2020 has brought a lot of tumultuous changes into our lives. As we head into our seventh consecutive month of working from home (WFH), we interviewed our DSFederal colleagues of all different roles and home lives to check in on how we’re adjusting to remote work.
Overall, responses are overwhelmingly positive as we hear people settling into the new normal. “I adapted myself pretty quickly to WFH mode,” Software Test Engineer Tenki Gu reflects, “my efficiency got restored to full power one week after we started WFH policy and that efficiency lasts on.”
There are also staff members who have been blending remote work into their normal schedule even before the pandemic. Solutions Architect Nigel Shaw, for example, has been working from home frequently in the past 20 years, but he could still feel “the dramatic shift as everybody moved to working from home.”
One obvious upside to WFH is the lack of commute and a less elaborate morning routine that involves more sweatpants than usual.
Nadia Saleh, Project Controller supporting NGITS, finds a much more harmonious work/life balance:
“For me personally, my life is not as stressful and hectic as it was prior to COVID. As a mother of three, I had a very hectic schedule juggling family and work life. But now I actually have the opportunity to spend more time with my family, change up my space, and optimize my schedule.”
Many found productivity an non-issue. “I thought it would be harder to accomplish the necessary things,” Help Desk Specialist Jeffery Lewis explains, “but we probably accomplished more than we thought we could while being remote.”
Though the positivity from our community is encouraging, WFH is far from smooth sailing as it brings a unique set of challenges. The common threads that tie all the responses together are:
Struggles of communicating and maintaining interpersonal relationships
Challenges of sharing a confined workspace at home
Managing time for productivity while setting boundaries to avoid overworking
Communication is the number one area of adaptation in the pandemic-era work life. Tracy Dowtin, Executive Assistant supporting the NIH, says it’s tough to not see her colleagues on a daily basis: “In the office if you have questions and/or need clarity regarding work projects, the response time was faster. We went directly to their cube or office. Now, you have to wait for them to respond via email and/or skype.”
Financial analyst Katherine Miao reveals that her biggest challenge is not communication, but feeling connected. “I feel disconnected sometimes,” Katherine shares, “which rarely happened when working in the office.” Web and Graphic Designer Minda Littman echoes the same sentiment, saying “I really miss having lunch with my coworkers.”
On the other hand, home can become claustrophobic for those of us sharing a home office with our loved ones. According to Minda, “the office that I share with my husband can feel very small when one of us gets on a conference call.” Project Manager Vivian Xu agrees, and amuses that her family is “very territorial” with their space as each family member “takes over one level or corner of the house.”
Optimism Shines Through
Change is hard, especially sudden change catalyzed by things out of our control. But according to DSFederal staff, the outlook is bright. “I've found that everyone is dedicated to the mission,” VP of Administrative Services Angela Alexander assures, “my project teams haven't changed: they continue to be the dedicated professionals they have always been.”
Jeffery Lewis adds that “beyond my team, I learned I work for a great company. They immediately put they’re employees' safety at the forefront and were able to ensure we could accomplish all our tasks remotely.”
Tenki Gu agrees, adding “DSFederal is like a big family and it keeps all of us united. Being e-surrounded by all DSFederalers, made my life full of peace and love during the pandemic. We always say that everyone can be a hero, but I think everyone is already a hero.”
Thank you, DSFederal Heroes.