In the pre-coronavirus era, the workday consisted of waking up early to beat the morning traffic. Work clothes were planned the night before to save time for breakfast, which was sometimes eaten on-the-go. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted workplace operations, with most of Guam’s businesses shifting to telework.
As with many other changes imposed by the public health emergency mandates on our daily routines, working from home is something that we are still trying to perfect, and its pros and cons we are still trying to weigh.
A.P., a forensics scientist who recently returned to his lab, wishes he could be more productive when teleworking. “Because I wasn’t physically at the lab, I lacked material to work on,” he said. “I’d be easily distracted, because I had no supervisor in the room telling me what to do, so I'd slack off.”
Working in forensics, A.P. was often called to trial as an expert witness. However, because of the social distancing mandate, A.P. has not been called to court lately. “The justice system did slow down because the courts also shut down during PCOR1,” he said.
Having less responsibilities allowed this scientist to relax while teleworking. “An advantage of teleworking was not having to travel to the office and not having to dress up. So, that would give me extra time to sleep in,” he said.
Now that he is back in the office, A.P. feels more productive compared to working at home. “Lab work in the office is way better,” said the scientist. “Because I would have the materials to perform my lab tests. Whereas at home, all I can do is paperwork, which is still important but it's weird not doing physical lab work when your job is to do physical lab work.”
While Guam senators have been holding face-to-face sessions, legislative staff employees are still teleworking. Dr. Michael Bevacqua, who works for Sen. Kelly Marsh Taitano, is learning to appreciate working from home. “Even though Guam’s a small island, before the pandemic, a lot of my days would be taken up with driving from place to place. Now I get more hours to work within the day, because I don’t have to go from place to place.”
Going from one meeting to the next just means logging out of one Zoom room and into the next one. “In a way, it adds extra productivity and saves money for gas,” he said.
Although he tries to stay positive, Bevacqua is still creating his flow with teleworking. With distractions abound, one must learn self-discipline. “Productivity relies on separating things in your life, like being able to separate leisure space and work space. If I have work to do, but I'm around my kids and they want to play a board game or watch a movie, I get distracted from doing my work,” he said. “Sometimes too, it’s just being close to my video games or books or anything else, it can be so distracting. If your workspace is near the place you sleep, sometimes it’s so easy to want to nap.”
Another challenge is trying to work around his children. "Sometimes it’s hard to focus in the day, because I have to help the kids with their school,” Bevacqua said. “The workday gets pushed around so it’s spread out into the night, too. Sometimes I do stuff for the office at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., because I'd be helping my kids and doing other things, so I have to go back to my work later. A lot times tele-officing can be more flexible.”
But Bevacqua finds himself most productive at coffee shops. “With coffee shops being closed, all of the work now needs to be done at home,” Bevacqua said.
While he used to dream about working from home, Bevacqua now finds boundaries are lost. “Home is where I read after a long day, where I paint, where I hang out with my kids,” he said. “Having a dedicated workspace for an office can be helpful.”
For Akina Chargualaf, marketing communications coordinator at the University of Guam Press, teleworking has been an interesting journey. “Working from home strengthens your relationship with your team because you are all accountable to each other,” she said. “Also, working from home allows you to create a working space that best fit your needs.”
Because her office is now at home, Chargualaf feels that she must reformat her work-life balance with teleworking. “One disadvantage I feel, which I’ve also heard from others teleworking, is that it’s hard to switch off work time for leisure time,” she said. “I feel like I have more on my plate now that I’m working from home versus working in the office. After the office, when I come home, I’d be able to turn off my brain and do things to unwind whereas when I’m working from home, it feels like there’s always something more I can do. That gets really exhausting. I’ve been feeling more exhausted.”
Chargualaf uses technology to help her stay focused. “Because I’m full-time and I have to put in 40 hours of work, I started using different apps that track different tasks, like Clockify,” she said. “I use the Pomodoro technique, spending 20-25 uninterrupted minutes on a task before taking a short break. Also scheduling breaks in-between helps. For example, between 12 noon and 1 p.m. I set time to a meditation and eat lunch away from my computer.”
Chargualaf’s perseverance illustrates how one can still find balance and efficiency during this public health crisis.
Especially when millions across the nation are experiencing poverty, it is vital for those who are still employed to stay positive despite the change in work situation. The new normal will not be better or worse than the old normal, but certainly one can find a way to stay productive.