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Recognizing a Changing Workplace: Diversity and Workplace Culture
Publication Date
July 22nd 2020

Recognizing a Changing Workplace: Diversity and Workplace Culture

For nearly a year as we approach our 60th anniversary, we have celebrated Urban Engineers’ culture, people, and projects. In honor of our anniversary in August, we asked staff to reflect on changes in our workplace culture and diversity. Read on for staff responses.



Changes in Diversity 

Urban is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and being a consciously diverse employer. We discussed our efforts to increase diversity in a blog post in April. To learn more, we spoke with Oscar Bustos – an Urban associate vice president and project manager – who is helping introduce a diversity and inclusion committee:


Why is having a diverse workplace important? 

Oscar Bustos: Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are important because they allow all employees to feel accepted and valued. When employees feel welcome, they are happier in their workplace and stay longer. As a result, they are more dedicated to that company. Organizations with greater diversity in the workplace have lower turnover rates, are more productive, and can provide better service to their clients.


What are some of the benefits, not just for Urban, but for potential diverse candidates? 

Oscar Bustos: A diverse workplace is appealing to potential candidates. Diversity widens the pool of candidates and increases opportunities to bring talent to Urban. It also promotes diversity of thought and experience. This all leads to a better work product.


What are some of the challenges to creating a more diverse workplace?

Oscar Bustos: Some of the challenges in creating a more diverse workplace include communication issues, hostility, and retaining talent. It is important for organizations to consciously recruit diverse talent, and then retain staff by offering new opportunities and showing respect. 


Changes in the Workplace 

The “Urban Family” is a term that has been used throughout Urban’s 60 years. Our family culture has strengthened and extended outside the walls of the office and into the homes of our staff. We value employee needs and have used technology to adapt and enable staff to strike a balance that works for them. We spoke with several employees about their experiences: 



How did you decide that you needed to manage your family and work balance? 

Jaimie Younkins: When we decided to have kids, it was important to me to be able to spend extra time at home with them. Working part time gave me that extra time at home, while still allowing me to continue my career and gain additional experience. 

Susan Dondero-Dores: When my husband and I decided to have children, I knew that I wanted to continue working because that was how I identified myself. After my daughter was born, I returned to work at 32 hours per week. Then two years later, my son was born, and I again returned to work at that same part-time schedule. I left the firm to focus on my children full time as they became school age and needed more attention. I was able to occasionally work from home for Urban when project time was available. After 10 years of raising my children – as well as volunteering and working as a substitute teacher – I was able to return to Urban again full time.


How did you developed a plan for managing family and work? 

Dale Russell: My wife and I split the duties of managing our children based on proximity to work. My wife has a more flexible schedule than me since I was bound to the regional rail schedules. We set it up for her to do mornings, me to do nights. It has morphed a bit as the kids have gotten older, but having flexibility was important. 

Jaimie Younkins: When I was pregnant with my daughter, I talked to my manager about returning part time after my maternity leave. I appreciated being able to keep my career and have time with my child. I have been working part time for a little over five years. I have been very fortunate that I have not had to miss any life or school events. My manager is very flexible. I'm able to change my work days each week if needed. I can also modify my schedule to attend work meetings or meet deadlines. 


Do you feel Urban supports your choices?

Lawrence Mussio: I do feel Urban supports my choices. The firm has helped me use the Families First Coronavirus Response Act option to supplement my hours. I seem to need it throughout the week. Many of the executives in the firm have families, so they understand what others in the firm with families are dealing with at this time.


lawrence mussio workplace culture

Has working from home during the pandemic made you rethink any work/life challenges? 

Jaimie Younkins: Yes. In our current situation, my team knows that if they need to get a hold of me when I am off, that they are able to and I am always willing to help. Working from home has provided that flexibility.

Lawrence Mussio: The pandemic has helped me realize that I can be productive at home. We were able to turn our guest bedroom into an office, and my wife intends to work from home a lot more going forward. 


What boundaries have you put in place to protect your work and life balance? 

Susan Dondero-Dores: I have not needed to put any boundaries in place. With my husband and I both working for Urban in the highway department, taking a break from work and turning it off is difficult. I have only one very important boundary, and that is no work at our shore house. My husband Gus and I may talk about work, but project work is not allowed!