Coronavirus: Harlingen EDC Makes it Work from Home

HARLINGEN, TEXAS (JULY 14, 2020) – As businesses began to close and cases started to rise, area officials among state and national leaders urged the public to stay home.

Sure, the idea sounds easy enough but as a public entity that works for the people, the idea of closing our doors at the Harlingen EDC was not an option.

But as school closures started in mid-March, HEDC CEO, Raudel Garza, sent his staff home – to work.

The HEDC staff is made up of six people and in those first few weeks at home, the team came together once or even twice a day via Zoom to discuss what was happening on our ends of the workday. What was most critical to an economic development staff was the business community.

It was in that time that an economic impact survey was sent out and that the HELP for Small Business program was formulated.

“In terms of working from home and dealing with a pandemic, you have to be flexible,” Garza said.

“Our schedules at home were never the typical 8 to 5 deal, it was on and off and sometimes we were working late into the night, but we will do whatever is necessary to do the job.”

As Texas Governor hatched his plan for reopening the state, the HEDC staff trickled back into the office.

“I started coming back to the office by myself, but we found it necessary to bring everybody back into the office.”

Taking proper precautions, cubicles were arranged in order to adhere to recommended safety guidelines and masks coverings were required when in congregated areas. And no handshaking or large meetings in our conference room – there was now a Zoom link for that.

“Since the recent surge in cases, we’re getting back to the point where we need to slow down a little bit,” Garza said on re-evaluating having his entire staff in the office at once.

“Right now, half of my staff is working from home for a few weeks and they will return, and the other half will work from home.”

This rotation allows for only three people at a time to be in the office yet still effectively doing business as usual – during a pandemic.

“We have to realize that we have to give our employees that flexibility and give them the right tools so that we can do the job – and trust they can do the job.”

Watch Garza talk about a work-from-home hybrid model that’s working for us in a recent interview with Rio Grande Guardian reporter, Ron Whitlock.