Moving homes in the middle of a pandemic

Edmonton moving company Eager Beaver Moving have been swamped with work all of March despite the pandemic, but the company is taking extra measures to keep their employees and customers safe.

Edmonton company taking extra precautions to keep employees and customers safe

John Watson is the owner of Eager Beaver, a moving company located in South Edmonton. (Scott Neufeld/CBC News)

Edmontonians have had to postpone travel plans, weddings, and birthdays due to the pandemic, moving homes can still go ahead.

That's due to moving companies being deemed an essential service. Eager Beaver Moving, a company based in south Edmonton, continues to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been kept busy.

"The last three weeks have been insane, we have been completely swamped," said owner John Watson.

Watson said the company has a number of measures in place, listed on their website for customers to know. They work to thoroughly disinfect trucks and equipment used as well as ask employees to regularly wash their hands.

The company also has measures for customers to follow, including keeping a safe distance from employees, not bringing in extra people to help, and doing a wellness check where they call their customers a day before a move to make sure they are healthy. 

But despite all these measures, Watson still finds sending his crew into people's homes stressful. 

"I feel really anxious about sending my people out there," Watson said. "I almost sometimes wish that we were just shut down so it would make it easier, but then of course you would have the financial stress that everybody else is living with."

Some of Watson's crew members — those living with senior parents or with kids who have compromised immune systems — decided to self-isolate and stay at home. His full staff of 22 movers is down to only 16.

"We had to hire new guys to make up for the shortfall," he said.

To keep his employees safe, Watson is currently on the lookout for masks and gloves but has had trouble finding them.

"You phone suppliers and unless you have ordered them in the past, they are not selling them to you," he said. 

Watson credits the busy schedule not only to the pandemic — he believes many people who had put off moving to later months are now doing it earlier — but also because he claims some moving companies will cancel at the last minute if they believe it's not safe for them to operate. He said he has received calls from customers that were cancelled on from other companies. 

'I cannot imagine the stress'

One of Watson's customers, Bernadine Whitford, actually had to put off moving due to quarantine. 

She was supposed to move sometime at the end of March but had to go into quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel. She hired Eager Beaver for her move on Saturday. 

Whitford said the company came highly recommended and she appreciated the extra precautions that were listed in the email they sent her. 

"I don't feel like I'm going to Lysol everything as soon as I get home," she said. "They are very conscientious and I appreciate that a lot."

Despite content customers, Watson said he still worries about his staff. 

"Especially in apartment buildings, you are riding up in elevators, people are touching stuff, it's a very anxious time for them," he said. "I cannot imagine the stress that they must be feeling."

Watson said he tries to be there for his crew and listen to them if they ever need to talk.

"That's often all they really need to do," he said.

Although they had a busy run in March, Watson believes business might slow down as the pandemic continues. 

"I think we are really going to feel a slowdown in a month or two," he said.