SHEBOYGAN – Acuity employees may be wearing bunny slippers during work hours, but it’s not hindering productivity in the least bit.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial storm it brought, Acuity says it has expanded its employee base and seen net growth on business.
Last November, Acuity announced plans to expand its workforce by 7% in 2020 and says it’s still on track to meet that goal. So far in 2020, Acuity says it grew its employee base by 5.6%, and it expects to round out the year near 7% since most of the hiring is done in the first half of the year.
Acuity says similar growth is expected for 2021.
In 2017, Acuity completed an expansion of its headquarters, making it 1.2 million square feet. According to the company’s website, the facility can hold 1,600 employees and contains a 65-foot Ferris wheel. The grounds holds the world’s largest free-flying American flag.
But for the past eight years or so, Acuity says it has been priming itself to accommodate remote work. Employees use iPads and notebook computers rather than desktops to make work more portable, and they had been testing out remote work one day a week.
They were also given Acuity-themed bunny slippers and encouraged to wear them while working from home. The company even did a photo contest with them while everyone was working from home.
“We didn’t think of a pandemic,” said CEO Ben Salzmann. “We thought technology. We thought do things to make employees happy, and they want remote work.”
But that effort to keep its 1,500 employees happy inadvertently made Acuity prepared for life during COVID-19.
On Friday, March 13, when COVID-19 rumblings were growing in the state, Salzmann told employees to bring their notebooks home with them, just in case.
That Sunday he sent out another message telling everyone to work from home the next day — which turned out to be the day Gov. Tony Evers banned gatherings of more than 50 people.
While other businesses were scrambling, Acuity says employees were all logged on and able to continue working seamlessly.
“We’re an organization that lives off of being there when people need us most,” said Wally Waldhart, vice president of sales and communications.
Acuity says it saw 40% growth in new business this year — the most the company has seen in such a short amount of time in two decades.
That growth mainly came from truckers. Acuity was already the largest truck insurer in the state, Salzmann said, but that expanded as grocery stores needed more restocking and other shipping needs increased.
But Acuity also insures restaurants, retail stores and bars which were hurt in the safer-at-home order and other restrictions from the pandemic.
Between the industries that struggled and those that thrived, Acuity netted 7% growth in business overall this year.
About a month ago, Acuity announced that employees have full choice on working remotely. Salzmann said it’s not necessarily a work-from-home company, because an employee could choose to work from anywhere.
Employees were surveyed about remote work and about half of them said they will come back into the office three days a week.
Acuity said didn’t do any layoffs or furloughs. It said it’s still promoting employees, instituting raises and contributing to employee 401(k) accounts.
Despite the distance, Acuity wants to keep up the employee experience. It had virtual wine tastings and exercise classes, and even found gift cards to local restaurants in their mailboxes.
Reach AnnMarie Hilton at email@example.com or (920) 242-3032. Follow her on Twitter at @hilton_annmarie.
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