On March 13, CCAHEC Executive Director Lin Browning, with support from the Board of Directors mandated that all non-essential team and service members based out of the CCAHEC Denver office work from home. While this feels like a lifetime ago for some, it was just over three weeks. During this time we have all been adjusting and adapting to the “new normal” of 100% remote work. Luckily, our organization may have been more prepared for this than most. We have two team members who already work from home permanently, and every other member of the team is encouraged to work from home often. However, working from home occasionally and working from home all the time are two entirely different animals. We asked our team to take a few moments and answer some questions about working from home. Spoiler alert: we’re doing pretty well.
What is your favorite part of working from home?
Ashley Hill, Development Director: Flexibility is number one in my book. For example, I have an old dog and just being able to be with him and take him out as much as needed is great. I also love the flexibility of the “lunch hour.” I don’t have to take it 12pm to 1pm. I can go do an online yoga class instead or run to the grocery store.
Kathleen McInnis, Professional Education Manager: No morning commute! Mornings are less stressful, and I have time to prep for the day, without rushing.
Brittany Hill, Professional Education Coordinator: I also love being at home, with my dogs as office partners and being able to either go for a quick hike or have lunch with my husband (who also works from home).
Can you list some struggles you’ve had while working from home?
Ashley: Finding motivation sometimes can be challenging. I am a pretty self sufficient person but when the weather is overcast or snowing and cold, some days it’s hard to get a lot of work done. Currently, my biggest struggle is that more of my family is home all the time and I’m used to working from home by myself. This is challenging because I like to sit down and knock out work but I’m constantly being interrupted which disrupts my work flow. Lastly, I would say that when you’re not allowed to go anywhere really, your home starts to feel like a cage. I have always worked from home for CCAHEC but I could take breaks and leave the house. Now, I feel a bit trapped at my house because all day-every day we are supposed to try to stay isolated.
Brittany: I miss being onsite and seeing peoples faces walking into the office and during lunch.
Lin Browning, Executive Director: My kids are both home, so it takes a bit of extra time to ensure they are fed, are getting their school work done, and are keeping their voices down.
Is there new technology that you’re using now that you never did or rarely did before?
Kathleen: MS Teams works well and also helps with the isolation! Brittany and I can chat or banter about non-work related stuff or our kids, like we would do if we were working in the same office!
And of course, Zoom, but we were using that before…
Brittany: TEAMS! I use Teams daily to communicate with staff and just say hi.
Lin: I have spent the last few years almost exclusively in Zoom but I am using new virtual backgrounds! Some days I like to use silly ones like scenes from The Office, or giant kittens. It is important to keep people smiling.
What are you doing for entertainment?
Ashley: I am learning Spanish online right now so when my brain feels like mush, I take some lessons. I also am an avid reader so I will go outside on our patio and read. I have Class Pass which has free online videos so I’ve been doing yoga and barre classes online. I spend a lot of time walking my dog and most recently, I wake up in the morning before people are out and do a 4 mile walk. This helps me fulfill the need to get out of the house. My husband and I have started to go to random State Parks and do 5-7 mile hikes which helps center my mind quite a bit.
Lin: Lots of walks, getting my garden started, listening to music and lots of yoga!
Have you started using any new online services? If so, what are they?
Brittany: My routine online has actually decreased. I am taking this time to enjoy bonding with my family. However, I do Face time frequently.
Lin: I am using the King Sooper app for food order/pickup and signed up for Bed Bath and Beyond online. I NEED to keep my carbonated water going! I also downloaded the Down Dog yoga app. I am definitely using Venmo a lot more, especially to pay my online yoga instructor and my neighbor for making Costco and Natural Grocers runs for me.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with working from home or never has before?
Ashley: Take it one day at a time and know that everybody’s “work from home” style is different. Some people need to dress up to feel productive, some people need to work at the crack of dawn before the kids wake up, others need to alternate between sitting and standing all day. There isn’t a one size fits all to working online so be patient and learn what works for you. Working from home can be very empowering but it can also be lonely so take the breaks you need and try out some different techniques to stay engaged.
Kathleen: Set a schedule. Since I work part time, I initially didn’t follow a set schedule and would work a few hours here and a few there. That made it hard to concentrate and plan out my days. I now have a set schedule and close down my computer when not working. I walk away from my desk at the end of the day, to tell myself that I am done with work and concentrate on family.
Set up a specific work space or office so you can “go to work” and leave work.
Get your most important tasks done early in the day, while you have good energy.
Get up and walk around, get a beverage; since we don’t walk down the hall to meetings, or drive to meetings, etc., it is easy to get stuck staring at the screen for long spurts of time. Set a timer if needed and get up and walk around for a few minutes.
Lin: What I tell staff all the time…dress for the day. You should be presentable as if you are meeting with a board director or community partner. I put my nametag on each morning. It helps me shift my mindset. Also, take breaks. Get up. Move!
Do you have any funny stories?
Ashley: This isn’t a funny story but it’s a cute one. My best friend’s birthday was last week and all her friends and family got online to surprise her and sing her happy birthday. She was so shocked and thankful that we took the time to say happy birthday even though none of us can really “celebrate” the traditional way right now. One family had donuts covered in candles. Some of us put on happy birthday hats. It was so adorable.
Brittany: Tuesday, I was on the phone with a student helping her access Evolve. Brielle tried to go outside and ran straight into the glass door. Luckily, she got up right away and said ouch, got a juice box and then crawled under my desk with her iPad. I could not help but crack up! It is always amazing to have continuous laughter!
After life returns to normal, do you think you’ll want to work from home more often than you did before?
Brittany: Absolutely, working from home has become a routine for me and helps save time throughout the day.
Lin: Since I have been working from home for the majority of my time this year, I’d say the opposite! I’m going to want to be in the office more! I miss my team mates, Pat’s laughter, and my plants.
Now that you don’t have a commute, what are you doing with your free time?
Kathleen: Getting more sleep! Reading the news, checking in with friends/relatives.
Brittany: Instead of commuting to work I enjoy my coffee, go on walks, have alone time, exercise or start work early.
Lin: I am sleeping in an extra half hour and added 15 minutes to my morning yoga. Also taking more time to be gentle with myself and not rush. And feed those hungry boys breakfast!
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about for your programs and/or role at CCAHEC?
Ashley: I’m a person that thrives on change. So I look forward to seeing how we can restructure our CCAHEC programs to fit the new needs of our communities post COVID-19. We were already looking for a way to conduct our DPP classes online with our physically impaired participants and this pandemic is allowing us to test this out earlier than we could have imagined. I’m also looking forward to seeing the change in health policy and workforce as it evolves.
Kathleen: The shut down forced us to get the final exam online- while this has been a goal for awhile, I was stressed about it not being “good enough” and that I didn’t have the requisite experience to do it “right”. Now that the RN exam is online, I have gained a lot of confidence and look forward to finishing the LPN exam and continuing with course improvements to make our CCAHEC Refresher program be the best it can be!
Brittany: I am so excited to expand the RN/LPN Refresher program! Kathleen and I have a list of improvements we would love to make over the year and we have tackled many of them. It will be incredible to see if we can promote the program to out of state students.
Lin: I am excited to see how our programs modify, innovate, and adjust to meet the needs of our communities. I am hoping we can expand our Community Opioid Response Program to double our members and expand on the program components to include behavioral health aspects of substance use and misuse.