Grace Erard lives on the west coast in Truckee, Calif.. Meanwhile, her colleagues live here on the east coast. At first glance, it seems like there could be some issues with communication, until the power of telecommunication comes into the equation.
The Reston native and University of Virginia graduate was in the Outer Banks at the time of the pandemic’s emergence. Prior to that, she was doing a mixture of working remotely and commuting to offices in D.C. and Maryland.
“I went there (Outer Banks) for a weekend and ended up being locked down there for many months,” Erard said.
Though the pandemic made her transition to full-time remote work, she welcomed the opportunity to not commute. After all, most of her work involved using virtual and telecommunication. As a result, the change, while certainly a big one, was relatively smooth.
“Transitioning to full-time remote work was relatively easy for me because a lot of my meetings were already over Zoom,” Erard said. “But I have missed the opportunity for in-person interaction in an office.”
Erard recognizes that the ability to work remotely is a privilege amidst a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on frontline workers. It has been well documented how they put a lot on the line while providing us with as much comfort as possible.
“I’m grateful for my health, and I feel fortunate to not only have a job during the pandemic, but to have a job that enables me to work remotely,” Erard said.
Don’t we all wish we could be afforded the same luxury? Unfortunately, it’s been a tough time for several families, many of whom have lost their jobs. Additionally, under COVID restrictions, several people are being forced to stay home.
As a result, most of us have not been able to enjoy our ordinary daily lives of going out, eating in a restaurant, attending a sporting event, or just seeing friends on weekends like we used to. While things are getting better with a more significant number of vaccines being distributed, it’s still going to take additional time.
In the meantime, the opportunity to work from anywhere has been a silver lining for some people during the pandemic. In Erard’s case, she used the time to travel domestically, albeit while following public health guidelines. She has worked from several different places, including a six-month stop in Denver, during which she has embraced outdoor activities, such as skiing, hiking, and visiting state and national parks
“I think those activities are really good for your mental and physical health, and they’re things I enjoy, but they’re also relatively safe activities (in terms of COVID-19 risk),” Erard said.
Outside of traveling, Erard has worked on health and human services projects in addition to health equity issues. She also volunteered at a vaccine clinic. As it pertains to her current job, she’s had to become more of a morning person to get up with her colleagues who are operating in a different time zone than her. Still, with that, there are a few perks.
“There is still some flexibility in terms of when I do the work given that we’re in different time zones as long as I get the work done, attend meetings, and am responsive to emails and messages,” Erard said.
Balancing remote work has been more of a challenge for other individuals and families. Many people have a fixed time frame where they have to work, and leniency isn’t part of the package. Additionally, some families have kids, which can be a challenge with keeping them entertained or doing remote learning while also managing work from home.
Moreover, working remotely can sometimes result in connectivity problems and unreliable WiFi, and more significant internet inequality problems. For example, Erard mentioned that while visiting Maine, she and her mother had to work from the town library’s parking lot some days to use WiFi.
Erard also mentioned that increased screen time and constantly being online can be draining. However, telecommunications have helped her stay connected with her friends and family in addition to her colleagues.
“I think it has created new forms of communication or communication standards, which have allowed me to keep in touch with my family and friends, both in the United States and abroad,” Erard said. “So even if I’m far away, I still feel close to them in some ways because of virtual communication.”
While the prospect of leaving our virtual worlds from home and returning to our offices looms, Erard is enjoying the flexibility that comes with remote work while she can.
“I don’t know if I’ll be traveling to client sites, working from an office, or working remotely come September; however, I’m enjoying the opportunity to work from anywhere for now,” Erard said.
In this day and age, it’s about making do with what you have instead of waiting for something good to happen. So don’t wait for the opportunity; create one for yourself.