SACRAMENTO, Calif. – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll starts his day in typical fashion familiar to all service members with full-time jobs in the active National Guard and Reserve.
He wakes up, changes and starts his commute to work, perhaps grabbing a coffee along the way.
As a personnel specialist for the California National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters, Air Division, punctuality is key. Airmen across the state count on him to maintain their records, process promotions and other essential tasks. Carroll must be ready to work at his desk at 7:30 a.m., sharp.
However, like millions of Americans who are working from home at the moment, his commute is now a walk from his bedroom to his dining room table. He no longer has to worry about running late because he stopped to grab a gas station coffee, and he no longer worries about sitting in Sacramento traffic.
More importantly, Carroll can perform his job the same way while limiting his exposure to COVID-19, and in doing so, he is also limiting the risk to his fellow Airmen and his high-risk parents.
“I complete as much work at home as I do in the office. My hours stay the same, with voluntary communication with my supervisor from the time I log on my computer to the time I sign off,” Carroll said. “In addition, all the programs I use in the office [are] just as accessible at home, so there is no hindrance in my job performance.”
There is little doubt that COVID-19 has changed every aspect of American life since the virus began spreading in the United States at the beginning of the year.
In the past two months, 42 states have issued stay-at-home mandates, requiring restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas to close, and only essential employees are going to their offices.
With millions of Americans teleworking from their homes to slow the spread of the virus, it’s no surprise that the Department of Defense has encouraged the same.
“I would be very happy to see teleworking as a ‘new normal,’ perhaps not 100% telecommute, but coming in to work one or two days a week to maintain proper system access would make for a very strong balance in my personal and work life,” said Senior Airman Michael Witten, a financial management technician with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing in Moreno Valley.
Cal Guard Airmen and Soldiers are activated throughout the state to aid at federal medical stations and local food banks. Full-time active Guard members and federal technicians are also doing their part to ensure activated service members’ orders, pay and travel vouchers are processed, on top of their day-to-day tasks. To slow the spread, these Airmen and Soldiers, under the guidance of their chain of command, are encouraged to work from home whenever possible.
“We have a relatively small unit, but the volume of customers we service at our counter greatly increased concern for transmission of the virus; taking into consideration the elderly, or immunocompromised family members needing our care at home, it was determined it would be best to limit interaction as much as possible,” said Witten.
Although many teleworking service members in the Cal Guard are in administrative and finance roles, other teleworkers include those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 or those who live with someone at high risk.
“I came to the decision to telework due to the COVID-19 virus and my living circumstances, as I am currently living with my parents whose age ranges between 65 and 70. For their well-being, I reached out to my supervisors and was granted permission to telework,” said Carroll.
Although working with government systems from home is not without its challenges, strict security protocols are followed. Though there is sometimes a longer delay when operating networks outside the office, both Witten and Carroll believe they are even more productive and are thankful for the opportunity to not only help keep their community and families safe by mitigating their exposure but are also motivated to illustrate the effectiveness of teleworking.
“I hope to break negative views on teleworking and to show that, as long as leadership identifies their subordinates’ motive of teleworking and recognizes the work ethic they possess, teleworking can be done in a successful manner,” said Carroll.