The three simple words, “going to work,” mean something different now for tens of thousands of San Antonians as they get vaccinated against the coronavirus and begin the transition from sheltering and working at home to more traditional work arrangements.
It seems like a timely moment to launch a new series here, Where I Work, that will take readers inside companies large and small, and employers of every imaginable service and product, including nonprofit organizations, startups, family-owned enterprises, and the nontraditional workplaces of artists, makers, freelance workers, and others.
Like the popular weekly series, Where I Live, the new series will be written by people in the community rather than our own journalists in a continuing effort to expand the range of voices and perspectives available on the San Antonio Report’s website. We hope many of the offerings will explore how the pandemic has changed our definition of work and the workplace.
Virtual meetings became an everyday reality for many of us as workplaces ranging from sprawling corporate campuses to small, family-owned businesses shut down and sent workers home where they could stay healthy and productive.
Many essential workers – police, firefighters and EMS personnel, utility workers, medical and health care personnel, and many of those in the service industry – have never stopped going into work. Their very job descriptions require them to continue working at their place of employment or out in the community.
Many others, however, particularly professionals in banking and finance, the courts and the law, and media and marketing, adopted new work protocols, abandoning the office setting for a year or more, and mixing on-the-job time with personal time at home.
A gradual reopening of the economy and workplace has been underway for some months now. Some major employers brought back people well in advance of available vaccinations. Other large employers have taken a wait-and-see approach while adopting more flexible work terms for employees.
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Many smaller businesses continue to work remotely with offices largely empty except for the occasional employee coming in to work on their own. No return-to-work dates have been set, and employees expect to have a large say in how and when everyone will return to work and under what terms.
Some public employers are establishing hybrid work conditions, with employees trusted to divide their time between work at the office and work from home, even after public health leaders are expected to sound the all-clear sometime later this year or early in 2022.
We at the San Antonio Report hope the Where I Work series will give readers insight into workplaces, companies, and organizations that otherwise would remain unknown or unfamiliar.
Our first edition of the series features an article by Jordan Yakana, who takes us inside his work at Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, a homegrown company on the near West Side led by three generations of Kiolbassa family members who today distribute the company’s smoked meat products in 48 states.
Another worker featured is Mitch Hagney, founder of a bustling food hub on the near East Side where coffee roasters, hydroponic greens growers, and many others work alongside one another in a family of indie businesses clustered in a renovated warehouse. Joshua Thomas tells the story of how he and his wife Megan pulled up stakes in San Francisco to come to San Antonio, where he works as a partner and general manager at Maverick Brasserie in Southtown.
Tim Kuhn at Holt Cat says the question he gets asked most often is whether he can score Spurs tickets.
San Antonio Symphony husband-and-wife musicians, cellist David Mollenauer and clarinetist Stephanie Key, rehearse individually at home but consider the stage at the H-E-B Hall in the Tobin Theater for the Performing Arts their place of work. Another husband-and-wife duo, poet Naomi Shihab Nye and documentary photographer Michael Nye, at times work at home while at other times find themselves traveling to different and distant countries to pursue their crafts.
Blanca Méndez is the remarkable editor at the San Antonio Report who oversees the weekly Where I Live series and is leading our efforts to add Where I Work to the mix. Méndez also works with people from all walks of life in the city who submit commentaries or stories for publication here.
Méndez is looking for other contributors to the Where I work series. Interested? We hope so. Contact her if you would like your workplace and your work to be considered for the series.