Article From Director – Vanessa White

Greetings, my name is Vanessa White. I have been with Property Valuation Services (PVS) for fifteen years, and I’m preparing for my sixteenth tax season.   When I started at PVS, we had less than twenty employees, and we worked about 8,000 parcels.  As of today, we have 71 employees, and we are working approximately 36,000 parcels. Initially, PVS hired me to fill the Office Manager position, but as the business grew and the number of employees increased, I saw the need for a dedicated HR professional.  In 2012 I received my first HR designation, Professional in Human Resources (PHR), and in 2015 I received my second HR designation, Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP).    Growing with PVS has provided me with a solid understanding of all aspects of the business that allows me to utilize my HR knowledge to benefit PVS, which ultimately benefits our clients.     

As an HR Director, I’m responsible for providing guidance to Management on employment best practices, resolving employee issues, and HR law compliance.   This year I’ve added another skill to my wheelhouse, understanding the ever-changing world of COVID-19 and what I can do to keep employees safe to ensure we meet the business needs.   2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but as I reflect on everything that went well this year and look ahead to preparing for the 2021 tax season, I’m proud of how our Management and employees have successfully navigated this difficult period.    

In January, I saw the potential for a lockdown, so I took my concerns to our Senior Management.   We started assessing our ability to transition our offices to work remotely from a technology standpoint, purchase needed supplies, and create remote work policies.  Most of our offices, especially all essential staff, already had access to work remotely.  Still, our IT support used the advanced notice to prepare support employees to work remotely too.  Weeks before the country started lockdown orders, we tested our systems by asking all employees to work remotely for a day.  Because we were able to test our systems in advance, we were confident that our business would continue as usual when the state mandated lockdowns occurred.  

We only allowed three essential employees into the office to manage incoming and outgoing mail during the state mandated lockdowns, which coincided with the businesses part of our tax season.  Although we qualified as an essential business, we used an abundance of caution to limit employee’s exposure while all the health experts tried to figure out how to manage the virus’ spread.   After the bulk of the personal property tax return deadlines were complete and we had a better understanding of how to protect employees, we gave all employees the option of returning to the offices if they followed strict COVID protection policies.  Currently, we have seventeen employees who have elected to return to the corporate office.  While we strive to do what is best to keep employees safe from the virus, we felt it was important for our employees’ mental health to give employees the choice to return to the office.     

As we have learned more about the pandemic, we have safeguards to protect employees and ensure we can meet our business needs for the upcoming 2021 tax season.  We have compartmentalized our corporate office to limit the number of employees in contact with other employees, so only nine people can be exposed in a section.  Everyone in all our offices are required to wear masks. Any item that is touched by multiple people (i.e. physical returns) are handled with gloves. We have disinfectant cleaner and hand sanitizer stations all around the offices.  We have social distance and other reminder signs posted around the building.  We frequently email employees to remind them of our COVID employee protection policies and update them on the latest CDC information.  We have back-up teams comprised of remote workers cross-trained to handle essential tasks, including a team that can replace the three essential employees physically in the office if necessary.  We have put every reasonable safety measure in place to keep our employees safe and ensure our clients receive uninterrupted service.    

The measures we have taken to protect employees have resulted in no transmission inside any of our offices.  We have five employees that have contracted COVID, but luckily only two employees have physically been in an office.  After each positive test result, we had the offices professionally sanitized.  We sent all exposed employees home to work, and the employee with the positive test and all exposed employees must receive a negative test result before they can return.   

While we all eagerly await an end to this pandemic, I’m confident that PVS will continue with business as usual.  Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any PVS member.  Thank you for your continued support.