Just a month ago, had you walked through the U.S. Mobilization Center in Colorado Springs, you would have seen – well, practically no one. The unlit halls felt odd, nothing like the lively, active, collaborative vibe that typifies OC’s home office. From mid-March 2020 through January 2021, COVID restrictions limited the number allowed in the building to a mere handful. Occupancy signs hung on bathroom and meeting room doors, along with strategically located “health stations,” were present reminders of pandemic precautions.
Nevertheless, home-office OCers found ways to pivot positively to accomplish their work. Weekly virtual chapel connected us globally (rather than just the office) and working from home gave people opportunity to care for their families well in the middle of the crisis. With secure technology already in place, virtual meetings replaced in-person department gatherings. The mailroom continued with reduced hours, and the finance team coordinated their work shifts to keep things moving within regulations. To combat the sense of isolation and screen-fatigue, the MemberCare team offered many webinars and opportunities to connect and process. And by God’s grace, new workers were accepted, and pre-field training continued – albeit with a hybrid model.
Since working in an empty building during a pandemic is a unique (and hopefully singular) experience, we interviewed a few asking them what it has been like working in an empty building. Here’s what they said.
What has it been like working in an empty building? What are some positives and negatives?
- “I can get everything I need to get accomplished (that can only be done in the office) with no interruptions.”
- “It’s very quiet.”
- “Great for focusing on the job, little waiting at the printer, few interruptions. A greater joy in occasionally encountering people I’ve not seen for a while.”
- “The negatives are the feelings of emptiness and aloneness that have come at times, especially when entering a wing that is dark, cold, and lacking in people. I have missed the connecting with those in the office … even just to be able to say ‘Hi!’”
- “If I have a question, it’s inconvenient to only be able to reach out through email.”
- “We miss out on in-person team collaboration, team spirit, and office comradery.”
- “Lack of stimulation from the conversations that might naturally take place as we go about our days. Often not being able to touch base in person on work related things that need discussion or answers.”
- “I did not enjoy doing parts of my job at home. I much prefer keeping my home life and work life separate.”
- “I miss sharing life events with my teammates and friends, hugging them whenever a hug is needed. I miss our Fellowship Fridays! These are things that just can’t be done over video calls.”
How has your work been impacted by the shutdowns?
- “It has changed the way we do pre-field ministry and that has caused stress on several levels. It has been a challenge but with great teammates we are somehow getting things done and ministry is still happening.”
- “Beginning a new job and then very shortly switching to working from home created difficulties in meeting a lot of my new coworkers, but I have been learning new ways to connect virtually. The shutdown made it hard to learn a lot of aspects of my job initially. Additionally, as an admin, the shutdown has created extra work to be done in tracking and recording where people are around the globe, since so many units ended up stuck in various ways due to COVID.”
- “Having to put work on hold for a time because the question one might have cannot be answered right away since no one is around. Perhaps the positive is continuing to learn patience.”
- “Momentum lost on projects. Lacked motivation some days due to the overall weariness of the virus situation and therefore, did not feel as productive. I love that we have virtual chapel because now other workers from around the world can participate. However, I miss meeting together with US-MC work colleagues and getting into small groups for prayer.”
- “Mail preparation has been extra challenging, because so many mail systems of our ministry countries have been closed down. Trying to find out what countries are open and which are closed has been difficult.”
- “On the positive side, I’ve been able to begin and continue work on a large project that I would not have had the margin for under regular circumstances. On the negative side, I have not had access to office equipment and supplies that I use for specific projects.”
How do you maintain a healthy working environment and mindset?
- “I am blessed to have a room at home that I was able to set up and make a nice work area. I focus on the positives about being able to work from home; it is a blessing in many ways, and I am so thankful OC has made it possible to do so.”
- “Make the time to connect with teammates and friends frequently to stay emotionally healthy. Pray often!”
- “Setting routines for myself has helped me create a healthier work environment. For example, on Mondays, I meet (mostly virtually) with my supervisor to go over what I need to do for the coming week. Reaching out to coworkers with questions has helped me stay on track with work, as well as build relationships and settle into a better mindset.”
- “Monday virtual chapels have been wonderful! Every week I look forward to this so much. It has added a new dimension – interacting with and hearing from our overseas workers. It feels so much more inclusive and exciting. It brings home in a clearer way what we are really about.”
- “Being able to connect to my work colleagues. Taking care of my own soul outside of work.”
- “I am thankful that in my department we have been able to maintain, for the most part, our working schedules, throughout this year of COVID. For a healthy working environment, it has made me realize that we need others in our lives and that helps to keep us going. Having a schedule has made a difference for me.”
- “It’s been a learning journey, and I’ve had my ups and downs. I would say that times with the Lord and conversations with believers is what has kept me mostly in a healthy mindset. His Word has been a stabilizer and He has given deeper insight into a number of passages. Troubles and challenges in life – the darkness of it all – always set the stage for seeing God’s greater glory and brightness. Troubles and challenges, confusion and weariness, are always, always an invitation into deeper intimacy with the Lord, and I think I’ve experienced some of that.”
We have learned SO much in these last 10 months! Probably all of us have a new appreciation of an office workspace, in-person collaboration, and mutual support. Now, with a loosening of restrictions and gradual access to vaccines, more staff are returning to regular work in the building. It is a welcome change. Yet even as we return to “normal,” we know there will be lasting effects of the pandemic – some very positive ones.