Friends of Princeton Hydro,
Welcome, Spring! As the sun shines through the window of my “remote office,” for a moment, I am able to set aside the pandemonium that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused, and feel the warmth of the season changing. As the native wildflowers emerge and spring migrants return, we are reminded that the environment persists on, even when society comes to a halt.
We, at Princeton Hydro, are heartbroken to see small businesses and nonprofits struggling to keep their doors open and operations running. As more “stay-at-home” and “non-essential closure” orders are issued across the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, I consider us lucky. As a professional service-based business, our firm performs engineering designs and scientific analyses, a majority of which can be conducted remotely. And, with offices spread across the Northeast, we were prepared for this moment, as we rely upon remote collaboration between offices on a daily basis.
But, it takes more than just having the technology at our fingertips. What enables success even more than working laptops and VPN connections is a motivated and dedicated staff. The people at Princeton Hydro live our mission and core values. They are determined to serve our clients and keep us open, and are the reason why I love going to work everyday. Our deep-seated, shared motivator, which we call our “why” statement, drives our productivity and engagement: “We are committed to changing our ecosystems, quality of life, and communities for the better.”
For those who are not familiar, a “why” statement is the most basic and elemental reason for “how” and “what” we do. Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why, defines “why” as the firm’s purpose or belief. As Sinek states, most companies start with “what they do” and “how they do it” and very few can clearly articulate “why” they do what they do. Defining your “why” allows people to feel connected, like we belong to something bigger, because it aligns with our own values and beliefs.
We believe that starting with “why” enables Princeton Hydro to connect with our clients, hire the right staff, and build partnerships founded in our shared mission and values. It is that short and simple sentence which drives each and every person at Princeton Hydro to do the best they can, not only to meet client needs, but to ensure that we are making a positive impact on those around us, even during these trying times. Not being able to walk up and say “hello” and ask how our people are doing in-person has necessitated our need to communicate even more regularly than we would have.
With the transition to remote working, we got creative in maintaining intimate communication and connection. About one month ago, we instituted internal “Daily Connection” video calls to brief our staff on government executive order changes, employee benefit options, fieldwork safety protocols, and workflow updates. We’ve shifted to using Google Hangouts for most of our regular meetings. We use interactive tools, such as Mentimeter™, to engage 40-50 employees on our daily check-ins. And, each Friday, we’re hosting virtual, themed Happy Hours to unwind and share stories over cocktails. While these virtual events have become the temporary norm, we may opt to integrate these newfound ways of connecting upon return to our in-office lifestyle. Afterall, “returning to normal” is a misnomer, as this worldwide pandemic has forever changed the way we operate moving forward.
Nonetheless, there is a positive twist to all of this. Previously, I did not take the opportunity to see, chat, and check-in with the entire staff on a day-to-day basis. However, working remotely has provided me with the luxury of talking to all of our people, whether over email, text, direct message, phone, and/or video chat.
And, while I joke about not knowing what day it is and being stuck at home, I’ve been able to spend quality time with my wife Amy, our two boys, and our rambunctious hound Blue, making sure to take breaks to laugh with them about the conundrum we are in. I’ve also caught up with extended family and close friends, where in “normal times” we make the excuse of being simply too busy. This unexpected mandatory remote lifestyle has enabled us to develop a deeper connection with each other and spend more time with our families. This is clearly the silver lining to the state of our world at this time.
We do recognize that there are people struggling to make ends meet and those who are suffering from this terrible virus. Whether it be a neighbor, local business, or acquaintance, together, we must find the strength to support those who are in need. Whether it be helping a friend, ordering takeout from local restaurants, or donating funds to relief efforts, let’s come together (virtually) to give back to the community. And, let us be reminded to take the time to enjoy the little things we usually take for granted.
In closing, I encourage you to live your “why.” Use this time to make a positive difference, appreciate what you have, make the best of this situation, and, most importantly, help those who need it.
With gratitude to all,
Geoffrey M. Goll, P.E.