Telework. How hard can it be?

  • Published
  • By Sharon Singleton
  • Sixteenth Air Force
When I first heard we were going to telework, I thought “Great! How hard can it be?”
When I Imagined myself teleworking from home as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was sitting in my cozy home-office, sipping my morning tea, more productive than ever because telework means without the normal daily office interruptions. Easy. I’ll take it!
I didn’t think about the realities of telework from home: I didn’t consider being at home with four middle and high school children. I didn’t consider having to share the same space and broadband network – our once energetic information super highway, is now a snail’s race track! I didn’t consider the opportunity for up to 23 school teachers, social workers, and medical personnel calling and texting throughout each day. While I am thankful the school district seamlessly transitioned to online learning for my children, I didn’t consider the major role I would need to play in homeschooling.
I didn’t plan for one of my parents to a have stroke in another state; my car’s transmission to fail; and my septic tank to blow out onto the side of my house. Needless to say, week one of teleworking was really crappy. I look forward to having better weeks down the road.
I also failed to realize the decline of my own digital literacy, until my 12-year-old daughter had to show me how to begin a YouTube channel for her online learning. The list of new concepts such as virtual private network (VPN), Outlook Web App (OWA), and remote servers only briefly slowed me down. Actually achieving network connections from a government-issued laptop was a bigger issue – I’m a MAC user.
On top of all this: locating sufficient toilet paper for a family of six with all the store shelves bare. Yes, I was able to acquire what we needed, but it wasn’t easy -- calling multiple stores, tracking truck deliveries, timing shelf stocks, and running to get it between texts and phone calls!
I am sure each and every Airman - active duty or civilian - regardless of rank, is experiencing their own personal trials during this time. Some way more complicated than mine. None of this is easy, but here’s what’s making it better for me:
In addition to my now normal daily home interruptions, I have eight great coworkers, whom I email, text, and call throughout the day to maintain our mission.
We have concerned and thoughtful leadership who not only allow us to put our families first, but they expect us to. We have dedicated and talented Airmen in every career field from medical, food services, security forces, technology to security, working around the clock to ensure we are safe, our computers connect, and our missions operate – with minimal problems. We have civilian Airmen teleworking from home to ensure timesheets are processed, dependent families supported, and we are all still getting paid. I am thankful for the current and factual COVID-19 information, the teleworking links, and leadership videos posted in multiple places.
All of these factors together have made what can feel like an impossible situation, feel possible.
Even with all the craziness, what makes it better for me?
Hearing from Air Force leadership and supervisors that the welfare and safety of the workforce comes first and that we are all in this together.