Students work as essential workers during pandemic

Oliver Cary, Managing Editor & Senior Assistant to the Advisor

Infographic by Oliver Cary

During these unprecedented times, businesses are deemed able to stay open based on whether they are essential or not. Some of the essential workers working in those businesses during this pandemic are also students at our school. According to Fox News, an essential worker is someone that performs work involving the safety of human life and the protection of property, whether that be on the front lines or behind the register.

Senior Sydney Bragalone, who works at Portillo’s Hot Dogs, spoke about the new precautions implemented within the pandemic work environment. Though things are different, many employees have adapted and overcome the challenges that working more carefully has brought.

“All our employees must be wearing masks,” Bragalone said. “Even if you don’t directly interact with customers, like many other fast-food chains. We have been closed off other than the drive-thru for customers. Our managers remind us every hour to wash our hands to [further] lessen the spread of germs.”

Putting safety as the number one priority means limiting the amount of time someone is around others, especially for fast-food employees such as Bragalone. Even with the additional provisions to aid in keeping every worker safe, limitations of human contact are still necessary. 

“Before the pandemic, I could work 3-4 times a week, and now with reduced hours for everyone, I’m lucky to have two shifts in one week,” Bragalone said. “I also used to work as a cashier, and now I’m needed to help in the drive-thru, something I wasn’t originally set to do.”

Bragalone is not alone in needing to learn and do new things in order to complete changes in working tasks. Another student, senior Maggie Moran, is currently employed at Chick-Fil-A, which almost mirrors Portillo’s precautions.

“The workplace looks more cautious and aware,” Moran said. “We are constantly changing our gloves and washing our hands, and every team member is required to wear a mask at all times. We are strongly encouraged to stand six feet apart from all customers and even coworkers.”

Both Bragalone and Moran have felt the pressure that this “new normal” has brought to us, but like we are all able to, they adapted. Bragalone, for example, started not long ago and immediately had to change her mindset and skills to fit these extraordinary times.

“I started working at this job in January,” Bragalone said. “But, just a couple weeks after I got trained and adjusted to the job, my role changed as an employee, and I had to readjust to fit into this new dynamic.” 

As the drive-thrus get busier, those at home seem to get less occupied and increasingly more bored. During quarantine, we all may get a case of cabin fever, and Moran is no different. She has been an employee of Chick-Fil-A since last April, and she said that being able to get out of the house and work is excellent because it’s something to do to keep you busy – besides distance learning school.

However, the changes that the pandemic has brought go further than fast-food restaurants and homes of the workers. Many, including Bragalone, ponder and reflect on why they are working during these times.

“I’m working as an essential worker because next semester, in college, I’m going to need money to pay for tuition, housing, and other costs that come with school,” Bragalone said. “I worked before the pandemic changed the world. My other option was unpaid leave. I figured by staying working, I could kill two birds with one stone by continuing to get at least some money saved up for my near future but also having an opportunity to get fresh air from a family I now get to see all day, every day.”