Hybrid – Not Just for Cars Anymore

Hybrid vehicles are something most of us are familiar with, especially with the automotive industry being so important in our region. While the term hybrid brings to mind fuel sources like gasoline and electricity, since the pandemic it also brings to mind words like working remotely, cloud-based, and Zoom.

At Community Futures Essex County, as with other businesses, the pandemic necessitated changes which may have taken many years to institute otherwise. Fortunately we had the infrastructure in place to allow remote working, but it was typically only used while a Team member was on-the-road. When pandemic restrictions hit, with a few adjustments, we were quickly able to have all staff working from their homes. As regulations evolved, so did our work environment and before long we had a hybrid model of working remotely and working at the office. This system is working well for us and Team Members enjoy having a work-from-home day every week now.

Restrictions on in-person meetings necessitated establishing digital methods for meeting with clients. With minor growing pains, we all learned how to Zoom. Interesting how Zoom went from a noun most had never heard, to a verb that had everyone Zooming. We were also able to use Zoom and Microsoft TEAMS to meet with our clients which allowed us to continue to offer all of our services in a safe and timely manner. Overall clients like the digital meetings, I think mostly because there is no travel time or cost, so we will continue to offer this option.

Throughout the pandemic our Board met electronically which was very efficient, especially during the period when we met weekly due to the demand for Regional Relief and Recovery Fund loans. Our Board Members are located throughout Essex County and some previously had to leave their workplace early to get to our office for our 4:30 p.m. meetings. Now they can join in with no travel time, and they can even attend when out of town on vacation! We will continue with a hybrid model of occasional in-person meetings supplemented by digital meetings.

Other areas we have incorporated a hybrid model are bill payments and data storage. Prior to the pandemic our bills were paid by cheque. Now we pay most of our bills electronically and it’s working out well. We’ve been able to eliminate late fees, and it’s made our bookkeeping process more efficient. As for data storage, we still have a local server, but we now also use cloud applications where appropriate.

When looking back on the past two years, I am amazed at the amount of change we have all had to adjust to. At times it was painful but there have been some positive outcomes, such as the hybrid solutions I’ve mentioned, which will serve us well as we move forward. We are pleased that we are now able to get back to in-person interactions and look forward to networking with you at upcoming events.

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