Cover Photo by Dan Girard
At AINS, fall is the busiest season of the year. The end of the federal fiscal year, our annual hosted user conference, and the November rollout of new versions of eCase and FOIAXpress have kept employees working tirelessly these past few months. Now in our eighth month of telework, it is more important than ever to find ways to stay connected and up-to-date. For our fall newsletter, we decided to check in again with AINS employees to share their fall experiences on teleworking, holidays, and hobbies.
How did you spend Halloween this year?
“There wasn’t any trick-or-treating in my neighborhood this year. But we were still able to warm up some apple cider and turn on the various movie marathons that were on TV to get into the vibe.”
– Kyle Bishop, Proposal and Marketing Manager
For many this year, COVID-19 got in the way of usual Halloween rituals such as trick-or-treating and costume parties. About two-thirds of respondents said they spent the holiday at home or watching movies. Other notable activities included baking cookies, carving pumpkins, and spending time with friends. Technical Writer Joshua Moyer “took part in a local animal shelter fundraiser, where [his] dog ate a personal pumpkin pie.”
Several employees noted that trick-or-treating in their area had been canceled, and those who participated saw only a few trick-or-treaters at their doors. Still, some employees were able to get creative. “Halloween was not cancelled in Washington County,” said Senior Implementation Specialist Denise Viola, “so we were able to trick-or-treat in our socially distanced costumes (inflatable dinosaurs!) and make a night of it.”
What are you looking forward to these next few winter months?
I look forward to spending (virtual) time with family and friends, closing some of my projects, and cooking holiday meals with [my partner] Tabitha these next few winter months.”
–Juan Gonzalez, Software Implementation Specialist
As Denise Viola said, “[t]his pandemic has really helped us all focus on what’s truly important,” and so it’s no surprise that many employees are looking forward to the holidays as a time to reconnect with family, whether distanced or in-person. Many respondents expressed hope for continued health and the possible containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, the winter also presents a time for seasonal activities, such as home decorating, hiking, and staying cozy by the fire. As one respondent said, “I am a big fan of hiking and some amateur outdoor photography, so the winter provides a great time to do both.”
Many respondents are also hoping for snow. Readers may recall that last year, Washington, D.C. saw very little snow fall. This year, however, meteorologists are forecasting significantly more snow. A Florida native, Software Tester John Collier said he is looking forward to “living in snow for the first time.” Here’s hoping for a snow-filled season!
Has your telework experienced changed at all since March? If so, how?
“Teleworking continues to support a very efficient workday. There is very little difference between being in the office and teleworking.”
– Brian McCloskey, Recruiting Manager
About half of respondents reported little-to-no change in their telework experience since March. Reported change has been positive, from increasing productivity and adjusting to increased flexibility, to eliminating the stress and cost of travel and expenses. As Senior Program Manager Michael Eidelkind noted, “[telework has] become very ‘normal.’ Going back to the office for the AINS User Conference actually felt foreign to me.”
One of the unique challenges to working from home is being able to have a defined office to optimize productivity and facilitate work-life balance and separation. Many employees made changes to make this space more comfortable, such as adding new chairs and office equipment. Other employees were required to move spaces for various reasons. Whether having a baby, moving house, or kids starting school, life can easily get in the way of a home office.
How has your opinion on remote work/remote activities changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?
“The pandemic really demonstrated the ability of our team to come together and sustain productivity no matter where we are.”
– Kyle Bishop, Proposal and Marketing Manager
Opinions on remote work have remained largely positive. Several respondents stressed the need for maintaining work-life balance for a positive outlook. The biggest downside to telework employees expressed was the inability to see coworkers for social and “collaborative” reasons.
One respondent remarked how the pandemic has completely changed their outlook on remote work: “I used to prefer working in the office, largely because I felt more productive there and had a better office setup. But with technology what it is today, and getting a brand new home-office setup, I feel very comfortable and efficient working from home.” Many employees expressed this sentiment, noting the lack of commute as one of the greatest benefits.
A few respondents also pointed to other areas in their life where virtual tools have changed how they interact with others, from communicating with family members to mentoring students remotely. As one employee said, these tools have been available for a while, but with the pandemic, “now the government, businesses, and their executives have all seen that full-time telework is an option.”
Do you have any favorite new activities/books/movies/etc. to recommend?
“Get outside, ride a bike, take a walk, and maximize your time with the family.”
– Hodford Brown, Business Analyst/1102 Subject Matter Expert
Many respondents recommended staying active through frequent walks, exercise, and hiking. They also recommended hobby activities such as gardening, baking, and photography. As one employee notes, “I think hiking provides a good physical challenge, as well as a much needed step back from technology and smartphones. Being able to breath fresh air and stand out in nature can do wonders for supporting strong mental health.” For indoor exercise while you work, another employee recommended DeskCycle (deskcycle.com).
Recommended movies: Hereditary (Horror, 2018), Face/Off (Action/Crime, 1997)
Recommended TV shows: The Mandalorian (Disney +), The Right Stuff (Disney +), The Queen’s Gambit (Miniseries, Netflix)
Recommended books: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Union by Colin Woodard, The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte