What it’s like being an essential employee during the COVID-19 pandemic


As Louisiana’s COVID-19 infection rate continues to grow, many workers are left either jobless or working from home.

Following Gov. John Bel Edwards’ “stay-at-home” mandate, only workers holding essential jobs are expected to continue to work at their physical workplaces. Whether they’re working in delivery services, at grocery stores or at software help desks, several Nicholls students are carrying out essential jobs throughout this crisis. 

Ana Arias, a mass communication senior from Morgan City, works at the help desk for the online permitting software My Permit Now, which is based in Gray. 

“My job consists of answering phone calls from day-to-day citizens applying for permits online or calls from workers themselves who are either having technical issues or just need help in utilizing the jurisdiction portal,” Arias said.

Still going into work on a typical schedule, Arias said her job is deemed an essential one. 

“Being the frontend and face of the website is why we are essential employees. The cool thing about our website is that it allows county workers to work from home…” Arias said. 

This software’s enabling of customers to work from their homes opens up a new, nontraditional need for the company’s support team, even in this pandemic.

“Other permitting software can only be accessed through a work computer. However, ours can be accessed on any device. As long as they’re working, they need to have a support team to go with anything that may come up,” Arias said.

Although the company’s typical business has remained largely unaffected, significant safety and sanitation procedures have been implemented in the workplace. 

“When we first get into the office, our temperature is taken by a laser gun. We have Clorox wipes available to wipe down our work area when we get in and leave. We’ve also been assigned our own work desk, and no other employee is allowed to sit at or touch it,” Arias said.

Furthermore, she said that two cleaning personnel were added to the workplace to clean common areas throughout the day as an extra precaution. 

Jake Hebert, a computer information systems senior from Thibodaux, works at the Thibodaux Neighborhood Walmart in the online grocery pickup department, where his job involves gathering and loading groceries into customers’ cars, as per their online orders.

“Since the entire coronavirus pandemic, our department has lowered our orders to four orders per hour, and we are now open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., unlike our usual 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” Hebert said. 

He also said that, due to the decrease of items in stock, some of the online orders cannot be fulfilled, which is why the maximum of four orders was introduced.

In addition to Walmart’s implementation of sanitation stations near every store entrance,  Hebert said the company has new sanitation guidelines for employees. 

“We have to sanitize everything that other people touch once we get back into our back room,” Hebert said.

Hayden Tortorich, a management senior from Thibodaux, works as an order sorter at a local warehouse, where his job requires that he safely builds and wraps pallets of beer, soda and water to be loaded on trucks going out for delivery around the community.

Tortorich said that his workplace has set safety guidelines for its employees in order to support the prevention of the coronavirus. 

“We all make sure after working that we thoroughly wash our hands to ensure that we won’t have any cases that could potentially be spread,” Tortorich said.

Other than the new safety precautions, Tortorich said that his job is nearly changeless. 

“Nothing has really changed except the demand and supply for the amount of beverage products we are sending out. We love that we get to still work and are all fortunate,” Tortorich said.

Wesley Rhodes, a mass communication senior from Larose, works in the meat department at Rouses Supermarket on Canal Blvd. in Thibodaux. Despite Rouses’ closing time moving up to 8 p.m. from 10 p.m., Rhodes said that his work is much more intensive during this pandemic. “I’ve been working at Rouses for four years, and I have never worked harder than I am now,” Rhodes said. 

Other than their supply of meat being bought out quicker and the deli department’s closure, it is business as usual in Rouses’ meat department. 

“We don’t have the variety of our usual meats because of the shortage of product from our supplier. We have also shut down our deli department to try and stop a lot of people from sitting and eating,” Rhodes said. 

Moreover, Rouses has made advancements in safety precautions. 

“We are having our cashiers stand outside to hand disinfectant wipes and gloves to customers who want them. We are also having them wipe down every shopping cart that gets returned to the shopping cart area,” Rhodes said.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many operations into turmoil, workers have adapted to their workplace adjustments, and they are continuing to work through these additional difficulties to perform their essential jobs. In addition to classes moving fully online, many student workers are continuing operations at their physical workplaces to assist those in need during this time of panic.