there, and you’re eating at your desk at home.”
Fred Johnson, an internal project manager at Westlake-based Hyland, agreed.
Hyland, the No. 12 large firm on Top Workplaces, is a software company that helps organizations do business more efficiently. Before the pandemic, Hyland already had working from home in its DNA — Johnson said he’d been working remotely two or three days a week.
“So speaking from my own personal experience, I don’t have kids. I don’t have any pets,” Johnson said. “The biggest benefit for me working remotely is just like there are minimal distractions when I’m remote. It’s easy to focus.”
Though working from home has its perks, it also has its drawbacks. For firms like Marcus Thomas, a Cleveland-based advertising and marketing agency, a downside has been not experiencing the company’s culture in-person.
Before the pandemic, dogs roamed the office at Marcus Thomas, and the company had cookouts every other week. Staff meetings were held in person once a week as well, said CEO and owner Jim Nash. Marcus Thomas still found ways to incorporate those facets while employees were remote, but it wasn’t the same.
Packages were provided to employees for virtual cookouts, and the company also sent takeout certificates for food delivery services.
“So you don’t have that interaction with each other,” Nash said. “The random, ‘Hey, just checking in with you, you doing OK?’ And you really have to be very planful in being virtual and making sure you’re reaching out and checking with people.”
Marcus Thomas plans to officially open back up July 1, and the company will provide multiple options. Employees can choose to work completely from home, completely from the office or split the time up with a hybrid option, Nash said.
Employees will make their choices come July 1, but if their preferences change, then Marcus Thomas will allow for that flexibility.
“We’re going to allow people to manage their schedule not only from a daily standpoint in terms of the hours to work around,” Nash said. “Some people are morning people, some people are evening people. But then from a weekly standpoint, so that maybe every quarter or so just look at your schedule and see if working from home three days out of the week or two days out of the week still makes sense. So we’re going to continue to just allow folks to decide where they work from providing it works well for their team and the agency.”
A few workplaces are not following the trend. Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, for example, expects to have all employees back in-person near the beginning of July, said spokeswoman Jeannie Smith.
Breiding is grateful for her company’s flexibility.
“No, I did not think that I would be in this position that I’m in now, but I’m fortunate for it,” Breiding said. “And I’m thankful that PSI was able to recognize that I am doing everything that they want me to do, and I’m sure that they feel I’ve provided them with as good or better than what I already was providing. My work speaks for itself.”