Rite Aid focuses on remote work in upcoming headquarters change 

Rite Aid’s headquarters in Cumberland County. PHOTO/Markell DeLoatch –

Rite Aid, headquartered in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, plans to relocate its headquarters to Philadelphia as part of a new focus on remote work. 

The national drugstore chain said this month that it will be reimagining its workplace model to do away with office spaces and instead focus on “in-person collaboration and company gatherings” at a new headquarters in Philadelphia. 

As part of the move, Rite Aid plans to open “regional collaboration centers” across the country that will allow its teams to work together when needed. Rite Aid hasn’t announced where these hubs will be located but has confirmed that one will be in the midstate. 

The move to this remote work focus was spurred by an internal survey among Rite Aid’s corporate associates, which found that a vast majority preferred working from home, according to a Rite Aid press release. 

“We’re changing our business from the inside out, and our reimagined workplace is the latest exciting step toward the future of this company,” said Heyward Donigan, CEO of Rite Aid. “We believe in remote work, and as we lean into it for the long term, we are investing in a physical footprint that will facilitate its best version. We’ve heard directly from our associates that teams want and need to meet in-person, and we think we’ve found the right balance between the flexibility of remote work and the power of on-site collaboration.” 

The pharmacy chain currently plans to locate its new headquarters to Philadelphia’s Navy Yard district. The new location would feature space for teams across Rite Aid’s various businesses, including Rite Aid retail, Elixir, Health Dialog and Bartell Drugs. 

“This is about building a reimagined workplace, where our associates have the flexibility they prefer and also have innovative, modern and new spaces that demonstrates a new Rite Aid,” said Brad Ducey, senior manager of external communications at Rite Aid. 

Rite Aid doesn’t expect to see any layoffs as part of the move to Philadelphia and instead is actively hiring and looking to grow its corporate team of 700, according to Ducey. 

The move will allow Rite Aid to occupy a smaller headquarters while still encouraging face to face communication with its associates through the collaboration centers. The remote-work-first attitude will also allow the company to more easily recruit talent no matter their location, said Jim Peters, COO at Rite Aid.  

“This transformation of our workforce brings Rite Aid into the modern era of work. We can recruit the best talent regardless of their location, and we can give our corporate associates the freedom and flexibility that today’s workers crave,” said Peters. “Our new headquarters and collaboration centers will have a unifying effect on our enterprise and serve as an important space for our teams to be together when needed.” 

Rite Aid operates 2,500 retail pharmacy locations across 17 states. It was founded in Scranton in 1962. 

Rite Aid has yet to announce a timeline for its move out of its current headquarters at 30 Hunter Lane, East Pennsboro Township, or what it intends to do with the space. 

If the pharmacy chain does plan to sell the property, any potential buyer would find a modern, well-kept workplace with easy access to downtown Harrisburg, said George Tyson, president of East Pennsboro Township’s Board of Commissioners. 

It’s a great facility, strategically located and surrounded by areas in the midst of development or in the cusp of development,” said Tyson. “Those properties have been snatched up because of the proximity. People that know the area know how strategic it is.” 

Tyson said that Rite Aid has been a great neighbor to the region during its decades in Cumberland County but given the number of significant changes that the business has undergone in recent years, such as its selling of 1,932 Rite Aid stores and three distribution centers to Walgreens in 2017, it was not surprising that the company had plans for a change in headquarters. 

There has always been some awareness that the changes with Rite Aid were probably not finished,” he said. “Given the landscape of the business they are in and previous transactions, we knew that continued changes were going to take place we just didn’t know what they were.” 

CDC updates COVID-19 policies and prevention recommendations for employers

CDC: Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES –

Employers in the Greater Lehigh Valley wondering how to best handle the threat that the coronavirus COVID-19 poses to their workplace can look to the U.S. Centers for Disease control for guidelines.

The website cdc.gov has advice for a number of workplace issues ranging from preventing the spread of the coronavirus to how to handle an employee that may have contracted the virus.

One of the most basic things a workplace can do is keep worksites clean.

The CDC recommends:

Perform routine environmental cleaning:

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.”

It also said employers can do some basic everyday things to prevent the spread of viruses, such as providing tissues and “no-touch” disposal receptacles for employees and reminding employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Soap and water is preferred, and hand sanitizer should contain at least 60-95% alcohol to be effective.

Employers should all make sure there is adequate soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace in multiple locations.

The CDC said it’s also important to have proactive policies in place especially regarding employees who travel:

Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:

  • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Noticesfor the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
  • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illnessbefore starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
  • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.”

Policies should also be in place for employees who may be sick. It said those who do show symptoms should be encouraged to stay home. That could also mean working from home where possible.

If an employee does come in appearing to be sick the CDC warns that there are dos and don’ts.

“The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).”

It’s recommended that employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever, which the CDC defines as 100.4° F or greater and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines, such as cough syrup.

With the desire to keep sick employees out of the workplace where they can infect others, the CDC said companies should ensure that their sick leave policies are flexible and that employees are aware of these policies.

But the CDC warns that employers shouldn’t go too far in “diagnosing” patients with COVID-19.

“To prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace, use only the guidance described below to determine risk of COVID-19,” the CDC said. “Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin, and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19.”

The CDC did say that there is much that is not known about how the virus will, or will not spread.

“The severity of illness or how many people will fall ill from COVID-19 is unknown at this time,” it said. “If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., employers should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed.”



HR expert says contagious disease policies can help stop spread of coronavirus

Now that the COVID-19 coronavirus has appeared in the United States, experts are telling employers that it’s important to have a contagious disease policy in place.

Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, legal editor for XpertHR, a New Jersey-based human resources advisory firm, says written policies help prevent the spread of disease by creating work rules that promote infection control. 

In addition to a contagious disease policy, Gonzalez Boyce recommends that organizations have a written policy to guide business operations when decisions must be made rapidly in any chaotic atmosphere, as in the case of a pandemic, natural disaster or other emergency.

Health emergencies like the coronavirus have the potential to seriously hurt workforces and weaken productivity, she said. She advises employers to prepare by having an emergency plan in place that addresses the following issues:

 Which employees should come to the workplace? Preparations should be made so that as many employees as possible can work from home. This can be done through issuing computers or other equipment for employees to use at home, if possible.

 How will employees find out whether their workplace is closed or otherwise affected? Options to consider are providing a dedicated phone number or website that employees can use to find out the status of their workplace.

 What should be done when employees are too sick to work? There should be a contingency plan in place for ensuring vital duties and functions are handled if an employee is unable to work for an extended period of time.

“Having written policies is beneficial in providing clear communication to all employees, visitors, contractors, consultants and vendors who work with a company impacted by a contagious disease or other disaster,” said Gonzalez Boyce. “When crisis strikes, no one is ever truly prepared. However, in business, management should have measures in place to ensure they are prepared for an emergency ahead of time.”


Here’s the pronoun lowdown: ‘they’ is here

Once upon a time, English pronouns were simple: him/his, her/hers, it/its, they/their.

But even Shakespeare saw limitations with this scant number of options. As far back as 1594, he was bending grammar rules, especially the stricture that a singular noun takes a singular pronoun. From his Comedy of Errors comes this line: “There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me. As if I were their well-acquainted friend.”

This workaround still exists, as when an organization – a single entity – writes with a plural pronoun: “The SPCA is celebrating the pet adoptions they have facilitated.” The effect is certainly more intimate – warm and fuzzy – which fits the SPCA.

Once writers call into question pronouns’ singular/plural assignations, it’s not a huge leap to consider their gender binary as well. As far back as the 1970s, inclusiveness started to chip away at sentences such as “A nurse should always wash her hands” or “A plumber must remember his tools”.

In search of a gender-neutral substitute, writers gave a shot to his or her, but rejected it for wordiness. Again, they stepped to the fore as an answer.

With today’s increasing awareness of gender fluidity, there has been some support for new pronouns. Zie has been suggested to cover both he and she, with variants that include sie, xe, zee. The reflexive versions are hirself (pronounced “here-self”) and zirself.

Whether these substitutes catch on remains to be seen. Until a generic pronoun gains prominence, they seems to be winning by default. It is still occasionally awkward – “Alex is here to pick you up. They will meet you out front.” – but, with time, our ears and keyboards will adapt.

The inventiveness of language will continue to shift and shape the words we have available and the manner in which we use them. Democratic Presidential candidate Cory Booker, D-NJ, used a 2009 word niephew (“nee-few”) to describe his brother’s trans child, sidestepping the restraints of niece or nephew.

For the business communicator, it’s best to be as inclusive as possible when writing. In 1:1 settings, it’s acceptable – preferable, in fact – to simply but courteously ask: “How may I best address you? Is there a pronoun you prefer?”


Dan Weckerly is PR Director at Lehigh Mining & Navigation, an advertising agency in Allentown. He can be reached at [email protected] .

Weighing in on what works best for workplace safety

Ever wonder how to get your employees engaged about safety?

A best practices workshop on workplace safety hosted by Lehigh Valley Health Network last week allowed participants to share what works best for their companies. (Photo by Brian Pedersen) –

Why not step in the shoes of those who are on the production floor and ask them? Or sit on the forklift for a bit and gain the perspective of the driver who may not easily be able to see who’s coming and going, setting up the potential for an accident.

It’s these types of steps that employers say can make a huge difference in how employees prioritize safety.

Companies got the chance to share some of these ideas and more at a recent best practices workshop hosted by Lehigh Valley Health Network in its Mack Building Auditorium in Allentown.

Often, companies do not get the opportunity to learn from other companies on what works best in improving safety in the workplace.

At this event, they got the chance.

With more than 80 people in attendance, participants spent time gathered in small groups for trivia games and discussions that allowed people from a variety of companies to discuss their challenges and successes in addressing workplace hazards.

Officials from the federal Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration office presented the free workshop as a way to help other companies learn new ideas on addressing safety.

With a goal of making the program more interactive and less standard lecture format, the organization divided the day’s workshop into segments that included identifying safety hazards from photos, and trivia games with true or false questions, and discussions on safety and health challenges.

“We’ve got to start cutting down our injuries and illnesses and even workplace fatalities,” said Scott Shimandle, compliance assistance specialist and industrial hygienist for OSHA. “Sharing what other companies are doing goes a long way to achieving that effort.”

In speaking to the audience, Shimandle said employee engagement in safety and health is the most important issue for their organizations.

The groups discussed employee engagement, what they are doing to improve it in their organizations, and the successes and challenges they’ve encountered.

The workshop also allows participants the chance to learn what the Voluntary Protection Programs are, which are open to private sector and federal agency worksites in most industries where OSHA has jurisdiction. Through the VPP, OSHA recognizes workplaces with excellent safety and health management systems and promotes them as model workplaces.

While the best practices workshop is open to all industries, it mainly focuses on those where safety is a more prominent, significant factor in daily work, such as manufacturing, construction and distribution.

Those industries tend to have a higher list of things that could go wrong, said Scott Appnel, manager of business development for HealthWorks Occupational Medicine at Populytics of Allentown.

Many Lehigh Valley employers had employees enrolled for the event, including Crayola, Air Products, Weis Markets, Victaulic, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, Alvin H. Butz, UGI and Boston Beer Co.

Several participants shared details of what worked for them. They discussed the importance of knowing your company’s culture, having the employees do the safety inspections so they can take ownership, and conducting pre-shift meetings so employees know what the safety goals are for that day.

Others said it was important to lead by example and wear the safety gloves, helmets and goggles in the workplace that you expect the employees to wear. Another speaker shared the importance of being aware of language differences and making sure to communicate the safety rules and regulations to employees in a way they can understand.

Others talked about the importance of not running out of safety supplies and having a vending machine available for employees to take new safety gear as needed.

Another speaker talked about how doing an employer perception survey helps employers gain a great deal of improvement on its safety goals.

When upper management can step into the shoes of those on the shop floor and ask them how they go about performing their jobs safely, it can help them gain respect, one of the speakers added. They will also be more apt to change if management can spend some time in their shoes.

Others expressed concerns about why older workers were not taking the younger employees under their wing, while another shared concerns about how a small, rapidly growing company can quickly amend its safety program to fit the growing company.

Others talked about how to engage an aging workforce and the power of incentives in encouraging employees to follow safety rules.

Ray Delfing, environmental health and safety manager for Wheelabrator Technologies Inc., a waste to energy facility in Morrisville, said he helped put the workshop together.

“It’s a good opportunity to get together with people from different industries that you wouldn’t otherwise and just share ideas,” Delfing said. “We’ve got an incentive program that’s based on their [employees] observing of hazards and rectifying them.”

The company rewards the employees with money, but in addition, their ideas for improving safety are moved through the company and people vote on the best one, so employees can win awards for their department.

“That helps with the employee engagement and the motivation within the department,” Delfing said.

UGI has a lot of diverse people and at this workshop, there’s a lot of information that people from the company can use across the board, said Jacque Creamer Jr., safety facilitator at UGI Utilities Inc. in Bethlehem.

“It helps us all,” Creamer said. “It’s nice to pick up and place a face and name together,” Creamer said. “They’ve helped me over the years and it’s been a great experience.”

The workshop offers so many different perspectives and people get to share their successes, which is what companies want to get out of the program, said Kenneth Mueller, a safety manager at Knoll, a manufacturer in East Greenville.