Ordinarily, during the first week of a new job, you wouldn’t expect to be walking out of the office with a box filled with your belongings and still be getting a paycheck… read on to learn about how three of our most recent hires have been coping with #quarantinelife.
On day five of working at CCNY, Governor Cuomo made the announcement that New York State would be beginning social distancing in all non-essential work sites and public places, an executive order that would soon be named New York Pause. And pause, we did. After only a few days of training, we were off to do our jobs from home. As individuals with diverse professional backgrounds, we each faced our own unique set of challenges and triumphs from this new experience. While we have found our stride, working from home has taught us quite a bit about teamwork, communication, productivity, work-life balance, wellness, and how to be the best employees that we possibly can, especially when working conditions are less-than-ideal. We would like to share some of those insights (and daresay, advice) with you!
Kara’s challenges and lessons:
Prior to starting at CCNY, I had never acquired professional experience working remotely. The evaluation and analytics team helped me to make this transition almost effortlessly. CCNY has proven to be a collaborative, supportive work environment in the office and from home. Management, almost immediately, created a structure for our move to remote work. During daily morning calls, the team consistently takes time to recognize each other’s hard work as well as great empathy relative to the circumstances we are all facing. Those in management have maintained, throughout the last two months, a safe place within our virtual office setting to escape from the challenges of remote work for a few minutes of fun such as Show and Tell, PowerPoint Karaoke, and even sending each other memes.
Throughout this process, I have been able to develop an individualized structure for productivity in a remote environment. It has become clear to me that working remotely requires more organization and planning than in my previous office work. At the beginning of each week, I plan out each day of that week, blocking out time for tasks and meetings in advance. Lists have always played a big role in my professional life, but have become more of a tangible resource now. I use them to strengthen my productivity throughout the day, as physically checking something off a to-do list is almost as gratifying as any pat on the back.
It should not go unstated how much of a blessing it is to work for a company that was able to take this pandemic as an opportunity to innovate and allow their employees to continue working. I saw a post on LinkedIn discussing how the pandemic has made people reassess the companies they work for as many have shown their true colors. I can say with complete honesty that CCNY is the color of unicorns and I am so blessed to work with the people I do.
Lisa’s challenges and lessons:
Although I have had success in two remote positions in my professional past, I had no precedent for navigating a transition to working from home in the midst of a pandemic. It was an unusual and quite surreal challenge, but one that I was facing with the help of a very strong and supportive team. Our leadership immediately laid a foundation for frequent, clear and consistent communication, allowing us to share our strengths and obstacles in a constructive way while working to help each other identify resources and strategies to overcome those obstacles. Our colleagues practiced and modeled characteristics of strong teammates, not only by applying their strengths to our shared work and encouraging us to apply our own, but also by emphasizing the importance of wellness and making a point to check in with one another, especially when it seemed as though the pandemic would never end!
Transitioning to remote work has taught me that strong communication is absolutely essential, and I have found success by making sure that I am always identifying where and how I can apply my strengths and skills to our projects. Clarifying goals, asking probing questions, and making sure that I understand what success looks like from the perspective of others has helped me (and my colleagues) to navigate complex projects together. In addition, focusing on wellness has been very important for me, and practicing good habits such as drinking plenty of water and reducing screen time outside of working hours means that I am able to give my personal best each and every day.
Maintaining wellness can mean different things to different people, but if we do not focus on keeping ourselves mentally and physically healthy, a toll is taken on both us and our teams. As a new employee, I can already see how clearly supportive and strong our team at CCNY really is, and out of these challenging times have come a new appreciation for the impact I can have as part of a team. I encourage newly remote workers to reflect upon their professional communication styles and wellness habits, and to always encourage and support others to be their best, despite their obstacles!
Senghor’s challenges and lessons:
This past winter, joining the team at CCNY has been a pleasurable experience throughout the hiring process. On my first day of work, I was excited to be a part of a new team and the possibility to contribute to the organization’s mission and a creative team of professional data analysts and evaluators.
My first week of work was fantastic, I met great colleagues who quickly integrated me into the team and allowed me to get a very good understanding of my working environment. My manager and the executive director have been really awesome in the onboarding process. Our agency usually fosters a laid-back and warm atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable.
After one week on the job, an announcement came from NY that our workplace needed to be closed and sent their employees home because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. I was surprised by the human connections that were suddenly disrupted in the workplace.
A few things I learned from working from home during the pandemic:
1. Working from home still feels like work.
Even though I had some previous workplace experience with working from home, I tend to sometimes consider that as a way to be more focused on work that needs to be done while also enjoying the comfort of my home. But I quickly realized that when working from home becomes the real routine, and it’s actually no different than preparing for work in the morning. I still have to take a shower, dress properly for work in order to look professional on camera, and be on time for my meeting in the morning. The only difference is that I don’t have to grab my keys and drive to work every morning.
2. We save a lot on gas but spend it on food
Well, it’s definitely obvious that when we work from home during a pandemic, we save a lot as we don’t have to go out a lot and spend on gas and lunch… but, wait a minute! Nevertheless, since home suddenly becomes the workplace, the theater, the restaurant, the church, the park in the garden, we definitely sometimes tend to eat a lot and so as a result spend a lot on food, as this is usually the most logical step when you need a break. We usually don’t have that much break in an office setting.
3. We miss the human interactions
In my previous experiences, I used to always say that I’d love to spend more time working but when you are fully immersed in working from home, situations arise where you’d really like to go discuss a project personally with a colleague, take a break for a chat or a joke with someone as to participate in office activities. I think, after some time, we definitely miss the people.
4. We should make staying healthy a top priority
Needless to say, working from home can quickly get overwhelming from trying to focus on a project, taking care of kids running around, etc. Juggling between work and home chores, we sometimes tend to forget the notion of time… it’s very easy to forget that it’s already the of the end of the day or that we tend to work for long hours or sneak in on the network at night until midnight or 1 AM in the morning to finish a project that’s probably due tomorrow or a couple of days after. We tend to easily pass on taking breaks, relaxing, or just get burned out easily! While this habit might help us to be able to deliver projects a little bit earlier, we should always thrive to make health a priority, no matter what. In my work, I tend to take a few breaks from time to time when I have the opportunity, as working with data and solving problems can sometimes make you dream about numbers at night. I have definitely decided to work on staying healthy during this lockdown.
At the end of the day, I think I’m really enjoying the way the organization has quickly redeployed its workforce to effectively work from home. It has really been a nice experience to see that everyone has adapted pretty quickly and the office culture has perpetuated even virtually. While this situation has been great for our professional development, staying healthy should always remain our priority.