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Updated: January 11, 2021

Best of Business 2021: Best pandemic coworkers & remote offices

Photo | Courtesy of Sunshine Sign Co. In addition to his official role at Sunshine, Brian Glispin (in the flannel shirt) sees bringing a smile to his coworkers' faces as a major part of his responsibilities.

The impact Brian Glispin, vice president of operations at North Grafton’s Sunshine Sign Co., has on the family-run business is impossible to quantify. 

In his role, Brian oversees the performance of all hourly employees, and also ensures the company operations prioritize safety, customer service, and growth. And because of how the business and industry operates, Brian also installs, project manages, quotes, designs and sells products.

But that’s far from all he does.

“Brian is always the guy where, no matter who you are, six degrees of separation, if you're a friend of a friend of a friend -- if there's something he can do in your time of need, he is going to do so right now,” his brother and co-worker Tim Glispin said.

Tim promises he doesn’t just say that because they’re brothers.

“If you ask anybody here, or really anybody outside of here that knows him, they will all tell you he is probably one of the funniest and most caring guys that you're gonna meet,” Tim said.

At work, this manifests in a few ways. Among them is Brian’s propensity for preparing Sunshine’s staff with home-cooked meals, once a month. At some points, he’s cooking for some 50 employees, Tim said, and Brian never skimps. One month, it was chicken soup, another it was American Chop Suey. He does this all, Tim said, on his own time.

There’s also Brian’s Freshen Up Friday tradition, a new take, of sorts, on summer Fridays. During end-of-week afternoons, Brian opens up Sunshine’s garage bays, plays music, and, when it’s warm out, hires an ice cream truck to come through and provide staff with cool treats. It’s a moment, Tim said, for employees to freshen up their space, take pride in their workspace, socialize and take a break.

“He just wants to make sure everybody’s comfortable and happy here,” Tim said.

This kind of morale boost really made a difference in 2020, said Tim, as folks navigate slower work, concerns about unemployment, uncertainty around stimulus bills.

“I speak for me personally, but I've heard this from other people, too: The biggest thing is just knowing that someone is thinking of other people, thinking of them,” Tim said. “And, people feeling appreciated, it really takes a lot of that stress and tension out of the equation.”

Those sentiments about Brian are widely felt, Tim said.

“You can change a person’s entire day, week, month with some of that stuff,” Tim said. “And I see it here. It really is great.”

-- Monica Busch


Mila offers a comforting paw to Koda Co-founder Brittany Wong.

Title: Brand champion
Instagram: @mila.getssocial
Company: Koda Creative Group, in Worcester,
Favorite things to do: Sightseeing (even Zoom meetings), tug-of-war matches, and eating treats.
Education: She is quite the scholar and takes an interest in vocabulary, knowing more than 30 words.

Since Mila was born, she has been accompanying her mom, Koda Co-founder Brittany Wong, to the office. Her main responsibility at Koda is to bring smiles to her coworkers’ faces everywhere she goes. During the pandemic, this has included Zoom meetings with clients, vendors and the Koda team. What truly makes Mila one of the best coworkers in Central Massachusetts is her dedication to routine and persistence to play, keeping everyone on deadline but in high spirits.


Tortie takes her job at Mirick very seriously.

Tortie Grenier
Department: WFHomeland Security
Company: Mirick O’Connell, in Worcester, Westborough and Boston,
Years employed at Mirick O’Connell: Four
Main responsibilities: As head of Work From Homeland Security, Tortie is responsible for inspecting all boxes entering the premises, making sure everyone eats multiple times a day, keeps an eye on employees at all times while pretending not to, checks to make sure all laptop cords are not loose (by loosening them!) and greeting all visitors.
Favorite things to do: Eat, sleep, play, snuggle (in that order)

As the cat of Maureen Grenier, Mirick’s director of marketing, Tortie is reliable, as she makes sure Grenier is up on time (to feed her); she has her routine down like clockwork (sleep, eat, snacks, sleep, play); she knows how to have fun; and she is a great listener. During the pandemic, she doesn’t judge her owner if she spends the day in her PJs or with hair in a messy bun. “She has brought so much joy into my WFH days and when I need a hug, she is more than happy to provide one!” Grenier said.


Pippin Gardner

Pippin Gardner
Title: Assistant to the social media specialist
Company: Vision Advertising, in Westborough,
Time spent employed at Vision: Pippin became an official co-worker in March 2020 when the company went fully remote.
Main responsibilities: Assist with social media content creation and offer moral support
Favorite things to do: Snuggle with the fluffiest blanket around and play with her favorite toys

Pippin, the cat of Vision’s Social Media Specialist Catrina Gardner, is a great team player, and she’s always willing to help with content creation, especially when the work involves getting lots of treats. “It’s wonderful having a fluffy co-worker as company this year,” Gardner said. “Without Pippin, I would be alone with only Zoom calls for social interaction. Pippin provides some much needed interaction and can even be a great listener when she needs to be.”



Title: Director of security
Company: Slowey McManus Communications, in Boston and Worcester,
Years employed by Slowey: One year, as of Jan. 1
Main responsibilities: Finding dropped food, interrupting client meetings
Favorite things to do: Hiking at Mount Wachusett, chasing squirrels

Slowey McManus is a pet-friendly company, so all pets (Dougie, Tess, Evie) are welcome to join online staff meetings. Rorschach, the dog of principal partner Jim McManus, is one of the best co-workers in Central Massachusetts because he’s a good boy, never complains, and is always wagging his way through.


Name: Laura Rogan
Title: Senior property manager
Company: NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs, in Worcester,
Remote office: Auburn
Started working from home: On and off since March 2020
Best remote office feature: My cats, Bella and Buddy
Most frustrating remote office feature: Not having face-to-face time with my colleagues
Do you prefer working at your remote office? I like both! My work environment is very safe so I'm fortunate to be able to do both. It's nice to have a choice. 

The view and companionship Laura Rogan gets to enjoy at her home office.

For most of the decade-plus that Laura Rogan has had her cats Buddy and Bella, she’s headed off to work most weekdays and left them to be by themselves at home. Like a lot of habits, the coronavirus pandemic has changed that ritual.

Rogan, especially early on during the pandemic, stayed home in Auburn instead of heading into the office, where she’s the head of the property management division at the Worcester real estate firm NAI Glickman Kovago & Jacobs.

Now, instead of having cubicle mates at work, she spent much of her time with Buddy, a tabby, as an office mate. Bella, a tuxedo or bicolor breed who is Buddy’s sister from a different litter, can be, well, a bit more finicky about how she shows her affection. Buddy, on the other hand, is always happy to hang out and be close by when Rogan is working.

Rogan adopted Bella first, from a work friend whose cat was expecting a litter. A few months later, another litter arrived, offering a chance to give Bella a friend. As cats can often be, they don’t always get along. They’ll be 11 years old this spring.

A picture Rogan shared this summer showed Buddy hanging out with Rogan on their back deck, a summer home office that made some of the pandemic far easier to deal with.

Those sunny, warm days didn’t last forever. More recently, Rogan switches back and forth between working from home and heading into the office, though she’s able to easily do much of her work remotely. She hasn’t been meeting with tenants as she normally would, and Glickman Kovago & Jacobs has scheduled workers to be in the office at different times to limit capacity.

Rogan’s thankful to have had a chance to have Buddy for an office mate, and glad that sharing her photo made others appreciate their own cat, dog or other co-workers.

“We all need a bit of positive stuff right now,” she said.

-- Grant Welker

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