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Adapting to new requirements for social distancing meant removing chairs and reconfiguring our break room
April 22, 2020 – So many individuals have been profoundly affected during this coronavirus pandemic. The staggering loss of lives and impact on daily life will change our world forever.
As with all businesses, Cascade has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Here's a glimpse into how we've adapted over the past couple of months to take care of our employees, customers, and community.
Once it became clear we needed to actively respond to the crisis, Cascade's leaders consulted with outside experts and decided to initiate our Business Continuity Plan on March 9th. This introduced additional health and safety precautions and began a transition of office staff to start working from home. Within a week, all customer service, sales, and administrative support staff were set up with the technology and equipment to successfully and securely work remotely to support the business.
In addition, additional PPE was acquired and changes were made into how business was conducted to promote social distancing. We extended the amount of time our cleaning crew would spend at the facilities and conducted more deep cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces. Additional training and communication to supervisors, staff and customers about our response was provided that week.
On March 16th, as schools were beginning to close, Cascade introduced a special benefit (on top of our Paid Time Off program) to compensate staff who needed to stay home with their children or because of an illness. Additional pay for emergency sick leave became available on April 1st when the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("FFCRA") took effect. These programs allowed us to keep a limited number of healthy workers at our facilities to perform necessary tasks while other employees could take care of their health and their families without using up all their PTO. Fortunately, none of our employees has tested positive for COVID-19.
Cascade began restricting pickups to essential industries with critical needs starting March 19th. Our workload plummeted to 10% of the average volume we were handling earlier in the year.
On March 24th, Wisconsin and Indiana introduced their Stay at Home orders. Cascade contacted our government representatives to alert them about our activities and received assurances that we could still perform limited operations as an Essential Business. During that time, any staff member who could work remotely was working remotely. We also restricted the number of production staff in each facility initially to no more than ten people. We then expanded this to no more than 15 people once we felt they could operate safely and with adequate social distancing in our processing facilities.
In the first two weeks of April, after adding additional safety controls, we could respond to more pickup requests and our workload increased to 39% of our typical volumes – still a far cry away for a sustainable business level.
Fortunately, our testing and resale staff had plenty of inventory to work on for refurbishing and reuse. We prioritized the refurbishment of laptops and other mobile devices. This equipment was provided to clients and school families to fulfill the increase in work-from-home demands. These cooperative donations and resale activities also generated sufficient revenue to sustain Cascade and to allow us to maintain the payout of rebates needed by our customers.
On April 13th, Cascade received funding through the federal Payroll Protection Program that allows us to keep all of our employees on our payroll while we continue to support the critical needs of our clients. We are very grateful for this federal program to help us through this period of restricted business operations.
To keep our staff engaged as they were scattered about, we distributed Care Packages to them and their families with hand sanitizer (from a local distillery!), snacks and treats from other small businesses, educational resources to help employees make it though the crisis with their families, and other items to brighten their days. We all needed a little reminder that we are in this together and we'll make it through. And since our employees are also donating much of their time and own resources to help the community and their families respond to COVID-19, we wanted to thank them for their efforts and sacrifice.
Cascade is planning on a slow resumption of business as the virus is better contained and business restrictions are lifted. With more than 21 years in the industry and the experience of weathering other major economic slowdowns, Cascade is prepared to make it through this challenge and continue to serve our clients and do right by our employees.
We sincerely appreciate all the healthcare workers on the front lines taking care of the sick as well as those people in supporting roles providing needed resources to our medical professionals. You are the heroes in this effort. In the meantime, we'll do our part to stay safe and support everyone's efforts to combat this virus.
Story written by Neil Peters-Michaud, Cascade CEO and CHAMP, MBA