The pandemic has changed our lives and influenced their every aspect. We certainly live in interesting times, and experts suggest that we might never be able to get fully back to "normal", as things used to be before 2020. Tired of prolonged stress, a sense of financial insecurity, and worries about our friends’ and family’s health and sometimes lives – we are simply fed up with the pressure.
In difficult times, it's even more important to support each other, even if we feel weak and tired ourselves – helping others brings a sense of meaning to our lives, gives us a feeling of being in control, and enhances our confidence by giving us goals we can strive to achieve. This has been proved to be an efficient way to increase the level of our well-being. By helping others, we help ourselves too.
Lionbridge treats CSR (corporate social responsibility) very seriously. We are aware that we will not change the world, but we do intend to improve at least a little part of it through by our actions. Our organization's success depends on the efficiency of the work of virtual teams, and it has been so for a long time now. Social distancing is no issue for our employees when it comes to supporting the ones in need. We are doing it online now, that’s the only difference.
Our annual autumn initiative, fundraising for Animal Shelter in Józefów, is the best example. I admit it would be great to meet again in the office to pack the gifts together or visit the desks of our colleagues with a handmade moneybox, but there will be time for this when we finally defeat COVID-19. For now, emails and graphics replaced our poster action and the online fundraiser turned out to be even more successful than the live one.
While many donors cooperating with the shelter have withdrawn or reduced their support, Lionbridge employees have raised more money than in any of the previous years. We provided enough food to see the shelter's inhabitants through the winter.
Our plans to promote reading among our fellow citizens also had to be altered. In our office, we used to organize book exchanges and campaigns to support the local library. Those cannot take place now due to COVID-19 restrictions, so we created the Lions' Nook reading and discussion club. Our bookworms meet on MS Teams to talk about their favorite books and recommend interesting titles to each other. There is an additional benefit to this initiative, which is the integration of our employees. It's crucial during the social distancing period, when the newcomers often have the opportunity to meet only their manager and a small group of coworkers from their team. We provide them with the possibility to feel a part of the bigger picture – the entire Lionbridge.
We already started preparations for our next initiative, cooperation with KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia), to which we have offered our support in localization of their published materials. Helping is a collective effort, so there are project managers, linguists, engineers, and DTP specialists involved. We hope for a lasting and fruitful cooperation. As an organization, Lionbridge cares for developing and supporting diversity in all its forms. We would like to be an example of how to build great, efficient teams from diverse elements.
Of course, we can’t wait for the pandemic to be over so we are able to meet our colleagues at the office again and draw even more employees towards our CSR initiatives. It would be much easier to gather, brainstorm, meet new people, and engage them in our plans.
For example, the Green Roof initiative which, despite its name, is all about our office terraces. Since 2019, we plant and sow the flowers and herbs there. We try to focus on two main objectives – on the one hand, we try to keep as many bee-friendly plants, e.g., meadow flowers, and on the other, we provide our employees with a constant access to fresh herbs, such as lavender, salvia, thyme, rosemary, mint, oregano, or lemon balm, which can enrich their meals or be drunk as herbal tea. I often use a mixture of lemon balm and mint. I can also recommend a more exotic mix – tea with salvia leaves.
I consider this a success that despite our employees moving to the home office model of work, our gardens are still flourishing, and although this year's winter was quite rough for the plants, we can still enjoy the contact with nature. Our gardens are not only a food source for the bees, but they also provide shelter to several species of bumblebees, numerous grasshoppers, as well as spiders – including the picturesque and extremely colorful species Argiope bruennichi. This pretty, but also quite large, eight-legged inhabitant of our terrace was removed from the list of endangered species only in 2011. I am glad that we can grant it a home, although personally, I approach it with caution and respect when working in the garden since the female of this spider is 2.5 cm long!
We also miss organizing cooking competitions. Our employees love delicacies, and not only to taste them, but also bake, fry, and cook – with impressive results. In 2019, we organized a bake-off contest – the cake and cookie baking competition combined with a fundraiser. For a few hours, the main office kitchen turned into a pastry shop, and the table was bending under the weight of pastries, which looked great and tasted even better. The funds gathered were donated to support a treatment of a sick boy. I must confess that this is my favorite form of fundraising. Unfortunately, with my exceptional lack of baking skills, all I could do was taste the sweets prepared by the chefs and make a donation for a good cause.
Luckily for me, I did not have to wait too long for the opportunity to show off my culinary talent, since the next initiative was already starting. This time, it was the Cultural Awareness Days, during which our colleagues presented the culture and traditions of their countries. Lionbridge is a multinational organization and has offices all around the globe, but in order to meet a person from a faraway country, we don't need to open the office communicator or go on a business trip. It's enough to go to the office kitchen for a cup of coffee and have a chat with a coworker from China, Greece, or Brazil. But… getting back to the CSR initiative – as we know, each country has its unique set of traditions, kitchen included. Each speaker, but also many of the invited guests, have prepared their national specialties. I have made the Polish hunter's stew (bigos) by the old recipe. In the finale, both speakers and guests had the opportunity to win one of the handmade sacks prepared by our CSR team. Of course, we plan to repeat this initiative, however, until we are back to the office, we will have to limit our activities to online presentations and won't be able to taste the delicacies prepared by our colleagues.
The busiest period for the CSR team is autumn and winter when we run a number of initiatives supporting the poor or the excluded. Of course, we take part in the Noble Package, but we do not limit ourselves to this one. A good example of such an initiative is the Elderly Letter to Santa, organized by one of our colleagues when Lionbridge employees became Santa Clause, proving to the seniors that this white bearded guy does exist after all.
Such initiatives not only let us develop empathy and do good, but they also allow us to change our perspective on the world around us. Are we really in such bad situations ourselves? Surely, our partners working from home are taking our favorite spots on the couch, kids and pets are desperately trying to participate in our video calls, while those mean neighbors are doing their renovations exactly when we need to focus on an important task, but...
There are people around us: elderly, lonely, often also poor. For such people, their dream Christmas present could be just a new sweater or even a bottle of shower gel. Seniors who would love to see kids running around their place, but no one visits them anymore. What is worse – they are often technologically excluded. Some find it impossible to navigate the Internet system of the COVID-19 vaccine registration or even use Zoom or Skype to be able to meet their families and friends online. I believe that we must not forget about them in our future CSR plans.
That’s why we keep going!
Author: Joanna Zaręba, PM Team Leader, Lionbridge