New Innovations Employees Come Together for Those at Home
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it many challenges, some of which may have gone unnoticed by those not in similar situations. One such challenge saw parents and children, whose daily lives were typically separated by work, school or childcare, finding themselves thrust together on a full-time basis. Jenny Shaw Kessler, a mother herself and a product manager at New Innovations, recognized the heightened potential for stress during these times and initiated the “Play Room” to aid with the mental health of fellow employees and their children.
The “Play Room” involves New Innovations employee volunteers connecting with the children of co-workers via web conferencing over their lunch break. These volunteers engage the kids with stories, virtual dog walking and other fun activities to give parents a brief respite from the daily grind.
“We started this as a way of checking in on our team members,” said Kessler. “Under COVID-19, grandparents and babysitters weren’t an option for childcare, so parents of young children had to be engaged all the time. We felt this would give parents a chance to collect themselves, while also interacting with the kids on a human level. No one expects parents to do it all. If help is offered, take it.”
The “Play Room” has featured a rotation of four regular volunteers. One of the stars has been senior information developer Michael Wohlwend, along with his partner Ovie, and their puppet shows. In addition to bringing their own puppeteering talents, they also encourage the kids to participate with their own and even contribute to the stories…”Mad Libs” style.
“We can relate to the pressures parents are feeling,” said Wohlwend. “Parents can’t ignore their children, but they can’t ignore their own needs either. We liked connecting with the kids. They really put their personalities out there. This has been an enjoyable experience!”
Although state “stay at home” orders may be phasing out, the team remains committed to this experience and encourages other companies to implement something similar to aid employees.
“We hope others see the value in doing this type of thing,” added Kessler. “It’s a bit of a commitment, but it’s not very taxing. We can feed our hearts by being kind and giving each other a little of our time. Something like this brings joy to all involved.”
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