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Q & A: OMES employees on telework, a year later

Blog_telework-Q-A
By Christa Bolain
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A year ago, the state workforce abruptly shifted from office buildings to home workspaces. Nearly 30,000 employees faced a steep learning curve to adapt to new routines. Employees at the Office of Management and Enterprise Services not only maintained their regular workload, but also filled gaps wherever necessary to help partner agencies continue to provide core services for Oklahomans in need.

At the beginning of this transition, we asked OMES employees to share their experiences during that time of uncertainty and isolation. We recently checked in with these employees after a year of navigating remote network connections, virtual meetings and other hurdles of telework.

Q: What telework-related challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

Shane Lambert, Department of Transportation IT strategist, OMES Information Services

A:In the beginning, it was [like] being a tree. I would plant myself in my office chair and grow roots. I slowly realized I needed breaks to make sure I continued to be fully engaged in whatever task was at hand. I unplugged and stepped away from the home office to eat my lunch and recalibrate for the afternoon.”

Liz Brandon, director of statewide learning, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “The lack of the high quality connection you get from face-to-face communication and the random ‘water-cooler’ connections that get made in person. We have prioritized using the camera during staff meetings and we have occasional social hours on Teams where we just grab a snack and a drink and chat about non-work-related things. Work usually ends up coming up anyway.

“As a supervisor, I've also noticed an increase in low-level gossip and conflict that I attribute to the lack of face-to-face interactions. I've found that it's easier for people to tell themselves stories about what they think is going on behind the scenes when we aren't all together. I am working to combat this with more candid team conversations, pushing for vulnerability and transparency and reviewing and refreshing our values about gossip and team communication.”

Anish Peringol, director of technical training, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “My role focuses on training others to use technologies. With each new innovation, pivot or support we take on as an agency, whether internally or externally helping other agencies, there is a challenge to deliver services in a secure, accessible and reliable way.

"I am happy to say that at OMES Information Services, we are overcoming these challenges through constant improvement, collaboration with one another, and most importantly listening to our customers and focusing on always improving the quality of service we provide them.”

Lisa Raihl, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A: “There are too many people in our house as it is, so telework has definitely been a challenge. We don't have any extra space to make an office or designated work area. I've had to resign myself to working in my bedroom when others are home in order to focus and get work done.”

Q: Do you miss working in the office? Why or why not?

Nick Long, procurement specialist, OMES Finance

A: “No, I feel more productive working from home, both OMES-related and personal activities. Not having the 45 minute to hour commute (each way) has been a great time saver and benefit. I do miss actually seeing co-workers, but even during the pandemic, we've held a few live meeting and/or training courses that sufficiently filled that void.”

Liz Brandon, director of statewide learning, OMES Human Capital Management

A: "I do miss working in the office. I benefit greatly from bouncing ideas off others and from the physical separation between home and work. I acclimated well to telework after a while, but now that I'm back in the office I feel more productive and I have a better work-life balance."

Lisa Raihl, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A: “Yes. In the office, I have access to a printer/fax/scanner which is needed daily. In addition, working in the office allows me to focus on my tasks and be more productive. Occasional telework is okay as long as others are not home. One thing I like when I do telework is that there's no commute, so that adds two extra hours to my day.”

Cindy Holloway, service contract specialist, OMES Capital Assets Management

A: “I do not miss working in the office anymore because I have grown used to interacting with people virtually. The only thing I would miss not being in the office would be the occasional lunches with my friends.”

Q: How has teleworking affected your ability to accomplish job tasks?

Liz Brandon, director of statewide learning, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “I think it affects certain higher-level brainstorming tasks and conflict resolution tasks. As we transition into a more hybrid workforce, my plan is to set team norms around prioritizing in-person meetings for certain types of things like brainstorming, difficult conversations, etc. It also slows down some steps in a project, when for example, I could just run over to Jake's office or Dana's office if I needed something quickly, versus setting up a Teams meeting with them.”

Anish Peringol, director of technical training, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “Teleworking has given me flexibility in how I choose my work environment. If I know I'll need to be creative, I can work at a cafe for a day. If I know the weather is nice, I can work outside. If I need a quiet space that is still outside of the house, I can work at the public library or a bookstore. Just make sure you have a good internet connection where ever you choose to work from.”

Lisa Raihl, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A: “I've mostly been in the office since this all started and I prefer to be. I seem to accomplish more at the office, especially with less people around. At home, depending on the situation, there are too many people and too many disruptions. I feel as if I'm not able to fully devote my time to work.”

Cindy Holloway, service contract specialist, OMES Capital Assets Management

A: “After the initial change to teleworking, and getting used to doing things differently, it has not hampered my ability to fulfill my job functions. At times, it has helped me when concentration is necessary without interruptions.”

Q: What advice would you give yourself a year ago, as you transitioned to telework?

Jennie Pratt, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A:Set your time for work and stick to it as much as possible."

Nick Long, procurement specialist, OMES Finance

A: “Don't keep so many snacks in the house, and take your full lunch break.”

Liz Brandon, director of statewide learning, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “Take the time to set up a proper office space. Your office space at home should be as complete and functional as your office space at home. One thing I never brought home was the "paper" part of my office like sticky notes, note pads, whiteboards, etc. If you are working home long term, take the time to stock your space with these things, too if you need them.

"Get up every day and get ready for work. Just because you're at home doesn't mean you have any less of an obligation to dress for your day, just like you would if you were in the office. Have a plan for if your internet or electricity goes out because it will in the most inconvenient times.”

Cindy Holloway, service contract specialist, OMES Capital Assets Management

A: “Remember to turn off your computer and phone. You must be able to walk away at some point without feeling the need to answer an email at midnight.”

Q: After the pandemic, would you prefer to telework or work in the office? Why?

Jennie Pratt, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A: “I prefer to be in the office as I am less distracted while working there and able to step away at the end of the day.”

Nick Long, procurement specialist, OMES Finance

A: “I greatly prefer to continue teleworking for many reasons. The greatest is the time saved from not commuting or having the stress of traffic that comes along with it. Break time and lunch time are far more productive on a personal level because I am home and not in the office.”

Anish Peringol, director of technical training, OMES Human Capital Management

A: “I would like a little bit of both. Changing up your work environment is key to keeping an active brain. And there are benefits to both worlds, so why not both?”

Lisa Raihl, certified public accountant, OMES Central Accounting and Reporting

A: “I would rather be in the office, not only because of my personal situation, but because of what our team does. We collaborate a lot and it seems to work better if we are together. We've found with being at separate locations that we just don't seem to all get the knowledge transfer benefits and what was once a quick question and answer thing now comes with either several teams messages or a meeting to make sure the understanding is there.”

While about 95% of the agency worked remotely during 2020, a move toward hybrid schedules, split between telework and office time, will offer OMES employees more flexible work experiences beyond COVID-19.

Aside from increasing overall productivity and saving many employees the commute time, telework has also allowed OMES to consolidate its office spaces and save over half a million dollars. In fact, this transition is the first time nearly all OMES divisions have been in the same building. The pandemic changed our routines and brought physical separation. However, OMES is more united than ever and dedicated to serve those who serve Oklahomans.

CHRISTA BOLAIN

Christa Bolain coordinates and creates original content for all OMES social media platforms, with an emphasis on written and visual communication. She assists with the research, writing, editing and distribution of OMES internal and external publications for grammar, spelling, consistency and OMES branding compliance.

Last Modified on Mar 24, 2021
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