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2 Years of COVID… Am I Doing This Right? Part 2: Virtual, Hybrid, In-Person, Oh My!

By Alexis Eades

In my last Am I Doing This Right, I told you we’d focus on three things this time around: the bigger picture of what two years of COVID means, what our company has been doing in response, and dealing with day-to-day stress of a world that is partially in the office and partially virtual.

Big Picture: Same Storm, Different Boats

A year ago, at this moment, I was working on my laptop from my bed. Wearing pajamas, I was looking forward to a warm, homemade lunch from my kitchen. As I type this, I am wearing work clothes and work shoes (oof). I know my lunch is going to be microwaved food that I spent almost an hour prepping last night. But I’ve also had four different conversations so far today with different coworkers. Is either situation all good or all bad? No way. Both have ups and downs, so I’ve been thinking about what might make the recent changes easier. (Note, as I edit this paragraph, I’m back at home due to the most recent variant. Telling, eh?)

A lot of people have been going to the office again every day for a long while now. But a lot of people are still experiencing changes. Some may have started coming in last summer. But then stopped because of Delta. Then came back in again. And stopped again because of the newest variant, Omicron. Whew. Some might feel like an expert, while others might still be adjusting to being totally virtual or hybrid. Summer and school, and winter break and school delays, and whether schools and day/after-care are fully open or not, also have an impact on some. Everyone is experiencing this differently. We all have different family responsibilities, health concerns, and job requirements. So, I acknowledge that the reality I’m describing may not be your experience specifically!

Company Level: COVID Response

In the beginning of the pandemic, we mostly went virtual. (People who worked in-person in the field, I see you!) Our President, Kevin Haney, began sending weekly companywide updates, which eventually became monthly. HR organized virtual bonding events like trivia and game nights, talent shows, and comedians while the company operated primarily remotely. The Women’s Organization hosted Donna Cardillo, RN, CSP, FAAN , who presented a webinar about dealing with change.

Our company created an official COVID-Response Team. They sent out surveys to gauge how people felt about the firm’s response to the pandemic. One of our internal organizations, The Association, launched an official initiative called COVID Lessons Learned and Best Practices. I asked Senior CADD Manager Marlon Aguilar about his experience being a part of it. He said, “As a Senior Associate, I’m always looking into get involved with company programs. When we started on this initiative at the beginning of 2021, we gathered feedback from employees to help the company make future decisions. We collected this information and formulated a report. We believe the results of our initiative will help the company adjust business processes and tactics and create best practices that will improve daily operations in this hybrid/remote working environment. The goal is for the information obtained from our employees to strengthen the company’s preparedness for future emergencies like this.”

I like that our company asked the employees directly for their opinion on this whole situation. Obviously, they can’t make everybody happy, not by a long shot. And the experience of an employee in one state or in one role may have been different than another person. I know engineers who spent more time in the field than usual, while I primarily wrote on Word from home. Like I said, same storm, different boats. Nonetheless, I appreciate the employees who took the time to work on the company’s COVID Lessons Learned and Best Practices.

Day to Day: What are People Saying?

Graphic Designer Victoria Garett joined the firm as a remote employee back in November 2020.  She was very excited to come into the office a few days a week starting summer of 2021. “We did so many video meetings that of course I had established relationships with my team members when we were virtual. But it was great to actually meet everyone face-to-face!” she said. I know what she means. Meeting her in person really confirmed my assumption that she was a very cool gal!

Digital Designer Elizabeth Bell said something else that I agree with: “My household is quiet, so it’s easier to stay on-task and distraction-free when I’m working from home.”  I agree, I also have less distractions at home. So, I like that my week includes days to really get my tasks done at home and days in the office to bond with my team. In this post-pandemic world of fluidity, I like that each day looks a little bit different. I like that it’s not all-or-nothing.

Day to Day: What Can You Do?

That’s not to say that going from totally virtual to part-virtual-part-in-person is easy. Especially because we can’t know for sure what’s going to happen in the future with this pandemic. As an individual, that can be stressful. However, there are a few things we can all do to relieve some of that personal stress. 

  • masks for covid responseMake your Office a Better Space for Productivity – Back in the office but feel less productive than when you are home? One thing you might not have thought about it the importance of making your work station conducive to creativity. Apparently, workers who personalize their space have greater place identity, which translates to improved workplace engagement and greater satisfaction.
  • Meals – My coworkers mentioned how one of the hardest parts of being in the office is facing the thought of eating peanut butter sandwiches after a year of being able to make hot lunches at home. And while some might opt to order takeout or go to the cafeteria, that quickly adds up financially. Doing things like meal prepping or meal planning can help bridge that gap between home and office.
  • Sleep – Everyone says it, but it’s really the truth. Get on a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at roughly the same time every night and getting up at around the same time every day, whether it’s a day you’re at home or in the office, will make your life easier.
  • Again, we hear the advice, “Plan ahead” – Victoria said that she lays everything out the night before the days she plans to go into the office. I do this too. It helps add structure for my evening so I can be sure I’m in bed by whatever time I choose. Then, in the morning, I can be sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I usually know which days I’m working from home and which I’m in the office, so I also plan my meals, shower schedule, and laundry schedule around that too.

What’s the Bottom Line?

If Part 1 taught us to recognize burnout and take steps to deal with the mix of stressful personal lives and work, I hope Part 2 helped you to check in with how your past two years have gone in a bigger picture way, to look up and look around at what your colleagues might be feeling, and to think about what you can do if you’re still adjusting.

Here’s hoping your “new normal” (we all cringed reading that, right?) gets easier in 2022 (knock on wood now, everybody). Year 3 of having COVID and quarantine and rapid tests be a part of my vocabulary, here we go… I’ll see ya next time I ask “Am I Doing This Right?”

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