Connecting with: Chris Harhay
While the U of T campus is closed to the public, in-person classes and non-essential lab work, an attempt is being made to connect with individuals continuing to work from home. This is part of a regular series to help bring us together as we remain apart during this public health crisis.
President, Harhay Developments
Chris Harhay is President of Harhay Developments
and is a member of the Department’s Industry Advisory Board.
He shares his perspective as a professional working during the pandemic.
What major hurdle(s) have you had to personally overcome during this public health crisis?
Our company is currently developing a residential condo and completing a Women and Children’s Shelter. This work was therefore deemed essential by the Province and we have continued to develop and construct throughout the Covid19 pandemic. Doing this in a safe way, has required a lot more work and time by everyone at our company. While others may be working from home (or not working at all), we have been working harder than ever and putting in more hours. While we are lucky to be able to continue to work, this has certainly been a taxing time on everyone in our company as everything is taking longer to do.
How has your corporation changed its operations during this time?
Our focus on safety has always been paramount. Given the fluid nature of the Covid19 pandemic and government and healthcare requirements and recommendations, we have had to continually change (almost weekly at the beginning) and adapt our safety policies to ensure we are keeping everyone safe while continuing to build. The government support has been excellent in this regard – particularly the advice and guidance we have received from Toronto Public Health.
How have you changed your own approach and operations with working from home?
One positive aspect of this pandemic is that it has made us realize that more work can be done from home and with virtual meetings. This can help our team reduce travel time and be more productive and efficient. Through the pandemic, I have been more productive – as there hasn’t been any real traffic – so I can get to and from our construction sites fast rather than sitting in gridlock!
Can you tell us about some new challenges you’ve faced professionally for the first time and how they’ve been dealt with?
At first, Covid19 impacted our construction site personnel by creating stress and anxiety as the pandemic evolved. In the beginning of the pandemic there wasn’t access to testing, so if someone had the sniffles or a cough, we required them to just self-quarantine for 14 days as directed by Toronto Public Health. We then started seeing material supply chain issues. As an example, the main fuses for the hydro service to our new condominium building were to come from the U.S. and the delivery was delayed and we were uncertain when the business would reopen and be able to supply us. This forced us to spend a lot of time sourcing these fuses elsewhere. We also found that while our construction sector was to remain open, several government components that support our activities were not open. As an example, the City was ready to install our water service, but we had to make the requisite payments to the City and their cashier’s desk was closed. Lastly, we have been spending so much time on virtual meetings that getting “Zoomed out” is a new phrase in our office as people get exhausted from online meetings which sometimes seem more mentally taxing.
Have you found yourself doing anything completely new/different for business and/or personal activities?
I got a new puppy which has been a great distraction and fun for our family. My whole family has started learning a language on an app. I am taking lots of walks in the evening and trying to appreciate the forced slowdown in pace of life. Lastly, I am enjoying the additional time I get to spend with my children who are usually so busy with school and activities.
Has there been any additional stress, personally, from uncertainty or other factors? If so, how have you managed to look after yourself?
I find that spending too much time watching the news and tracking the Covid19 numbers has created more stress and negative emotions. I am now limiting how much time I spend doing this.
Do you have any recommendations to others in dealing with their own stress at this time?
While it may be cliché, getting a puppy, learning a language, going for walks, spending time with family and watching less of the news cycle has worked for me. Trying some of the many stress relievers out there can help.
Do you have any sage advice for the young engineers seeking to find placements or full-time employment?
Networking is one of the best ways to understand what opportunities might be out there and to meet the people who can help you get that opportunity. I do think that following up in person rather than electronically on opportunities is still very valuable.
What are your crystal ball predictions for getting back to work? Will our new “normal” be appreciably different?
For the development and construction industry, I do think many aspects won’t change that dramatically. Many projects span years and I’m hopeful this pandemic is shorter term. I’m hopeful that a vaccine will be approved in the next year or so and a few years from now this will just be a bad memory. As the saying goes… “This too shall pass.”