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Q&A: Best Workplaces™ Winner Arthrex’s Pandemic Pivot

Q&A: Best Workplaces™ Winner Arthrex’s Pandemic Pivot

When the pandemic hit, the medical device manufacturer Arthrex continued its essential operations. But Arthrex didn’t stop with business as usual. The company, based in Naples, Florida, took special measures to safeguard its own employees and contribute to the medical community as much as it could.

So it’s no surprise that Arthrex earned a spot on the 2020 Fortune list of the Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & ProductionTM, which is developed from our employee survey research on workplace culture.

We asked Kathy Sparrow, senior vice president of human resources, about Arthrex’s high-trust, inclusive workplace culture and the company’s response to the coronavirus crisis. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Great Place to Work: Can you share a story that captures your company culture?

Kathy Sparrow: It’s especially rewarding to hear the stories of how our programs, such as the Arthrex Manufacturing Apprentice Program and other professional learning offerings, have positively impacted employees and made dreams a reality.

Jackie Callejas Morejon is a CNC Swiss machine operator at Arthrex Manufacturing Inc. East in Ave Maria, Florida. When she was growing up, Jackie had always wanted to attend medical school and become a doctor. Unfortunately, her family couldn’t afford to pay her tuition and expenses.

Jackie first started working for Arthrex in 2012 in the packaging department. Immediately noticing her strong work ethic and drive for continuous education, Jackie’s supervisor provided her with a path of learning and development opportunities for CNC machining, and her career continues to blossom. She’s now a full-fledged machinist working full time in the high-volume Swiss machining department.

Jackie takes the Arthrex mission to heart. She says that her dream of becoming a doctor and helping people wasn’t possible at the time, but now she feels like a doctor and is so proud to be part of helping people.

Great Place to Work: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your operations? How have you kept your employees physically safe?

Kathy Sparrow: As an essential healthcare service provider, Arthrex has maintained all business operations throughout the pandemic, so it was crucial to immediately institute several precautionary measures and protocols to ensure the safest working environment possible.

At the onset of the pandemic, we established a COVID task force comprised of company leaders representing key areas of the business, including human resources, operations, environmental health and safety, legal, corporate communications and the Arthrex Medical Center.

One of the first courses of action was to make a significant investment in Synexis microbial reduction systems, a high-tech workplace disinfectant technology that is proven to kill airborne and surface bacteria and viruses in buildings using a low level of dry gaseous hydrogen peroxide. These state-of-the-art systems were installed in Arthrex facilities around the world.

Additional precautionary measures include mandatory masks inside all Arthrex facilities, wellness check points at all building entrances with daily temperature screenings, free COVID-19 testing and medical guidance from the Arthrex Medical Center, a contact tracing program, cleaning protocols that meet or exceed CDC guidelines, enforcing physical distancing guidelines in cafeterias and other common areas and rotational work from home schedules for employees whose job functions permit them to work remotely.

Great Place to Work: Kathy, your team at Arthrex has taken some notable steps amid the COVID-19 epidemic to take care of your people, in terms of financial and emotional wellbeing. Can you tell us about those initiatives, the thinking behind them and their impact?

Kathy Sparrow: During these uncertain times, we have been reminded of what makes the Arthrex culture so unique. While our employees were rising to the challenge, keeping production levels high and demonstrating exceptional dedication and team spirit in fulfilling our mission of Helping Surgeons Treat Their Patients BetterTM, we recognized the personal and economic impact the pandemic was having on them and we were committed to providing the innovative programs and resources they needed to take care of themselves and their families. 

Arthrex employees receive an annual discretionary bonus in July at our fiscal year-end. We made the decision to pay 50% of that bonus three months early in April (with the remaining 50% paid on time in July) in order to help offset any unexpected financial issues, such as a spouse being laid off or increased childcare expenses.

President and Founder Reinhold Schmieding announced this decision, providing a motivating and inspirational message of appreciation to employees for their contributions and reiterating his commitment to taking care of the Arthrex family first.

Additionally, Arthrex implemented an emergency 14-day COVID-19 paid leave benefit for employees who were under mandatory quarantine from a healthcare provider and for employees who were classified as high risk by the CDC.

Childcare became a significant issue with schools moving to distance learning and daycare centers closing. We worked closely to support employees with childcare issues, offering a variety of leave options and developing an internal referral network of available childcare providers, Childcare Connection, which is published on our employee intranet.

Great Place to Work: Arthrex manufactured and donated PPE to health care professionals and first responders on the front line in your community. Can you tell us more about these efforts?

Kathy Sparrow: We continue to manufacture high-quality, reusable face shields and protection hoods at Arthrex’s manufacturing facility in Ave Maria, Florida. The protection hoods, made of transparent plexiglass, are designed to protect healthcare professionals during procedures, including intubation. 

Arthrex’s protection hoods allow clinicians access to intubate the patient while decreasing their exposure to germs and viruses, including COVID-19. Once the patient is intubated, the hood is removed, disinfected and ready for the next patient. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Arthrex has manufactured and donated thousands of face shields and protection hoods. Arthrex has donated to health systems, ambulatory surgery centers, physician and dentist offices, assisted living and long-term care facilities and first responders.

Additionally, as schools prepare for students to return, Arthrex is donating thousands of face shields to school systems across our region to help protect teachers and school staff as they welcome students back to the classroom. 

Arthrex will continue manufacturing the face shields and protection hoods for as long as needed during this unprecedented time.

See the full list of Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production™ .

For information on how companies are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic impacts, check out the Great Place to Work Resource Library.


Ed Frauenheim