I first became aware of the Coronavirus back in January 2020 as I was having a conversation with a colleague who had plans of flying back home to Canada during Chinese New Year. She had brought up how her mother had concerns over her flying back and wanted to make sure that she would be wearing a mask on the airplane. Even as I was traveling to Hawaii for a personal vacation mid-February, there were already sightings of few people wearing masks, but everything was still running normally as per usual.Gradually over the next few weeks, we started hearing more about the Coronavirus in the news, however, it was not until March that things rapidly started spiraling downwards in the States. As more cases were being reported, it became increasingly difficult to find essentials such as toilet paper and water as panic emptied the aisles of every grocery store.
This is the first time in my 27 years of living that I have witnessed such a pandemic that has hit so close to home and the first time I have witnessed many friends and colleagues all over the world are now put into the same situation of working from home.
Market Access Services versus Coronavirus
As I am working in the Market Access Services group at TUV Rheinland, it is a normal task for us to communicate with contacts all over the world in order to assist our clients in the global certifications they are trying to obtain. Our group has gradually been receiving emails from different countries reporting delays in certification processes due to the effects of COVID-19.
For example, government agencies who typically have a process of issuing hard copy certificates are no longer able to do that and in the meantime have to resort with online PDF copies. Certain countries have shut down government agencies and so that even pending certifications can not be issued at this time. Clients have been facing issues with shipping samples out of certain countries as customs clearance has been increasingly difficult with the slowdown as a result of the Coronavirus. Countries that typically require in-country testing in local laboratories have also been slowing down as laboratories are partially opened with reduced amount of people in order to avoid crowding. Gradually, more and more countries are requiring employees to work from home, in which we have to take this into account when explaining to our clients any delays in the certification process.
Positives and negatives of working from home
Working from home has its own perks and challenges. The greatest perk for me would be my shorter way to work. I live quite a distance away from the office and in the notorious Southern California traffic, my commute to the office typically took over an hour one way. The Coronavirus has been affecting the number of cars on the road to the point where articles are now discussing the effects that this has on the lessening pollution and smog that usually covers downtown Los Angeles. It has been a month since we were instructed to work from home and the time that I usually would spend commuting to and from work is now allowing me to have more personal time for myself and with my family.
Some of the challenges of working from home is being able to overcome the distractions that come with working from home. Our office environment was typically extremely quiet, in which you can feel that everyone is concentrating on the work that lies in front of them. However, with this pandemic, everyone is now working from home and therefore, everyone in your household is also in the same situation. With the stay at home order, I start to crave the times where we were able to freely leave our home to be able to see our friends and colleagues. At times like this, I start appreciating the value of going to the office and having meals with my colleagues as it is change of pace from our usual environment that we all need every so often.
TUV Rheinland has provided us with the resources to be able to work from home to the best of our ability. Having the setup that we would typically have at the office (two monitors, keyboard and docking station) definitely increases productivity with multitasking and having multiple windows open. Calls from our office phones are being directed to our cell phones so that we do not miss any incoming calls from clients. Skype calls and conference lines are available so that there are no missed communications internally or externally.
Our Market Access Services team has always been spread out across the United States so this situation has not affected the way our team communicates. We have bi-weekly team conference calls to discuss any open items or ongoing issues to ensure that our team is still in communication with each other. This comes especially helpful in times like this where we need a change of pace away from just working solely through our daily tasks at home.
TUV Rheinland’s response to Coronavirus
TUV Rheinland has been keeping the employees updated in the Coronavirus announcements since early February when there were concerns over traveling done by the employees and has continued up to this day. The company has been taking the necessary measures in communicating to its employees the latest updates of the Coronavirus and its impact to the business as well as communicating any Public Safety Orders, including how they are keeping the employees safe.
The Marketing team here in North America has started uploading new videos every Friday regarding the COVID-19 situation. Not only do the videos inform us the current situation of the Coronavirus, but also positive updates regarding certain colleagues and their successful stories as we are trying to work through business like usual. These videos are great as having a visual to watch shows the company trying to bring everyone together during times like this.
Tips for Home Office Workers
Working from home may not be for everyone, but as we work through this crisis, some personal tips I would advise are the following:
1. Make a list of tasks you are trying to accomplish each day. As we start trying to get used to working from home, it may be hard to concentrate if there are many distractions around you. In order to start getting used to it, having a visual representation of tasks you need to get done will help you direct your focus in an organized manner.
2. Find a place at home where you can work without interruptions from those around you, especially during the times when you might have a conference call.
You may have siblings, children or parents at home that distract your concentration or who may interrupt you during a conference call. It is important to be able to find a place where you will least likely be distracted or be able to express visually, for example with the door closed or a sign, to not disturb at this time.
3. Make sure to take a break and go on a walk every so often. Since gyms are closed and we are not going to the office during this time, we lose track of time while we are stuck at home. We start to forget the simple things of needing to walk around every so often. It is important that we still remember that things like walking around is also essential to us functioning physically and mentally.
MARKET ACCESS SERVICES COMPLIANCE SPECIALIST
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