Where it matters most
Nov 9, 2020

For Demetrius Caston, the past few months have been a challenge.

Demetrius works at 3M’s DeKalb, Illinois, distribution center as a warehouse operator. The distribution center was deemed an essential business  in mid-March of 2020 during the early days of COVID-19. One month later, he welcomed his first child into the world.

“Out of concern, I basically go to work and then isolate at home with my son,” said Demetrius. “Early on, there wasn’t a lot of information about the virus and 3M was adjusting just like the rest of the world.”

Demetrius is one of about 900 employees at the DeKalb location. The four-building campus serves as 3M’s largest distribution center in the United States and Canada.

As the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up, DeKalb leadership felt a significant responsibility to help protect and support employees on the job while maintaining operations.

“March was a crazy month and we were learning new things every day,” said Neal Schau, 3M’s operations manager at DeKalb.

Equipped with guidance from 3M’s corporate health and safety office, Neal and his colleagues went to work implementing a number of new safety protocols throughout the campus.

“From the very beginning, we established two core principles of proper hygiene and social distancing to protect our employees,” said Neal.

One notable procedure gave employees a 30-minute window to badge-in prior to the start of their shift. Normally, workers clock in a mere minutes before which can lead to a large number of people congregating in a small area near the entrance. This new protocol reduced congestion by 80%, allowed for proper social distancing and provided workers with added flexibility in their day.

“Before COVID-19, I would clock-in with 125 other people, and now I breeze right through sometimes by myself,” said John Melman, a warehouse operator.

John takes advantage of the badge-in window by arriving 25 minutes early. That gives him time after work to play with his dog and check off items on his “honey-do list.”

Other new safety protocols include spacing out break room tables and break times, installing plexiglass dividers, enhanced cleaning routines and installing automated thermal scanning machines to check workers' body temperatures upon arrival.

All of these measures have helped to ease employees’ concerns and help keep them safe at work, but many are feeling stressors in their home life, too.

“A lot of us with kids are finding child care to be an impossible task,” said Demetrius.

In April, several DeKalb employees with children used 3M’s Pandemic Leave policy, offering U.S. employees up to two weeks of paid time off. DeKalb employees are also provided a host of other options to help reduce the personal hardships brought on by COVID-19, such as shift deviations and paid emergency leave.

“The work we do in our plants and distribution centers is vital to 3M and our customers,” said Vicki Hardtke, 3M’s logistics operations manager for U.S. and Canada. “It’s a crazy time for all of us, and what we learn about this virus changes, but we will continue to refine our policies to keep employees safe and feel supported at work and at home.”

For Demetrius, these actions are making an impact where it matters most – at home.

“Our management is doing a fantastic job,” said Demetrius. “I feel more comfortable when I come home from work and spend time around my son.”


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