At AINS, we are nearing a full year of social distancing and telework. But despite the separation, we are finding ways to stay connected—either through weekly check-ins, occasional happy hours, or the employee newsletter. For the Winter 2021 newsletter, we asked AINS employees to share their thoughts on the COVID vaccine, holiday experiences, future hopes, and more. Read their responses and our takeaways, below:
1. How did you spend the winter holidays this year?
“Spent it with my wife and dog, making lots of hot chocolate and watching movies. We had a baby in January!” – Kyle Bishop, Proposal and Marketing Manager
Most respondents (about 85 percent) reported staying home with immediate family for the holidays. Some used video conferencing apps such as Zoom, and those that traveled to meet family members quarantined beforehand. Many celebrated with holiday- and party- themed food such as hot chocolate, cookies, and a home-made “Hot Ones” chicken wings.
2. How did you spend Valentine’s Day this year?
“Took my girlfriend out to lunch on President’s Day, and came home and drank wine and watched romcoms.” – Micah Land, Multimedia Specialist
For Valentine’s Day we made cookies and decorated them, then ate all of them. I’m seeing a theme here actually. – John Gatewood, Technical Writing Supervisor
Three out of four employees also reported staying at home for Valentine’s Day, though some reported eating at restaurants that practiced safety and social distancing procedures. Respondents were able to spend the day with their significant others either at home, at a restaurant, or even in a cozy cabin.
3. What are you looking forward to in the next few months?
“Warm weather so I can garden, golf, and perhaps watch some spring HS Football, Track, and Lacrosse.” – Brian McCloskey, Recruiting Manager
“Gardening, warmer weather, baseball, and barbecuing.” – Joshua Moyer, Technical Writer
It seems many of us are getting sick of the cold weather and dark days of winter, as more than half of respondents mentioned warm weather and sunshine in their replies. Other common activities to look forward to included traveling, seeing family and friends, and a perceived return to “normalcy.”
4. Have you received the COVID-19 vaccine? If so, can you describe the experience? If not, do you plan to?
“Yes, I received the first dose. It was very simple and not painful in the slightest. I had no reaction after, although my parents had a bit of a tender/stiff arm after their first doses—but that is a minor inconvenience for protection.” – Laura Mealiea, GLAAS Project Operations Support Lead – USAID
Most AINS employees have not yet received the COVID vaccine, but plan to once it is available. The few respondents who reported receiving the vaccine reported minimal impact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the potential side effects for the COVID vaccine on their website. We encourage all employees to get the vaccine once they are able, and to inform themselves of the potential side effects.
5. What do you plan to do once everything “returns to normal?”
“I hope to travel overseas to seeing family and friends that I haven’t seen in a couple of years.” – Emily Lindsay, Software Implementation Specialist
“Go out to eat dinner (at the restaurant) for a date night. See my friends. Hug my family. TRAVEL!”
Answers were varied, but almost all respondents mentioned participating in activities outside of the home, whether it was returning to the office, going to restaurants and movies, and traveling—especially overseas, where travel is still largely unavailable. Many respondents also mentioned being able to hug family and friends again.
6. What advice do you have for coworkers who may have grown tired of social distancing and isolation?
“I get that it’s extremely difficult, especially when you see other people being less than careful about exposing themselves and others. But you are saving lives by staying home and being safe.” – Kyle Bishop
Many AINS employees suggest having patience, as with the COVID vaccine, the return to “normalcy” is just around the corner. We are all in this together, and we should all be proud of the sacrifices we’ve made over the past year to keep ourselves and our others safe.
If you are looking for a new activity to pass the time, Laura Mealiea has some great advice:
“Take advantage of the many free or nominally priced entertainment and cultural opportunities. Many concerts and plays are being made available for online viewing at much lower costs. Many history, art, and culture webinars are free. Check out eventbrite.com for ideas. I highly recommend the “Washington DC History & Culture” group’s free webinars. Also, satisfy your travel bug by doing interactive virtual walking tours. Check out www.virtualtrips.io for tours all times of the day, all around the world. They’re all free (tip if you can) and a fun way to “see” the world safely. Or, if you need a quick change of scenery, check out www.window-swap.com where you can get cool virtual glimpse out of other people’s windows all over the world. Turn on the sound and hear the waves crashing on the beach in Maine or birds chirping in New Zealand. The mountains of Hawaii, a city street in Brazil, or even someone’s backyard in Iran makes for a nice change of view.”
7. What is your favorite restaurant to get carry out?
“Wooboi Hot Chicken, a local Northern Virginia hidden gem that is incredible!” – Micah Land
Suggestions local to Gaithersburg include Hunter’s Inn (Potomac), Five Guys, Curry Place (Silver Spring), Mission BBQ, Chipotle, Savage Burrito (Gaithersburg), and Founding Farmers (Potomac). If you’re in Baltimore, Joshua Moyer recommends the Peruvian chicken restaurant Chicken Rico—“It’s delicious and affordable, and we think it’s a small business and not a chain.”