A Reflection by Minoti Dhanaraj
In one week, I will hit my three-year anniversary at the Pension Boards. Half that time was spent coming into the office five days a week and the other half has been fully remote. The unprecedented hardships that the pandemic has caused in our country and around the world have made me realize how fortunate I am to have a strong support system from my family and the PBUCC team.
The importance of family and community. As soon as schools and offices closed in New York City, my family and I moved in with my parents in New Jersey. We thought we would be with them for one or two weeks at most, but it turned into three months. Since then, we spent almost half of the last year in New Jersey and half in Texas (we got to dodge the Northeast winter!) with my in-laws. Who would have ever known we would have a chance to live with our parents again? It has been an adjustment, for everyone, but in the end, more beneficial than not. Our children have had quality time with their grandparents, and I have been grateful to get their help in looking after the children. We have also had the opportunity to get to know each other more deeply than before the pandemic. Similar to Anna Blandino’s experience, I was also able to hear and see what my children were working on at school and to be more involved in their “educational journey.” I also have to admit, I love overhearing their fun discussions and getting their hugs for a break in the middle of the day. It has showed me the importance to having support from those close to you.
The importance of a great team. That brings me to our team at PBUCC. From the first moment our offices closed, Dave Klassen showed his leadership, support, and most of all empathy for all of us and our individual circumstances. Our entire team’s flexibility to pull together, work extra hard, and care for each other during this time really brought us closer – we became like family. The time made me think of the happiest countries in the world – those with strong community and family bonds.
Remote Work Environment. When we initially moved to remote work, I was nervous about how our team would connect with each other and meet with our managers and consultants. Then came Zoom and saved us all. Imagine if we were in this situation 10-20 years ago? Our IT staff were amazing at getting us all set up very quickly and seamlessly. Although we were not able to interact in person, I actually believe we connected more on a daily basis through daily group calls, and had significantly more access to fund managers and conference events allowing many more attendees. (I was able to attend virtual conferences organized in Asia!) It also allowed our team to meet with more people within organizations, as everyone reduced their lost commute time and additional cost of travel. Fund managers have been very innovative to create many more online webinars and updates for clients like us to access on demand. Overall, I think our team became much more productive; saving on travel time increased our resulting work hours, and in return provided more opportunity to have a better work-life balance.
COVID Assistance to India. In the spring, India was hit with a surge in COVID cases coupled with a severe lack of supplies. I am very grateful and want to reiterate my appreciation to Brian and others in the organization for sharing the COVID relief links to help deliver oxygen equipment, access to meals, vaccine awareness, mental health, and other assistance. As noted in that week’s colleague letter, which strongly resonated with me, “The diversity represented among our staff colleagues reminds us that we are all connected to one another. As global citizens, let us keep those who are currently experiencing the devastating impact of the pandemic in our prayers and our actions.”
The Future. Not one of us can predict what the future will hold, but this past year and a half has shown that our organization has a strong foundation with great leadership, ensuring our well-being, and safety. As we move forward, having flexibility to work in different environments and being nimble enough to face the rapidly-changing economic, social, and work environment, while producing amazing outcomes for our constituents will be critical. And most of all, maintaining support systems within and outside the organization are paramount.