#SWAAYthenarrative
Fresh n'Lean

What It's Like To Operate An Essential Business During COVID-19

4 min read
Business

Our world has changed so much these past few months. But Fresh n' Lean, the pre-prepped organic meal delivery company I founded in 2010, has remained open during the coronavirus pandemic after being deemed an essential business. Operating amid the spread of COVID-19 has been a humbling, challenging and profound experience. We've ramped up our safety measures in order to protect employees. Patience and vigilance have been vital to our efforts. While this situation is far from over, I wanted to share some of the lessons I've learned during this difficult time.

We've seen many instances of humanity rising to meet these challenging times, and I feel grateful to be in a position to provide work and nourishment.

Safety first

The safety of our employees and product always come first. As a food manufacturer, we're regulated by multiple government agencies and have strict food safety guidelines. Our standards are even stricter now and include increased sanitizing and stronger QA measures.

We scan everyone's temperature daily and ensure they aren't running a fever or showing other symptoms of COVID-19. We also disinfect doorknobs and other surfaces numerous times each day. We've also adapted ourselves in making sure that everyone wears masks. In the break room, placards were installed for social distancing to ensure that people aren't sitting directly next to each other.

It's been difficult but necessary to face that fact and embrace the changes that emerge.

By adjusting schedules, fewer people are on the same shifts. We've also allowed flexible schedules to account for childcare needs and allocated extra emergency sick time if anyone isn't able to perform their duties due to COVID-19. The new processes and protective measures have helped Fresh n' Lean maintain productivity while also keeping workers safe.

Things Are Different Now

Someone comes up and introduces themselves, and you have the urge to shake their hand. You run into a longtime friend and want to give them a hug. You see someone sitting alone in the lunchroom and your first impulse is to sit near them. Social norms are such a big part of how we communicate and connect with people. But by and large, we can't practice those social norms right now.

We're so used to having face-to-face meetings, and now meetings are conducted on video chats or over the phone. The way we operate on a day-to-day level is different now, and it's going to be different for the foreseeable future. Reduced human interaction is far from ideal. Everything feels foreign and disjointed. It's been difficult but necessary to face that fact and embrace the changes that emerge.

Everybody Is Hurting

This situation has fueled so many different emotions for people. Sadness. Anxiety. Fear. It's something I've been very sensitive to. While we've gained about 50 additional employees in recent months for the manufacturing kitchen, production plant and fulfillment warehouse, as well as sanitation and janitorial staff, we've also lost some staff because they don't feel comfortable being at work during these times, and I completely respect the way that they feel.

People are facing lots of stress right now. They're worried about their loved ones and friends, as well as their own health and financial stability. Managing people means managing their emotions and keeping them on track to accomplish our day-to-day tasks. People must feel comfortable at work; but they also need to know that you care about them on a personal level, that there's more here than simply hitting a benchmark. As a leader, it's important to remain patient and calm — panicking will only instill further anxiety for your team, whereas pragmatic leadership can help your team rally as a cohesive force.

One Step At A Time

So many food companies have faced supply chain problems…we're thankful that we haven't experienced any major issues. We've remained vigilant on an operational level to make sure that we can still ship product. The potential for supply chain issues means always staying informed and being ready to adjust.

As a leader, it's important to remain patient and calm — panicking will only instill further anxiety for your team, whereas pragmatic leadership can help your team rally as a cohesive force.

The strength of our relationships has shined through. Our food is sustainably sourced, and we've partnered with companies that uphold similar high standards as Fresh n' Lean with deep environmental and social consciousness. Organic food production comes with an awareness of every step in the supply chain, and those quality standards have remained intact throughout our supply chain during the pandemic.

Always Adapt

This pandemic has significantly shifted consumer habits. With brick-and-mortar stores closed or foot traffic reduced, consumers have turned more and more to direct-to-consumer shipping methods to fulfill their needs. Direct shipping – something Fresh n' Lean embraced from its start – has grown in acceptance over the past decade, and these days, it's crucial. Many people are afraid to leave their homes, and grocery stores are a maze of arrows and wait lines and product shortages.

This situation has forced every company to rethink its methods of reaching customers. While no one could have predicted what's happened in our world, the pandemic has presented an opportunity for companies to rethink and adjust their methods and find new sales channels where they hadn't previously considered them.

Tough Times

This situation reminds us how we're all connected — this pandemic has impacted people across borders and political differences and societal divides. We've seen many instances of humanity rising to meet these challenging times, and I feel grateful to be in a position to provide work and nourishment. We were honored to donate meals for Prince Jackson's charity Heal Los Angeles and help to keep people from going hungry.

It's so important that our customers are able to continue receiving meals, especially those who may not otherwise have easy access to other food. As an essential business, we have a duty to provide food to those who are in need, and we're taking that duty very, very seriously.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.