A "Work-at-Home" Nation Adjusts to New Reality Amid Coronavirus Fears, Resolves to "Flatten the Curve"
As the global response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) strengthens, governments worldwide are being forced to take extreme actions to help “flatten the curve” in an effort to gain back control over the spread of this new virus.
Among the measures being taken by several states, including Pennsylvania, is mandated “social distancing.” The recommendation from health professionals is for limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people to prevent community spread of the virus. As a result, non-essential businesses are closed, restaurants are limited to curbside pickup and delivery only and residents are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.
For some companies, the new mandates on social distancing have created a conundrum: their employees are now required to work from home unless they are part of an essential service such as grocery store workers, gas station attendants and healthcare professionals. The sudden move to a 100 percent remote workforce has posed some unique problems.
As working professionals enter week two of this new work-at-home reality, some have agreed to share their experiences and how they are adapting to the sudden change.
Samantha Supernaw, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice in Texas, said she has never worked from home until now. The shift from in-office sessions to remote-only sessions was a difficult and time-consuming one. “Instead of enjoying the spring break I had planned, I spent the last week preparing to provide telehealth/teletherapy services to all of my clients and supervisees.” The change required Ms. Supernaw to find a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform to use, working with various insurance agencies to understand their unique requirements, developing a new informed consent form and reviewing the new protocol with each client prior to their session. “It was like starting my business all over again in some ways.”
The one tip she said she would offer any professional now working from home – but especially healthcare workers such as herself – is to use a separate room in your home with a door that can be closed if available. To ensure patient privacy while working from home, Ms. Supernaw said she has employed the use of a white noise machine so that other occupants of her home are unable to hear her sessions.
Riva Mann of New Jersey owned and operated a spa party business. When New Jersey Governor issued a “stay-at-home” order for all workers, Mrs. Mann said her only choice was to stop working entirely. “It’s impossible to have a business that involves groups and touching people,” she said. “I’m both sad and relieved about that. A products business that I run with a friend also is on hiatus, as event are right now all cancelled, but maybe someday we’ll do it again when this is over.”
Mrs. Mann and her husband also own a hot tub repair business. Because the business is considered essential, they have been able to continue operating it. Still, they are taking precautions to protect themselves and their clients. “We are practicing social distancing when he works, not doing indoor tubs for now, just outside where he can work on his own, and he also has gloves and bleach wipes he carries with him for use. I also am talking to clients about the social distance expectations.”
The best piece of advice Mrs. Mann said she can offer others is to make a daily schedule with things to accomplish and scratch them off as they are completed. “It’s easy to free float and procrastinate if you’re not disciplined.”
For Pennsylvania couple Beth and Brad Wentz, the adjustment to working full-time at home, while raising their six children, has been a bit rough. Mrs. Wentz is a supervisor for an in-home behavioral therapy nonprofit, while Mr. Wentz works as a banker. Mrs. Wentz is a little more used to working at home, as she previously worked a flexible schedule that allowed her to work from home at least three days per week. Mr. Wentz had previously only worked an average of one day per week from home.
“The kids busting in the room when I am on a conference call has been the biggest challenge for me,” said Mr. Wentz.
“The biggest challenge for me has been being able to maintain productivity with my job, while making sure my 12th grader, 8th grader, 6th grader and first grader are following what their teachers are requiring,” said Mrs. Wentz. “I find myself doing anything I don’t get done during the day work-wise after everyone goes to bed.”
The school district the Wentz’s children currently attend is closed through May 1, but is providing remote education to students. Required work is being sent electronically; parents must oversee the work to ensure it is being completed by the deadlines. It has thrown a monkey wrench into the situation for many working parents who now find themselves attempting to be productive at their jobs from home, while supervising their children’s daily education.
One of the ways Mrs. Wentz said she is handling the double duty is by being honest with her children’s teachers about how much they can pull off given their current circumstances. “We are doing the best we can,” she said. “I am lowering my usual expectations for grades and screen time, and remembering that my children will always remember this time, so I am trying to make it fun and memorable.”
Marilyn Adams, a second grade teacher for 33 years in Pennsylvania, said students are not the only ones adjusting to the new work-and-learn from home reality. Mrs. Adams said the biggest challenge now is not being able to work directly with her students. “I can send information and lessons to the parents, but I’m not there to personally deliver the instruction.”
Mrs. Adams said she remains optimistic and engages in creative ways to keep in touch with her students during remote learning. “I am staying connected to the kids via technology – videos and iPad apps that allow me to provide real-time feedback. This is reassuring to the little ones in this time of uncertainty.”
Working at home can be difficult regardless of the job. Mrs. Adams said she encourages everyone to take it one day at a time. “Be patient and flexible and allow time for mistakes. It’s only been a few days, and I’ve learned so much already.”
About the Author
Shari L. Berg is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience.
Writing is not just a career for Shari. It is her passion. From poetry to short stories, feature stories and blog posts, Shari has spent a lifetime perfecting her art.
She is a published author of "Wars End With Me," (2018) and "Pioneer Proud: Celebrating 50 Years of Butler County Community College" (2015).